I am currently gearing up for a grad school interview and visit so please excuse my tardiness in posting this article. While getting ready for my visit I have been editing my physical portfolio as well as reading literature about how to present myself to a future employer or graduate program. Each article or advice column contradicts the next and each has something different to say about the formatting of a "good" portfolio. Despite all the garbely-gook I have decided one thing to be true and am trying to allow it to focus my efforts.
Let the work reflect you as an artist and professional. No matter what others say about the size, color, order, or materials of your portfolio; you have to be comfortable putting it in front of others and saying "This is me!"
I have rearranged my physical portfolio three or four times in preparation for this interview and it may be arranged once more before I hop on my plane. Despite my fussing with it, the contents are me and I am happy showing it to perspective professors or employers and saying "This is me!"
(A word of caution, make sure you know the portfolio requirements of the program or company you are applying for. Some places have different requirements)
If that's all you needed to hear about portfolios you can stop reading now, but if you really want a little bit more below are my opinions I believe work for me. They help my portfolio showcase me and my work.
Now, I have accepted some of the standard guidelines of portfolio construction. For example I subscribe to the camp that believes a nice plain, black, bound book allows for your work to shine through. There are no distractions that will subtract from the work. I also have a straight forward resume; in other words it's black simple font on white simple paper. Maybe once I have become a little more settled into my professional career I will opt for a fancier template setting or font and graphics combo. For now a straight forward explanation of my skills is all I need. I enjoy creating and color, but that can be shown through the examples of my designs and projects. There is no need for glitter and modge-podge on the cover of my portfolio. (I'm not a big fan of glitter anyway)
I formulated three guidelines to follow while reading up on the new trends and requirements for portfolios. They are:
1. Keep it neat. Neat as in clean. A nicely tacked down page with clean lines and a clear cover allow your interviewer to see your work and not guess which part is what. The last thing you want is for them to not see your favorite piece because it is poorly presented.
2. Edit. Do not put all of your work in your portfolio. The interviewers are not your mother; they do not want to see everything you have made since kindergarten. Select pieces that show your growth since entering the field you study. Remember the portfolio is saying "This is me!" Keep your pages to a lower two digit number as well. Mine is ten pages back and front (so effectively 20). If you leave something out and the interviewer wishes to see it, offer to email the piece once you return home. (With today's carry on luggage fees, you want a portfolio that is portable.)
3. Label. In a perfect world you will be in front of your interviewers explaining your work, but sometimes the world is not perfect. Also, those labels can sometimes act as markers for your brain. They give you something to go off of like those note cards we all used to use in grade school for the daunting task of class presentations. Labels can be little flags along the side of the road to remind you which direction you are going and which direction you want to head in.
For the past few months I have been brushing up on my rendering skills; drawing, shading, proportions, etc. It's important to keep these skills fresh and flexible. Renderings are a very important way for designers to translate their brain's jumble into stories that others can understand.
But, what if drawing a design is not the best way to get across your design? What other options are there to give an understandable preview to a client?
Collage is one of the alternate ways to display designs I was taught at university. The concept is the same as the gluestick and magazine creations from kindergarten. The only difference is the intent.
There are three different styles of collaging that I have experienced in my education. They are:
1. Found Object Collage: objects that are easily attached to paper are arranged to create the look and feel of a costumer's design. Items can include: silk flowers, ribbon, cloth, string, plastic, cellophane, etc. This style of collage allows for a more textured and three dimensional design.
~~~I saw an example of this object/fabric collage while in LA last year. There was a small exhibit on the costuming of the claymation Paranorman. The designer took pieces of cloth and stitched in shading and highlighting to give an idea how the clothing would look once on the clay characters. I really enjoyed the design and understood well what the designer envisioned.
2. Magazine Collage: pictures of clothing and people are cut from magazines and arranged how the designer envisions a character would style themselves. This style works well for bought or pulled shows.
