Tuesday, June 28, 2016

Portfolio: The Importance of the Series

A couple of weeks ago, SCBWI Insight included a bunch of portfolio tips from the KidLitArtists, and a number of them mentioned including sequences of related images in your portfolio. When developing a portfolio for the children’s book market, you want to demonstrate your ability to tell a story, and a series of images is a key way to do this. 

Pick a picture book, and then select 3 of the images from it – they will all look related. They will have a similar feel, palette, and usually show the same characters, just in different situations. Putting a similar set of images in your own portfolio shows art directors that you can maintain consistency with your characters and that you can develop a narrative. Those are both very important skills in picture book illustration. It can be good to have not just one, but several series of images in your portfolio. (When Juana Martinez-Neal won the portfolio showcase in SCBWI LA 2012, her portfolio was a set of 4 different series of images, with one stand-alone image at the end. You can see it here.)

What kind of illustrations you include in your series is up to you, but they should all vary from one another. You want each individual image to show the widest range of your abilities. If you have two in a series that are very similar to each other, it’s just redundant. I’ve done this myself. Here is an example of two images that go together which are essentially the same. Although the composition and color palette are different, the perspective and scale are the same, and the actions and emotions of the mice aren’t significantly different either. 

 Redundant images in a series © Jen Betton 2016
Here is a series of images I have in my portfolio that I think is successful: There is an environment shot, establishing where the characters are; a closeup, highlighting the relationship of the characters; and an action shot. Each one is different in composition, scale, pose, and perspective. 

Varied images in a series © Jen Betton 2016
In the end, it is all about telling a story, in the most interesting way you can. 
Jen Betton writes and illustrates for children. 
You can find her work at www.jenbetton.com
@jenbetton on Twitter
She is currently illustrating TWILIGHT CHANT, by Holly Thompson, 
which will be published by Clarion in 2018. 

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