How to Create a Portfolio

Portrait of a Horse by collage artist Megan Coyle

If you want to start exhibiting or selling your artwork, it’s important that you build out a portfolio so people can sample the work you’ve done, or see the work you’re capable of doing. Review the artwork you’ve made thus far, and select the strongest pieces. How do they compare when they’re grouped together? See if you can meet these requirements to ensure that you have a good portfolio:

  • Is there enough variation?
  • Do they show that you have range?
  • Are they consistent?
  • Is each piece memorable in its own way?
  • Do you have at least 10 pieces?

If you weren’t able to meet all the requirements, or if there were any pieces you weren’t thrilled with, you can make more art so you can fill in any of the gaps. Your portfolio should be a body of work that you’re proud of, so you should replace anything that you’re not crazy about with newer, better art.

If you’re compiling a portfolio to apply for an exhibit:

  1. Make sure the artwork speaks to the gallery – meaning do the research on what they’ve exhibited previously, and if your art looks like something they’d show there.
  2. Make sure it fits the requirements.
  3. Organize the art in such a way that it flows nicely – that each piece can call attention to itself and that there’s a good balance of color.
  4. Have someone look over the portfolio and provide feedback. Often times it’s easy to stare too long at our work and get to a point where it’s difficult to curate or edit the pieces.
  5. Provide supplementary information with your portfolio, like an artist bio, artist statement, resume, and any good articles that have been written about your work.

When it comes to pulling together a portfolio when you want to sell your artwork, you’ll want to use it to mainly market your work:

  1. Make sure the portfolio has a good sample of the work you want to sell
  2. Have someone take a look at the art you selected and provide feedback. Does the work make them want to see more?
  3. Come up with a strategy for how you’d like to market your art from your portfolio. How will you share the images?
  4. Have an online store where you can direct users to.

As an artist, you’re never done building your portfolio. You will constantly review the new work you’ve made and update your portfolio when needed to keep it current.

Collages Inspired by my Family

Bill by collage artist Megan Coyle

Back when I was a senior in college, I created my first cohesive body of collage work where I made collages entirely from magazine strips. My senior thesis exhibition included a series of portraits, with several inspired by my family. At that time, I wasn’t interested in making portraits of famous or well-known figures, but figures that were well-known to me.

The image above is a collage, “Bill,” that was inspired by my father. I had taken a series of photographs of him and ended up working from a few reference images in order to complete his portrait. I wanted to make a portrait of my father because I’ve really appreciated how he’s influenced my interest in art. When I was a kid, I remember that he used to paint landscapes and still life scenes when we went on vacation. And over the years, he’s been an avid photographer.

Jean by collage artist Megan Coyle
“Jean.” Collage on paper. 18″x24″
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“Jean” is a portrait of my mother that was also part of my senior thesis exhibit. I remember that my mother’s portrait was a bit of a challenge because of all the details involved with the background – the windows, the bookshelf, the faint hint of color variation for the blinds, and of course, the detail of her shirt. Over the years, she’s worn many hats, one of which I’d like to think of as her counselor hat, being helpful in giving me advice in life. She seems a bit serious in this portrait, almost as though she’s about to impart some advice.

Bren by collage artist Megan Coyle
“Bren.” Collage on paper. 18″x24″
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“Bren” is a portrait of my brother. I’m realizing that he’s appeared in several of my figurative collages over the years. What can I say? My brother has always had a tendency of being great at making expressive faces. He is also pretty artistic, and growing up, I was inspired by the artwork he made. He studied animation back in college, and currently works as an animator/3d artist.

Ali by collage artist Megan Coyle
“Ali.” Collage on paper. 18″x24″
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“Ali” is a portrait of my cousin, who I like to say seems more like a sister to me than a cousin, simply because we spent so much time together when we were growing up. Like my brother, I feel like she can be pretty expressive, and she’s appeared in a couple of my portraits.

Scott by collage artist Megan Coyle
“Scott.” Collage on paper. 18″x24″
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“Scott” is a portrait of my cousin who passed away back when I was in high school. When I was in college, I really wanted to create a work of art in memory of him. I remember that I struggled with this portrait, since I really wanted to make sure I could capture his likeness. This portrait was also part of my senior thesis exhibition.

Boy with Dog by collage artist Megan Coyle
“Boy with Dog.” Collage on paper. 24″x18″
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After college, I started exploring different ways of tackling portraiture. “Boy with Dog” was one of my first pieces that looked at portraiture involving a person and a pet. This piece was also inspired by one of my younger cousins, Drew.

Sightseers by collage artist Megan Coyle
“Sightseers.” Collage on paper. 24″x18″
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Later, I started creating images where figures were interacting more with their surroundings. “Sightseers” is a piece that was inspired by my mother and brother when we were on the rooftop of a building in New York City, admiring the view.

