I recently received a reader requested topic via twitter that dealt with portfolio reviews.
What do people look for in portfolio reviews?
Since this question is a little bit outside my wheelhouse, I thought it was a good idea to ask some folks who actually review art portfolios. I was lucky enough to get responses from two of my favorite people, Ross Richie, Founder & CEO, and Matt Gagnon, Editor in Chief, of BOOM! Studios.
Here’s what Ross had to say:
Sequentials, not pin-ups, not covers (unless you’re a painter). Strong page layouts that are easy to read so they storytelling is clear, married to a strong over all page design, so that at first glance it’s easy to see that the entire page has been put together as a cohesive whole, not just a panel put next to another panel willy-nilly.
Don’t hot dog. Impress me with your fundamentals.
Don’t spend 4 months on 6 pages of art. It misrepresents your ability to get the job done on a schedule. Show me what you can do in a page a day. If I hire you after you’ve misrepresented yourself, you’re done forever in my book — you’ve pulled a bait-and-switch.
Rendering needs to be strong. Perspective is a must. Bad anatomy is a non-starter. Show you have range — as a comic book artist, you’ll need to do fantasy, science fiction, convincing automobiles, believable city streets, real-looking buildings.
Don’t put EVERYTHING into the portfolio. I don’t want to see your old stuff. You might love that Batman drawing from two years ago, but believe me, when I see it, it looks like you just got worse. If you’re any good, you’re drawing all the time and getting better and better and better. Your old stuff might be sentimental to you, but you’re blind to how much better you’ve gotten since you did it. Leave it out, because it can create a bad aftertaste.
Draw, draw, and draw. And when you’re done, draw again.
The field is competitive. If you want to succeed, bring your A-game. There’s work to be had, but a lot of other people are trying to break-in. The industry is not a locked room, we break new talent at BOOM! constantly, but you can’t fool yourself and think you can take a shortcut or skip a step, it requires focus and discipline.
And here’s Matt’s insight:
Bring a “leave-behind” with you. This could be as simple as a business card or a few printouts of your favorite (sequential) pages with your contact information. An editor might request this if they like your portfolio and it’s important to be prepared. Something simple that they can take back to the office with them can be worth its weight in gold. The truth of the matter is, a lot of editor’s will prefer to contact you as opposed to giving out their e-mail address.
Listen. Don’t be defensive when receiving criticism. It’ll get you nowhere.
Know who you’re showing your portfolio to. Have an idea of what type of material the company publishes. Chances are, if you’re starting out, you will be acting as your own “agent”. You need to pitch yourself as well as your art. Know what the company publishes and showcase how you can be valuable to them. Your portfolio of manga art won’t get you very far with a company that doesn’t publish manga.
Present a confident self-image, as much as possible. A firm handshake and eye contact makes a good first impression. If you are sitting in front of an editor your portfolio review is also a potential job interview. Editors will be leery of hiring an artist who can’t form a sentence and articulate what their capabilities are. If it helps your confidence, remember this: any editor with a line of comics is actually HOPING that your art is good. In most cases the person sitting across from you is actually ROOTING for you.
How awesome it that? Super awesome.
I want to thank Ross and Matt for their responses. Really appreciate you guys taking the time.
If there are any other editors/ publishers out there that would like to share some knowledge to help everyone’s life run a little smoother, I would love to post any insights you may have. Just sent it over to me at allisontype at gmail dot com.