Tuesday, July 23, 2019

Children's Book Portfolio: Flow

When creating a children's book portfolio there are three key elements to consider: format, content, and flow. This post is about flow. 

©Jen Betton

Flow is the order in which the images are arranged – how you arrange your work showcases your storytelling ability, which is paramount in the children's book world. Treat your portfolio like a book! (While flow can also be applied to a website, the primary focus here is a physical portfolio.)

It's good to start and end with an eye-catching piece, your very best work. Some people actually create a "title page" with an illustration and their contact information (Molly Idle does this!). After your intro, you want to arrange your work in a way that feels natural, leading from one to another as smoothly as possible. If you have series of images (and you should!!), then they naturally group together. After that, you can try different arrangements to connect images by composition, color, or content.

Examples: Each of these pairings involve two images which are not from the same series, but share a visual commonality.

©Jen Betton
These two pieces both have strong warm glow as well as human families.

© Jen Betton 
These two pieces have content similarity - a figure with hair blowing in the wind, as well as prominent blue tones. Even the composition has some similarities with the bottom weighting of the image. 

©Jen Betton
These two pieces share similar compositional elements - a curving form, single figure, with a white background. 

 © Jen Betton
These two pieces have color palette similarity, as well as the dots (of dandelions and fireflies) serving as a compositional similarity.

Example of a transition: The beginning and ending pieces in this sequence are each from a series. The two in the middle serve as a transition from the first series to the second. The first two images share a color palette and the outdoors, the middle two share a single child figure doing a similar action, and the last two images share a color palette and stars.

©Jen Betton

Here is a possible layout of an entire portfolio. Many other arrangements would also work. It starts with a single image, moves to a kid series, three additional single images, then an animal series, a single image to transition to a third series, and then a final, single closing image.

©Jen Betton

If you have two separate, consistent styles you will want to create separate sections for them (they don't have to have a physical divider, but don't intermingle the images). You might have a section for your middlegrade vs. picture book work, or your black and white vs. your color images. Eliza Wheeler and Maple Lam both separate their portfolios into "light" and "dark" sections for the more colorful, lighthearted work, and the more monochrome, moodier work.

There are zillions of ways to arrange any given set of images, but taking a little time to lay it out carefully can really add cohesiveness to your portfolio! Flow is important enough that I will remove images that I'd otherwise include in my portfolio if they don't seem to fit into the flow.

For more info on portfolios:

Portfolio Prep:

Past Portfolio Winners: 
Editing Your Portfolio - by Andrea Offermann (winner of the 2013 SCBWI portfolio showcase)
Mentee vs Grand Prize Winner Portfolio - by Juana Martinez-Neal (winner of the 2012 SCBWI portfolio showcase)
Portfolio Comparison - by Eliza Wheeler (winner of the 2011 SCBWI portfolio showcase)

More Conference Tips:
For First Time Attendees - by Debbie Ohi 
The Portfolio Showcase - by Debbie Ohi 

After the Conference: 
What next? - by Jen Betton

P.S. The storytelling aspect is one reason why I don't use process work in my portfolio – it can disrupt the story. It is a great thing to include on your website, but since art directors mostly care about the finished image I do not include it in my physical book.

Jen Betton wrote and illustrated HEDGEHOG NEEDS A HUG (Penguin-Putnam) and illustrated TWILIGHT CHANT by Holly Thompson (Clarion-HMH).
You can find more of her work here:

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