The Hikers by collage artist Megan Coyle
“The Hikers.” Collage on paper. 24″x18″
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For several years, my family went to West Virginia for Thanksgiving. We’d rent a cabin, and it usually snowed at some point during our stay. “The Hikers” is inspired by the walks I’d occasionally take with my family in the snow. For this piece, I explored using more abstract shapes, as well as fragments from photographs of nature.

Snorkeling by collage artist Megan Coyle
“Snorkeling.” Collage on paper. 24″x18″
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Growing up, my family spent a few summers in Maine. Sometimes my brother and I would go snorkeling in the ocean, and since the water was always so cold, we’d wear wetsuits. “Snorkeling” was inspired by those summers spent snorkeling and exploring tide pools.

I have my family to thank for inspiring a lot of my earlier portraiture work. I actually haven’t explored figurative collages in a while, and I suppose you could say I’m well overdue for that. Perhaps I should turn to my family and friends again, and see how they can help inspire future works of art.

What to do with your Older Artwork

Rebellion by collage artist Megan Coyle

Over the years, artists can accumulate a lot of artwork. We make art when we take classes, experiment with different mediums, and create different bodies of work for a series or exhibit. And an artist might want to find ways to get rid of that older work since it can show visual inconsistencies with her or his inventory.

So if you’re an artist looking to get rid of older work, here are a few ideas of things you can do:

1. Sell it Online

Create a separate site or section of your site to market and sell your older artwork (especially if the style varies greatly from your current style).

2. Donate it

Donate your work to a charity art auction. If you’ve grown tired of your older pieces, and have no desire to market and sell them anymore, why not give them to an organization that can benefit from your art?

3. Run a Giveaway

I think giveaways are an excellent way to declutter your studio by removing artwork that is no longer relevant to your visual style or career. It also helps generate some excitement for your fans who follow your work. And people who are truly interested in a piece will enter, which is much better than giving away your work to just anyone.

4. Rework it

Try revisiting your older work to make it better. You can turn one of your older pieces into a newer work of art by working on it again. Who knows, you may even improve it in such a way that you’d want to proudly feature it in your portfolio.

 

When you’ve gotten tired of your older artwork, or want to clean up your studio a little bit, there are plenty of ways to find a new home for your work. Or if you don’t want to find a new home for it, you can always revisit and rework it.

Cupcake Time

Cupcake Time by collage artist Megan Coyle
“Cupcake Time” Collage on paper. 5″x7″
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I’m having a sweet time making all these dessert collages. With this piece, I enjoyed incorporating more texture for the background, cupcake base, and the cherry on top. However, this collage was more of a struggle for me – I felt like I was overworking the surface for the frosting.

If you take a look at the collage in-person, you’ll notice that some parts are built up more with quite a few layers of paper. Whenever there’s more paper layered in a particular area for me, it means that I was struggling with getting a certain section looking the way I wanted it to. Although, that’s making me think that it could be interesting to build up different areas on purpose to see what happens.

Indian Ink Drawing of Blocks from College

Indian Ink Drawing by Megan Coyle

I was an art major in college, and part of our curriculum was to take a couple of studio drawing classes. This Indian ink drawing was a piece I completed for one of those courses.

Back in college, still life always seemed to be a bowl of the same plastic fruit that had been in the art department for years. Occasionally other objects were thrown in, although usually I was pretty bored with the subjects we tackled. For this piece, I thought it was pretty unique that we drew from a block arrangement. Using Indian ink made the composition even more interesting, since we had to focus closely on the variations in contrast for the highlights and shadows.

Bosty goes to Chincoteague, VA

Bosty visits Chincoteague by Megan Coyle

Bosty wanted to get away for the weekend, but didn’t feel like traveling too far away from DC, so he decided to visit Chincoteague in Virginia. Chincoteague Island is in Virginia’s Eastern Shore, and is known for its beaches and wild ponies.

Bosty visits Chincoteague by Megan Coyle

Aside from bird watching by the shore, Bosty also did some strolling along the beach.

Bosty visits Chincoteague by Megan Coyle

And when he grew tired of the sandy beaches, he decided to watch the kayakers before doing some kayaking of his own.

Bosty visits Chincoteague by Megan Coyle

He was only able to see some of the wild ponies from a great distance away, so for all his touristy pictures, he had to pose alongside a horse at one of the local farms.

Bosty visits Chincoteague by Megan Coyle

During Bosty’s last night in Chincoteague, it got really foggy outside. He thought it looked almost like an enchanted storybook when he wandered around the town.

