How to Make Your Art Portfolio Current & Competitive

Art is always evolving and so should our portfolios! As artists, we are constantly developing with the help of world and social trends, new technologies and so much more.

We must keep up with these changes. Not only because our passion necessitates new ideas and new inspirations, but also because the artwork we previously thought to be finished, might now look painfully incomplete — such is the life of a creative.

In an artist’s mind, there’s always room for improvement. Or, room for more experimentation to make one idea flourish into another. Because of these realities, your portfolio should continually be changing. Just because you’ve selected your best work for your book once, doesn’t mean you should never ever touch it again. Or that you’ll never create anything better for that matter. That’s crazy!

Throughout your art career, you WILL learn new skills and new software. You may even come across new concepts that you’ll want to execute. As you mature as an artist, the art that you created earlier in your career may not be on par with the kind of artist you are today. This means updating! Yes it might seem like a lot of work, but it’s worthwhile. But a word to the wise: When updating your portfolio you might find it easy to slip into trashing your old works — don’t. Instead, use the process to discover how far you and your art have come, the new talents you’ve discovered since your last portfolio update and where you’d like your work to be in the future.

So how to do you begin to manage your portfolio or even know when updating is needed? Here are some helpful tips:

1. Have an online and hard copy portfolio.

Your job as an artist, aside from creating, is to make your art easily accessible to employers, clients and followers. Keeping this in mind, the majority of the time employees or potential clients find it easier to access an artist’s portfolio online. You must have both a hard copy and online portfolio for this reason.

lori mcnee original art

You must also clearly represent your work by properly taking photos of your paintings, drawings and hard copy designs. It doesn’t matter how great your work looks in person — if the quality of your picture is fuzzy, out of focus or the lighting is bad, you will look unprofessional. It’s also very important to keep these examples of your work organized. Especially if you do a lot of art in various mediums.

2. Always keep it recent.

You’ve grown as an artist. The time between your first art piece to your second (after practicing and understanding your field) will vastly differ. And, you’re fooling yourself if you believe a professional won’t notice this. It’s exactly what they say, “Practice makes perfect.” And perfection can’t be done in a day. It’s a lifetime commitment. You must demonstrate your updated, mature art skills in order to nab a job. So, artworks that show those advanced skills are necessary. This can mean that you scrap the old work for a whole new concept or that you revamp an old piece into something that shows off your new knowledge and skills.

3. Keep your portfolio and resume consistent.

As creatives, resumes are just words stating what you’ve done. Your portfolio is proof that you’re talented and that you’ve completed what you’ve stated. If you’ve participated in a show, or have done freelance/volunteer art work, include the job duties and client’s name on your resume and have those works in a category of your portfolio.

4. Artist’s statements must represent you.

Many things can inspire you. It may be exposure to a specific kind of art, artist or color. Or, you may have started off loving graphite drawing, but now enjoy illustrating on the computer. Whatever the situation may be, your artist statement (the statement that speaks how you, the artist, views your work and explains why you do what you do) must be up-to-date.

artist portfolio

This may require a lot of thinking for oneself. The hardest part is recognizing the ideas and mottos that drive you to create and realizing when they are no longer relevant to your art. You might think it’s rare to be an artist who’s beliefs are erratic and always changing — but it happens. Keep present in the ways you think about your art and it’s creation. Maintaining an up-to-date artist’s statement is a great way to make yourself aware.

5. Editing your artwork may need some teamwork.

Don’t be afraid to show your portfolio to peers, colleagues, or other random artists. Joining artist communities like ArtBistro will allow you to get feedback, critiques and a second pair of eyes. Because it’s oftentimes difficult to be objective about your own artwork, having someone else assess your portfolio is great help. Being open minded to suggestions is of utmost importance and can ultimately help you spruce up you portfolio work. It also allows you to experiment with new ideas and possibly new mediums.

man with magnifying glass inspector

6. Keep ART-ing:

Don’t just stick with the work you already have; continue to draw and create. Just because it has made it into your portfolio does not mean it’s locked in. You can always make additions as well as changes. Yes, coming up with new material may take awhile and a lot of hard work, but it shows you’re determined and serious about your work, as well as passionate. Try out the new skills you’ve gained. Execute the many creative ideas you have locked in your mind. Whatever it is, get out of comfort zone and create!

painter artist smock

7. Keep only finished pieces of work for your portfolio.

On that note — keep creating but don’t do a rushed job just to include it in your portfolio. Portfolios are meant for the best of the best. The strongest pieces need to be seen first by employers and clients.

