EVENT REPORT Portfolio Intensive

SCBWI’s annual portfolio intensive on Saturday 10th June proved as popular as ever with 22 people in attendance. Emily Yearsley was there on the day to ask our guest industry reviewers five key questions about portfolios.

The Masterclass Portfolio Intensive event took place at the House of Illustration, where we were lucky enough to have a wonderful range of reviewers sharing their expertise and giving feedback on portfolio work: Holly Tonks from Tate Publishing, Ness Wood from David Fickling Books, Chrissie Boehm from Artful Doodlers, and Sharon King-Chai from Panmacmillan publishers.

As ever, one of the other huge benefits of the event was the opportunity to see and learn from each other’s work. Our reviewers kindly agreed to answer some questions for Words and Pictures.

How can we as illustrators stand out in today’s market?

Holly: "Go to events like this and meet other illustrators and industry professionals. Try to think of an interesting way to present your portfolio and business card to make yourself memorable. Also a good website is really important – I need to be able to find your gallery really easily."

Ness: "Try and be different, innovate don't imitate."

Chrissie: "Try to be as fresh as possible."

Sharon: "Try to find a fresh and unique voice."

Holly Tonks

How has the importance of having a web presence affected the need for a physical portfolio?

Holly: "For me, it’s incredibly important to have a physical portfolio. You can never reproduce colours quite as beautifully as they are in real life, so I like to see artwork first hand."

Ness: "Most people will be looking online so a website is very important - then you can get the illustrator and their actual work in if you want to see more."

Chrissie: "Things can look great on the web but not as good in reality, so I still like to see work printed."

Sharon: "I like to see a physical portfolio – it is nice to see work printed and this makes it easier to share it with the wider team."

Ness Wood

When you are looking at a portfolio, what do you look for to make work stand out?

Holly: "Something unique that puts the child at the heart of it. I like to see that people have really thought about the audience."
Ness: "That’s hard, as everyone is different. I look for good drawing, whether it be characterised or abstracted; that someone can do more than a one-off image and that they can make the character work in situations with and without backgrounds."

Chrissie: "It really depends on the project. I am often looking for a very specific style so what I’m looking for varies."

Sharon: "I look for a distinctive style that is original, well thought out and crafted."

Chrissie Boehm

What are your pet hates that put you off when looking at a portfolio?

Holly: "An artist that suggests there is no room for development in their work. There needs to be room for a designer and an editor in the process and work will develop and change before publication."

Ness: "Well, if the portfolio, I mean the work not the actual folder, looks tatty and is a mess, not considered then I would think, “this person isn't that committed and will they produce artwork that is messy . . .”"

Chrissie: "Poorly constructed websites and people who have just got too much on there. I like people to just be honest and show a nice selection of their work."

Sharon: "If somebody has directly replicated an existing style and not added any original input I am put off."
Sharon King-Chai

Are there any topics that you are particularly looking for to fill current market gaps?

Holly: "Art and creativity activity books and non-fiction books about art and architecture. I’m also always looking for beautiful and unique picture books."

Ness: "Everyone is always looking for the next best/new thing – non-fiction is very popular at the moment, but it'll be something else next. I think publishers are mindful of boys not reading as much as girls and so they make that a consideration. Diversity in characters to reflect the world we live in is key."

Chrissie: "We do a look of copy art, but we are also always looking for new styles."

Sharon: "I’m on the lookout for original novelty books for older children and different and unique formats."

Many thanks to all our reviewers for their time at the event, sharing their expertise, and for responding to questions!

Header illustration © John Shelley

Emily Yearsley is a primary school teacher and children's author/illustrator. www.emilyyearsley.co.uk

John Shelley is the Illustration Features Editor of Words & Pictures.
Email: illustrators@britishscbwi.org
Twitter: @Godfox

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