Using a Dream Portfolio to Develop as an Artist
During my year as an Adobe Creative Resident, I’ve gone through an extremely intensive learning process that has shaped me into a completely different artist than I was when I began as a Resident, in May 2018. It would have otherwise taken years for me to get to this point in my artistic development, but a few key factors fast-tracked my progression—one of them being a dream portfolio!
I was taught this lesson by Lee White—you can find more fantastic information and demos about how to become a better artist from him, Will Terry, Jake Parker, and other amazing artists at the Society of Visual Storytelling. Lee was a teacher of mine in college, and the amount of artistic and business knowledge that he shared with me and other students made all that college debt worth it.
I made my first dream portfolio in art school, and again about seven years later when I got kicked into gear. I realized that mindlessly making pretty stuff would never get me the fulfilling career that I dreamed of—I had to be present in my progression as an artist.
So what is a dream portfolio? It’s a selection of your all-time favorite pieces of art, which you study in order to develop your skills in a specific direction.
STEP 1: FIND WHAT YOU LOVE
If you aren’t gathering reference on the regular yet, start now! My favorite sites for this are Behance and Pinterest. Social media can be a great source as well—just make sure to save images that catch your attention along with the artists’ names. Creating this treasure trove of imagery will give you a quality pile to comb through when you’re looking for your favorite art.
This year, I switched from doing concept art to the world of children’s publishing, so it was essential that I find children’s book art to pull from. It wasn’t that I was creating bad artwork; it’s just that the work I was creating wasn’t serving my career growth.
Looking at my older work now, I feel that it lacked purpose and wasn’t very consistent. But above all, it didn’t fit into the world of children’s publishing like my newer work does. I bet in another five years I’ll have a totally different style, but I know it’ll be what I love!
Once you’ve picked out around 10 to 15 images that you can deem your favorites, you’re ready to move to the next step:
STEP 2: FIGURE OUT WHY YOU LOVE IT
Now it’s time to dissect your favorite work. I would recommend stepping back to take in all of the pieces at once. What do the images in your collection have in common? Are the colors, mark making, shape design, and/or storytelling techniques similar? Is there something that catches your eye first in each piece? Write everything down.
Next, go one by one through the images and write down your favorite aspects of each one. Make sure to take breaks and come back to see your collection with fresh eyes. Write everything down, and hopefully you’ll notice some patterns and make new discoveries about what you love most.