Productivity Generator #3

Creative techniques, shortcuts, tips and idea generators

Find someone to judge your portfolio.

While working in advertising, many portfolios passed through my desk.  These collections of the best design work showed off both art skills and creativity in an effort to secure employment. I also noticed an interesting tendency. At the time of no vacancies, soon-to-be graduates dropped off their folders with senior art directors for review and feedback. Who else can give you better advice on your portfolio, but the person who have seen the best and the worst of the pool? How else would one come up with portfolio that works – the one that sells?

Artist – self-loathing tormented souls and wacky “it’s all good” varieties – need feedback too. Whether you intend to market your art commercially or just want to see if putting up your artwork in the living room will scare off a visiting cousin, getting forthright opinion can make a difference in your life (grandiose, isn’t it).

How to get the best feedback without risking unfair judgment? It is a little tricky. When looking for a right candidate to review your work, make sure it is not someone overly critical or competitive. There is no need for undeserved negative opinion. On the other hand, don’t get over-saturated in musky meaningless flattery. Don’t ask your mom or spouse – unless you want to hear that your work “pretty” or “cute”.

This is how I do it: I have a friend who has been in the design industry for a while and who wouldn’t flatter me for the sake of friendship. Feedback helps me keep realistic perspective of my art style and focus on my goals. What thoughts or feeling art evokes in others? What pieces viewers want to interact with? What artwork they consider purely decorative? If you find answers to these questions, this experience can be very insightful.

I found these five characteristics helpful when selecting “portfolio review panel” (in no specific order of importance). Select an individual who is:

   ~  Familiar with the notion of art appreciation or art history
   ~  Positive and good-natured personality
   ~  Unbiased (not a relative, life-partner, subordinate, competing colleague)
   ~  Involved in arts industry or earns living through art or design
   ~  Devoted to your interests or goals you set for your artistic endeavors

Keep in mind that the intent behind exercise is research. Whatever your goals for your art are, there is valuable information you can collect from a portfolio reviewer. Solid critique will help pinpoint an audience for your products. It will steer you towards discovering your best skills and improving your weaknesses.

Go out and find someone to judge your portfolio this week!

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