5 Top Portfolio Tips for Art Licensors

21 11 2013

Recently I was asked: “Would you say that it is or isn’t appropriate to show work that was included in portfolios shown last year, and how could one do this successfully? Thanks! Sean, Victoria, BC Canada”

This question, plus the fact that I just completed teaching a beginner’s course on ‘Art Licensing Essentials-Creating Collections, Presentations and Websites,’ and hosting an intermediate level course taught by Sheila Meehan called ‘Developing Marketable Art Licensing Portfolios that Sell!’ got me thinking about sharing some key points about art licensing portfolios that will help you clean up, freshen up and build your portfolio for 2014.

1) Portfolio Size

The size of your portfolio will depend greatly on how long you have been in the art licensing business, specifically creating collections designed for manufacturers and retailers.  An artist who has been in the business for 10 years with a consistent art style, who might add 5-10 collections a year, will probably have 100 or more collections to choose from.  I have seen some pretty large and amazingly hefty portfolios at trade shows in the past years.

Manufacturers want to see a body of work; enough to keep them interested AND know you are committed to the business.  If you are heading to a major trade event, then think in terms of presenting 20-30 collections in a variety of themes.

2) Portfolio Flow

When building your portfolio it should definitely ebb and flow.  You should add to your portfolio. And take things out. That’s the only way to keep it fresh!

You can absolutely continue to use images and collections that you have shown last year, or even from years before.  However, take out designs that no longer fit your art style, or are no longer ‘in style’ or ‘on trend.’  And mix new ones in with the older ones.

Think realistically about how long YOUR ART will be relevant in the marketplace, and therefore, to manufacturers, retailers and consumers.  If you are trend driven, it may be one to three years. If you are very traditional in your themes and style, then 8-10 years would not be an unusual length of time to keep some art in your portfolio.

3) Portfolio Re-View

Licensees ALWAYS want to see what you have that’s new.  So while your art style may interest them, new art keeps them coming back to ‘see what you’ve got.’

Creating new art for key trade shows is vitally important, as well as sharing new collections throughout the year.  So think about how many collections you will create (approximately) in 2014, and plan out their releases based on trade shows you will attend and key mailings to potential licensees.

Portfolio Piece: Game Nite (c)  Becky Denny

Portfolio Piece: Game Nite (c) Becky Denny

4) Portfolio Organization

Make sure you organize your portfolio for a trade event, direct mail campaigns (‘e’ or snail mail) or on your website, by theme.  It is done this way for a very specific reason.  This is how manufacturers buy collections. They seek out art to fit their product line needs for: everyday (including seasonal-fall, winter, spring, summer), holidays (Christmas, Halloween, Valentines, Easter), occasions (Birthday, Graduation, Baby Shower) and niche themes/lifestyles (cooking, flowers, spa, sports, country chic, lodge, beach).  Organizing your collections in other ways will just make it more difficult for the manufacturer and is likely to frustrate them and lose you business.

5) Website Portfolios

So how much art should you display on your website? Well the answer is, just enough. That may seem like a silly and vague answer, but it’s true. You want to display enough that you show a breadth of themes, and the depth of your capabilities.

But you don’t want to show your entire portfolio.  It’s not wise or necessary to have every collection out on your site.  (Of course, also take as many precautions as you can by using a watermark on your art and © on each piece and/or collection.)

You want to show your best work, some new work, and keep it flowing, as discussed here—by taking things out and adding them back in on a continual basis.  Make sure readers of your website know you have more than this, and send out more collections when requested, or THEN send them to a password protected area to view your complete portfolio online.  I believe, and have had this confirmed by many manufacturers, that having EVERYTHING password protected is too much, but the majority of your work can be prudent.  So share enough that folks can get the essence of your work and ask for more.  Whether you use an online solution to organize, display and protect your art, or you don’t yet have enough collections to warrant that, keep the process simple!

There is always something new to share about building a significant portfolio that will land you deals.  If you are interested in learning more, both of these new classes, ‘Art Licensing Essentials-Creating Collections, Presentations and Websites’ and ‘Developing Marketable Art Licensing Portfolios that Sell!’ are now available to purchase as downloads. Each course includes a full audio + more than 70 slides, with details and samples, in a PowerPoint presentation (PDF format)—click here for more information.

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