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'How To Be An Artist: Presenting Your Work'

Presenting Your Work

Presenting your work properly is debatably one of the most important aspects of your professional image. Whether you are applying for exhibitions, jobs, or just trying to sell your work, if it doesn’t look professionally finished, people won’t want it. It might sound like a simple task but the choice of presentation method can either enhance the impact of your work or take away from it. Often it is a fine line.

There are innumerable ways of presenting your work so it’s just a case of trying out what works best for you and what provides your work with the biggest impact. I will try and give you some tips that may be of use when it comes to presenting your work in a variety of ways.

Portfolios. These you will be using mainly for job opportunities. Taking a professional looking portfolio to interview with you will provide you with ample ammunition to wow the interviewers and get them interested in you and your work. Don’t try and over complicate matters with your portfolio. Gather together all of your work and go through it picking out the bits that you feel are your strongest pieces. Here it is probably better to have a couple of really strong pieces that you can talk a lot about rather than hundreds of pieces with no story to them. Choose pieces that excite you. If you can get excited about them and are animated when talking about them, the interviewers will pick up on this and it will encourage them to get involved. They want to see that you are passionate about what you do. It may also be worth including some examples of your work processes. Showing the interviewers how you create your work will put them on a more personal level with it and perhaps increase their interest. You should also only include recent work. You need to be showing that you are constantly, actively creating work. The only time that you should include older work is if it has relevance to your current practice. If you are going to be present when the interviewers look through your portfolio then I would suggest only having minimal written details about the work. This means that they will be looking to you for details and this will provide you with the opportunity to say everything that you want to and help you build up a rapport with them. If they are to look through your portfolio without you then make sure you provide enough details about the work to satisfy them but provide them with the opportunity to ask more questions about it. It may also be worth slipping a CV in somewhere; whether this is just slipped in at the back or in a pocket of the portfolio etc. They may or may not wish to see it but it can’t hurt to have it available. All in all, make it as easy as possible for the interviewer to navigate your portfolio. Keep it slick and simple.

Framing. This really depends on what you work with. If you are a painter, illustrator or photographer that works on paper then a simple frame will be sufficient. If you work on canvas then are you going to have it displayed as a stretched canvas or would you like to set it in a frame? If you are a sculptor then it makes sense to find a way of presenting your work whereby the viewer can see the piece from all angles. It may also be useful to use lighting to show off the tool marks or show off certain aspects of the work, for example. For this post I will be focusing on 2D painting work as that is where my experience lies. Whether you are working on canvas or paper, if your work has a contemporary feel to it then it would be wise to use contemporary frames. Bold, simple frames work best with the majority of contemporary work. Ornate frames, the majority of the time, will not work. Make sure you choose a frame that doesn’t distract from the work. The job of the frame is to finish off the work and increase its impact. A good way I have found of doing this is to use a good quality mount with a simple bold frame. Play around with the mounts and the frames by trying different pieces in the same frame. Note down your reactions to each piece; what works, what doesn’t, are they better with bigger mounts etc. It might be worth taking some quick photos of each piece so that you can look back through them. This will mean you have a reference point for future work in which you can make a more informed decision about the best framing to use for a certain piece and, like with anything, the more you do it the easier it becomes. Another thing that would be worth trying is posting the photos onto a social networking site and gain other people’s opinions on the work. It is easy to become blind to your own mistakes and doing this will reassure you that you are on the right tracks.

The only other thing that I would say about presenting your work is to make sure that you get some high quality photographs done. These are invaluable no matter what medium you work with. If you have sloppy photographs of your work it will make you look unprofessional and will damage your chances of progressing in whatever it is you are aiming at; whether it is a job, exhibition or funding application. If you don’t have the necessary equipment then consider paying someone to take a few shots of your best work or even better, ask around your contacts and see if you know anyone already that would do it for you.

As I mentioned there are numerous ways of presenting your artwork but hopefully I have given you some useful tips that will make the process a little easier for you. As always comments/questions are greatly appreciated, thank you for reading, and keep your eyes peeled for more posts soon.

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Comment by Mark Prince on May 8, 2013 at 5:10am

You're welcome Nancy, i'm glad you found it helpful :)

Comment by Nancy Wyman Ray on May 7, 2013 at 7:42am

Thank you for that.

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