The SCBWI Summer Conference is one month away, so we’ve put together some advice for those planning to display their portfolios at the illustrator showcase. We hope these tips are helpful for newbies to the conference, while serving as a good reminder to veterans as well.
Consistency and Quality
My advice on the portfolio display would be to select pieces that articulate your "voice" or "style" versus a range showing your capabilities. Do not include student work unless you cannot tell that it's student work. A dummy book is helpful, not only to showcase a story idea, but also to show that you know picture books and how they are laid out.
One comment that I received from several of the SCBWI mentors last year was that I needed more sequences of images that showed how I could tell a story or story fragment, plus demonstrate that I could maintain consistency in how I drew a character. All of my portfolio images were one-shots, so this year I'm working on including more sequences.
(Supposed) No Brainers
A suggestion by the Mentors was to have (duh!) more illustrations of children. Also, here are some of the more commonly known rules:
- 10-20 images, only your very best.
- clean, professional presentation; keep it focused on your art.
- quality prints, similar in size and clarity to what you would see in a book.
- consistency; make it easy for the publisher to know exactly what they will get if they hire you (they won't take the time to guess).
- include memorable postcards/takeaways
Deliberate Style and Simplicity
- If you have two styles, be distinct with them. Know why they're different and who the target audience is (maybe one is for picture books and the other YA). Create two sections in your book that keep the styles separate.
- Your book should be standard and simple. Last year, I spent a lot of time creating a custom design for my portfolio, but it ended up feeling too fragile and precious. It should be sturdy and rigid, so no one is afraid to flip through it. Skip the fancy display case and let your work do the talking!