8. Exemplify artwork that is appropriate for the industry.

You can go in many directions within art and design (i.e. package design, information design, fine arts). Be sure to present a wide range of skills in your portfolio and if you’re applying for a particular industry, showcase works that fits that industry. For example, applying for a magazine design job requires a portfolio that has creative layout designs. At times, you may not have enough works in that area to show off — make some!

Keeping your portfolio current and up-to-date is a vital part of an artist’s/designer’s life. It shows you are serious, determined, and paying attention to art trends. Companies rebrand themselves all the time in order to make their services and products appeal to present times, showcase new ideas, strengths and set themselves apart from the rest. You owe it to yourself and your work to display your best. Create an up-to-date portfolio and be proud to show it off!


Big thanks to my friends at for sharing another invaluable article with us! ~Lori

PS. I would love to meet you on Facebook and Twitter!

Please be sure and take a look at these other helpful posts:

Easy Steps: Add a Newsletter Sign-Up to Your Facebook Fan Page

How to Create a Powerful Art Portfolio

How to Give Your Blog Post Artistic “Sex Appeal”

How to Use Good Reference Photos for Landscape Painting

10 Reasons Why You Should Date an Artist!

When Are You Ready to Call Yourself a Professional Artist?

Top 10 Ways to Improve Your Twitter Image & Following

How to Prepare Your Studio for Art Collector Visits

How to Find an Art Print Publisher: One Artist’s Success Story

How Do You Define Success as an Artist?

Alternative Investing in Fine Art Recommended Rather Than Stocks


  1. Vanessa March 9, 2011 at 8:08 am

    Great info Lori! For a while I struggled with deciding what was appropriate for my portfolio and what wasn’t. I use to put every single finished piece in but now I take a minute to stop and think whether or not it is of the standard I want to show and whether it ties into my general philosophy/statement.

    It’s easier said then done though because sometimes it can seem self defeating if you feel as though you don’t have much to show despite your hard efforts but I guess in time you grow to understand the balance here.

    I’ve made a note of your tips above to keep on hand, they’re great for when you’re undusre or don’t have another artsy person nearby for a second opinion 🙂

  2. Brennen McElhaney March 24, 2011 at 10:05 am

    Great discussion of the “Artist’s Portfolio.”

    Here is my blueprint for how I assemble my physical portfolio.

    “A Practically Perfect Portfolio”

    Lori – Thank you for sharing you insights so generously!

  3. Laura warburton June 19, 2011 at 8:46 am

    Good advice Lori. I feel the knowing why you do art and being able to verbalize what you create with a link to your growth as an artist is the single most difficult non studio challenge. But worth every self examination minute.

    • Lori McNee June 21, 2011 at 4:47 pm

      Hi Laura-

      Writing and verbalizing thoughts into words is very challenging for many visual people. I plan to write a post in the near future with tips to help. Thanks for the input.


  4. Jennifer Ressmann October 22, 2011 at 5:29 am

    Thanks for the article Lori. I am updating my portfolio this month, so enjoyed reading! Hope you’re having a great Fall Season.

  5. samie gough April 2, 2012 at 9:58 am

    thanks 🙂 im only 13 but im starting my portfolio for the royal acadmy 🙂 this really helped me x

    • Lori McNee April 23, 2012 at 11:55 am

      Hello Samie,

      Congratulations on starting at the Royal Academy…how exciting. I am happy to hear this blog helped you. Good luck!

  6. Lynne January 28, 2013 at 10:32 am

    Just a quick note to say that “Autumn Medley” is one of the finest and most beautiful still-life compositions I’ve ever seen.

    • Lori McNee January 28, 2013 at 11:25 am

      Wow, Lynne! Thanks so much for taking time for this compliment. I truly appreciate it.

Comments are closed.