As an artist, having a portfolio is one of the key elements of approaching a job offer / potential interview, with most of your skills as an artist measured by its content. A strong portfolio should encompass the most refined of your completed work, representative of potential for growth, proved abilities and should cater to the area of creativity being applied for – it’s no use showing photography when someone specialises in abstract art (JMC Academy, 2017). Whilst it is tempting to show off, you should prioritise strategically appealing to the employer demographic over showing off all your range of skills as an artist. When exhibiting a creative folio, The Creative Group at HOW (2013) recommends the following key points:
How relevant is this piece to the prospective employer’s needs?
What was the business objective, and how did this piece solve it?
How were the results measured? Is there any quantifiable data I can share?
Are there any aspects of this project that make it especially memorable or interesting?
Strengthening your online presence as an artist is particularly useful for attracting attention to your content. Personalised projects, blogs, content all demonstrate passion for your career and discipline. Social media is a reservoir of potential conversations – an effective method of achieving and maintaining connections, a place to “find and be found,” (JMC Academy, 2017) and a prime way to establish and share current work. People are being hired entirely because of their online content.
Author Buchanan recommends a proactive networking approach when it comes to post-graduation career options. Getting in touch with old tutors, compiling a list of notable industry professionals and their contact details, attending industry events and contacting local career centres are “essential” for the likes of a post-graduate (2013). This approach is useful for researching people and companies before an interview, and can be used to demonstrate knowledge about the industry (JMC Academy, 2017).
Social media is perhaps what first motivated me to really pursue my art – as a budding 14 year with little to no artistic talent, reaching out on an artistic platform is probably what really set me on an improvement journey. Prior to my online presence, I was quite stagnant with my art. I was drawing the same thing; same character; with no exploration into new techniques or expanding my horizons.
With my first account, I not only reached like-minded creatives, I discovered an audience, a community, and my first clients! Although my commissioners were sparse, I got an excerpts of being a freelance artist and build communication skills and relationships. Now, at 18, although still infrequent, I receive monthly commissions and get a little bit of pocket money on the side. Reaching out meant I was exposed to new inspirations, new artistic styles and techniques. I learned to improve by setting myself against other people’s standards and appropriating their methods to progress artistically. Rather than remaining static, my expanded network led me to alternate platforms, artistic programs – a whole host of content.
Networking with others in your ‘niche’ can also act as a means of gathering feedback, and constructive criticisms on your work is one of the most definitive ways to improve. For me, I found that it acted as an alternative form of communication; I found myself sharing other people’s work, appreciating the industry, “spreading the love.” By giving a little to other people I eventually got a lot back – friendships and mutuals. Moreso than just a shared skill for art, I found people with similar passions and interests.
Broadening my connections to the likes of industry professionals helped in untold ways – and even though I wasn’t directly interacting with them, I was getting an insight into the industry and its standards. The potential for genuine conversations about industry and advice is there (and one we’re going to have to take in any case).
The moral of the story I’ve found is that whilst we can so easily get caught up in social media, it’s a valuable tool for meeting new people and improving yourself both as an artist and a person.
When I ended up telling my uncle, a successful and established businessman, that I was finally deciding to pursue my passion for art and study animation his first response was to lighten the discussion with a joke.
“What did the Science major say to the Arts major? ‘I’ll have fries with that.’”
I laughed at first, of course, but looking back it was a little disheartening. As artists, we can expect an income that is no less than sporadic, especially those that go on to freelance and rely on commission-based pay. Being a full-time freelancer is no easy task; but I can draw more than a few comparisons to starting a small business.
The road to preserving artistic freedom is more complicated than a simple freelancing job. Although few can achieve being entirely successful through their own content, it’s a goal that we can aim for. In my own case, I was hoping to create my own graphic novels or online comics. It’s not guaranteed to be a success, but in the meantime, I can have it as a side project (likely a free-to-view web comic), perhaps until it becomes popular or well-known enough to generate interest as a graphic novel series (which is where crowd-funding may also be an option!). It’s likely that since I primarily do my work digitally that I may be eligible for international employment (which has already been the case with some of my commission work thus far).
I have considered alternates to Patreon such as Ko-Fi, as the site allows for a ‘button’ that links to a donation page; easily accessible through substitute social media sites, rather than been restricted to an account on that particular domain. Whilst I may primarily be reliant on a part-time or full-time job to maintain a continual salary, my personal art may still be able to help me stay afloat. It is a long-term goal of mine to transition into a freelance artist which could be an option in the future if I gather enough of a following surrounding my own content.
However difficult the transition may be, the creative industry is malleable – and so are our skills as artists. Collaborative projects require a variety of talents and are rarely restricted to a singular discipline. As desire for entertainment grows, so do our job possibilities.