Portfolio Workshop

Last night I attended the AOI Portfolio Workshop, and as promised, here are some thoughts on it…

In terms of location, trying to find the Theatre on the edge of a park in Bethnal Green at night isn’t great! I had to rush from my shiny new day-job so didn’t have a chance to check up the finer details in advance, but even though I was 15 minutes late, they hadn’t started.

Everyone separated out into their chosen groups and shared their portfolios, art-school style; the ‘industry professional’ group leader – and other participants – gave their opinions, ideas, thoughts, etc. on one another’s work, what to include/exclude, marketing tactics and the like… it was really interesting to see other’s works and get extra advice. Before-hand I had fine-tuned my folio down to my 10 best pieces or so, which was in some ways a disadvantage; most of the others had bought along a good deal of pictures, and so, perhaps, got a better over-view over what was good good/dodgy/commercial.

Over the night I talked to two industry types, and it was interesting to see that they picked up on the same good/bad points in my portfolio… mostly things that I would agree with (my oldest work is my weakest, but I have a good ‘sense of line’ and texture), although one suggested I shrink my folio to A4 (the other suggested that all those with A4 increase to A3, naturally), which I won’t be doing. Their advice to me was pretty much to just to start mailing out more samples, which I can’t argue with! Though people talked about sending out 500+ at a time… I don’t know where you would find so many addresses (or stamps)!

Beyond that, it was fairly awesome to meet others in my position; we swapped ideas, business cards, and it makes the whole process feel a little less lonely! Our group contained a few illustration graduates, a couple of whom had occasional paid work, a fine art graduate/teacher looking to get a more commercial folio, a cabby looking for a career change who got a little work after putting his political cartoons on the AOI website, and someone with work which looked really good to me, but who hadn’t got any work after a year of sending out thousands of samples & e-mails. So a fairly wide variety of people, all in all!

I would attend again – but I’d probably choose to sign up for the group lead by someone from the children’s book/publishing industry… I didn’t realise that there was someone like that there until it was over (clearly I should have signed up to be in her group from the beginning)! £20 is a little steep, but it certainly offers networking opportunities and I think that you more-or-less get out what you put in!

ETA: My group leader, Harry Lyon-Smith, e-mailed all group members this morning to offer future help and advice. Can’t complain about that!

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