My Piece of the Pie (Lemon Meringue)

My Piece of the Pie - Lemon Meringue by collage artist Megan Coyle
“My Slice of the Pie (Lemon Meringue)” Collage on paper. 5″x7″
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Lemon meringue pie is my favorite type of pie, so I just had to make a collage of it. Getting the texture for the top of the pie was the most challenging part of this piece. I had a lot of fun using different yellows for the filling, and of course creating some abstract shadows on the plate.

I’m really enjoying tackling different desserts for my new still life series. I suppose previously when I tried to approach still life, I often got bored since I kept tackling floral arrangements. When you try to approach different subjects, it can really change things up, and make something that you typical found too ordinary, much more exciting. I’m planning to create a few more pieces for this series before I tackle another type of food for my still life work.

Conversational Pieces – Abstract Painting from College

Conversational Pieces by artist Megan Coyle

Back when I was in college, I worked on collages made from magazine strips in my free time. I was studying painting at the time, but I still tried to make time for collage. I also often tried to work in collage with my paintings, and this piece is an excellent example of just that.

To make this piece, I used two different canvases. One of them was stretched, while the other wasn’t. I created two paintings on both canvases, and then cut up the canvas that wasn’t stretched and stitched the pieces of the painting onto the stretched canvas. Thus I created a collage of two paintings. The piece was made with acrylic paint, some magazine strips that were adhered to the canvas, and thread.

No Spectators: The Art of Burning Man at the Renwick Gallery

The Art of Burning Man at Renwick Gallery

Last weekend I stopped by the Renwick’s No Spectators: The Art of Burning Man. Since the exhibit opened earlier in the month, it wasn’t that crowded which was nice. Overall, I thought the exhibition was beautiful, filled with magnificent and large installations. Pictured above is Marco Cochrane’s Truth is Beauty, a beautiful, large sculpture.

The Art of Burning Man at Renwick Gallery

Duane Flatmo’s Tin Pan Dragon was pretty fascinating. The artist used odds and ends to fashion together a dragon. From the picture above, you can make out a muffin tin used to construct part of the dragon’s face.

The Art of Burning Man at Renwick Gallery

I was a little in awe when I saw David Best’s Temple. The intricate patterns of the wood that lined the walls and ceiling, were beautiful.

The Art of Burning Man at Renwick Gallery

Here you can get a sense of the layout of the room.

The Art of Burning Man at Renwick Gallery

Along the walls were bits of rectangular shaped pieces of wood that visitors wrote on and left wedged into the installation. I especially liked the message, “Soak in every single moment,” that a visitor had left behind.

The Art of Burning Man at Renwick Gallery

One room contained large constructions of different shapes with intricate patterns cut out of them, with light shining through. Yelena Filipchuk and Serge Beaulieu’s work was definitely one of my favorites of the show.

The Art of Burning Man at Renwick Gallery

I liked how the lights cast shadows that extended the patterns of the different objects.

The Art of Burning Man at Renwick Gallery

A couple of them used regular light, while the largest shape had a light that changed color every few seconds.

The Art of Burning Man at Renwick Gallery

Above is an image of the object with the changing light.

The Art of Burning Man at Renwick Gallery

Another one of my favorites were the FoldHaus Art Collective’s Shrumen Lumen, which consisted of large mushroom-shaped sculptures with lights that changed colors after every few minutes.

The Art of Burning Man at Renwick Gallery

Above is a close-up of the mushroom sculptures.

The Art of Burning Man at Renwick Gallery

I thought Christopher Schardt’s Nova was a fun interactive piece. Visitors would lie on the ground, looking upward of the shifting, changing screen affixed to the ceiling.

The Art of Burning Man at Renwick Gallery

My favorite interactive piece was a chalkboard room by Candy Chang, Before I Die. Visitors wrote on the walls different thoughts about what they wanted to do before they died.

No Spectators: The Art of Burning Man was a beautiful exhibit. Yet again, I enjoyed the installations that sprawled across the galleries of the Renwick.

Bosty visits the Cherry Blossoms in DC

Bosty visits the cherry blossoms in DC by Megan Coyle

Earlier this month, Bosty had a chance to check out the cherry blossoms in Washington, DC during their peak bloom.

Bosty visits the cherry blossoms in DC by Megan Coyle

It was a dreary and cold day, but Bosty still had fun checking out the views of the Jefferson Memorial by the Tidal Basin.

Bosty visits the cherry blossoms in DC by Megan Coyle

He liked taking a few pictures in different angles before exploring other areas where the cherry blossoms were blooming.

Bosty visits the cherry blossoms in DC by Megan Coyle

He especially liked the trees by the Washington Monument, and how a few of them had kites caught in their branches from the Blossom Kite Festival.

Bosty visits the cherry blossoms in DC by Megan Coyle

Although it had been a chilly day, he thoroughly enjoyed getting to see those beautiful flowers while they were still in bloom.