Building a Portfolio

What is a portfolio and why do you need it?

In the old days a portfolio was simply a physical collection of your best work that was in a book format or folder. Artists would try to get into galleries by arranging appointments with gallery owners to view their portfolio. Although this still goes on, today the opportunities (and competition) has grown and one of the best ways of getting your artwork seen can be online, via websites, blogs and social media. One platform isn't better than another and most successful artist use several approaches as they are not mutually exclusive and appeal to different audiences. In addition to their physical portfolios, although I will deal with social media and blogs in the marketing section of the website, it is important to note that prospective clients may.

It is still worth having a physical portfolio of work but it is most likely that your work will be viewed online initially. 

The number one rule is never to include anything less than your best work. Remember that this is your showcase, and by the end of the course you should have 5 pieces of significant work that you can contribute to a portfolio alongside the preparatory work fro a portfolio. 

A Physical Portfolio

This is a hard backed folder that can hold and protect work in plastic sleeves. The size depends on what size your work is. it should contain work on a botanical theme only, don't include random pieces of old artwork and keep it focused and relevant to your current style and well curated to show your style and interests.


Why do I need a physical portfolio? 

You may need such a portfolio to apply for a job, commission, exhibition or teaching opportunity and you may need to tailor the portfolio depending on the type of application. For example the RHS request a portfolio of work in order to be accepted by their picture committees as do some galleries. Or you may be invited to give a presentation or to give a talk, so having a portfolio ready to go means that you are always prepared for any opportunity.  

What should I include? 

A small collection of related work can be useful, such as native plants, fruits or whatever interests you but should show off your various skills in painting plants.

Some smaller pieces such as studies of leaves, flowers or fruit may be included but if so need to be of exceptional quality, perhaps fill one A3 page with several. But mostly I recommend comprehensive botanical illustrations or artwork rather than single small studies.


I also include some preparatory work, such as the studies for each final painting or a sketchbook to demonstrate your creative process and drawing skills. Make sure that you have good knowledge about your subject material so that you can discuss it with confidence

Six - ten pieces of artwork should be the number that you should aim for unless asked for more. 

What if my work sells?

If your best work is sold, high quality giclee prints should be made but you should always include some original works too, so that the techniques can be examined up close.

It is worth having all final art work professionally scanned, so that you can make prints if necessary, this is also useful when works are very large and not practical to transport in portfolio or if you need to send examples overseas.  in addition always photograph your preparatory stages of the work yourself as this can be useful for telling you story of the process for social media. 

What else should I include?

You portfolio should be aligned with your CV and Artist statement and should reflect your commitment as an artist. 

Never turn up unannounced at a gallery and always make an appointment first, you can provide your web site address so that clients and galleries can view your work in person before meeting. 

Here is an example of and A3 portfolio suitable for artwork, I use an A3 and an A2 size portfolio similar to this.



A Digital Portfolio on a Website

Your digital portfolio of work should be ideally be on your artist website, which should preferably be in your name with your personal url. try to avoid gimmick with names as you will likely tire of them.  You should also have an email address in your name, so it is clear who you are. For example, my website is and my email is although these days its perfectly acceptable to use a gmail address, if you want to keep costs down. Use a dot or hyphen in the name if it is unavailable. 


Why do I need a website? 

A website is often the first stop for those interested in your work, customers, employers or gallery owners etc. will often look at your website before inviting to present a portfolio or commissioning work. Keep it focused on your botanical work if you intend to specialise in this field, or at very least have different sections or pages for different types of work. Buyers and galleries will want to know that you are a specialist, and not a 'jack of all trades' so, for example, including portraits or landscapes (unless a core part of your botanical work for the latter) should not be included. having too broad a range of work may even lose work opportunities. 

Your site should be linked to your business social media sites, it should be printed on your business cards and included  your email signature.  Social media can bring a lot of traffic to your website so make sure that it is kept up to date. With any website always ensure that you are compliant with GDPR laws. 


How to I get a website and what should be included?

Today there are lots of low cost simple template style options available to build websites, such as WIX. So any artist wishing to have professional presence should have a website to showcase their work. Alternatively you can employ someone to build a website for you but you need to have a clear structure and all the content available before approaching a web site designer, this can be a costly business so be prepared.

At very least you will need a home page, biography  and gallery or portfolio page or pages, these can be broken down into further pages but should be easy to navigate. you will also need a contact page linked to your email.

It is possible to expand on your physical portfolio work on such a website by including a broader range of work, but again keep it high quality. Take a look at other artists website to see how they present their work. it is worth doing your research. 

Remember a website should be kept up to date, should have clean focused images that can be easily navigated. Web images should be as close a match as possible to the original artwork, images should not be over cleaned but should be an honest representation of the work, this is the same for images submitted online for exhibitions. 

You can also include a shop for your original work and prints etc., prices and sizes, payment options and shipping costs should be clear. Again, having images true to your actual artwork is essential.  

Developing a website is outside the scope of this course but here are two web design sites that are very easy to use.




You can buy and check URL availability, from there providers.