3. Hybrid Collage: combines the best of both worlds. pictures other than clothing are pulled to create a wardrobe. Many times shading and highlighting of garments is cut from large pictures into specific shapes to give the illusion of depth.
Collages are fun and can sometimes be a better way to get a design across depending on the style of play and direction the design team and director wish to take the show.
This way of expressing a design is most useful if the design is pulled from stock. Costume pieces are placed on mannequins as an ensemble and photographed for the design team's use. I have not seen this way used often because it is labour intensive, but if the cast is small and the stock is well known to the designer, it may prove to be a better option if the director wants to see the exact garment that will be onstage.
After returning from tour this winter I busied myself with costume crafts for Nebraska Theatre Caravan's steampunk tour of Fantasticks! It was quite a quick education of the culture of steampunk, but I loved creating pieces that one may see in a futuristic past.
I had heard of steampunk before but I wasn't quite sure how the name came to be. I was watching Oddities: San Francisco whilst running recently and they had a lovely steampunk gentleman on. It was so interesting to see and learn about the genre and culture outside of a theatre setting. Watching shows such as Oddities allows me to better understand the history and modern connotations of things that I could potentially or have used in my costuming.
Creating technologies that would exist today but look as if a crazy inventor (Belle's father Maurice comes to mind although he's not in the right era) conceived the gadgets is very entertaining. I've had a blast creating and refurbishing all these gadgets and accessories for the tour. Projects like these remind me how much I love what I do and could not possibly have done something else.
I have read many articles about how women are not as confident in the workplace as their male counterparts. Since reading these articles I have noticed that when praised or questioned I react in a more sheepish way than I believe a similarly qualified man would have acted. I do not want to be a statistic so I have come up with a list (because I am a list person) of small steps to help me become a more confident professional in my field.
1. Say "Thank You" when complimented. Don't say "I try", "I had a lot of help", "It's not that great", etc. Someone thought you did something worth praising. Take that small life trophy with pride and put it in your trophy cabinet. Give credit where credit is due, but don't slough off something you worked hard on and that someone else noticed!
I used to be a horrid example of "I try" when complimented. I was also bad when complimented about my appearance. I'd laugh off the praise or negate it. No! Own it and take it in with both arms. Give it a bear hug! Confidence is knowing you are great and accepting it. (But please don't flaunt, that's not confidence, that's arrogance)
2. Have eye contact when in conversation. When in a business or personal conversation with someone, give them eye contact. Look at them, not at your hands or feet. Let them know you think what they have to say is worth listening to. In turn, they will think what you have to say is worth time out of their day as well.
3. Admit when you don't know. "I don't know" is not always the most opportune thing to say, but knowing your limits shows confidence. Say "I don't know, but I can find out" or "I don't know, let's go find out together" have been great ways to show I am a team player and know what I know. Never makeup something. That just makes you look foolish.
4. Have a healthy way to deal with stress. We all deal with stress differently and it manifests itself differently for each of us. Stress can take the most confident human and reduce him to a blubbering mess. To keep a level head and your confidence when stressed have a healthy way to banish it.
While recently on tour I would go run for at least thirty minutes in the morning or after a show to allow myself to decompress and think through things. It really helped. Having just half an hour to myself where I could leave my duties behind and mentally relax helped me keep my head. For some people they meditate, do yoga, take a walk, journal, or draw. Find what works and do it.
5. Allow yourself to have a funk but set a time limit. There will be times when confidence goes out the window because you messed up bad, or you feel like you did. Allow yourself to feel those feelings, but set a limit, 20 minutes, till dinner, till second act, etc. to get all the feels out. After the time limit get on with your day/night and don't go back.
This was very helpful for me. I used to dwell on mistakes I made no matter how little. I now allow myself to feel these feelings for a short amount of time and then I am back to my own cheery self. Feelings are legit. Allow yourself to have them, but do not let them interfere with your job.