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What are some things to focus on to help make your art portfolio stand out? I am wprried about not getting hired because I have no previous work experience besides freelance commissions. Any advice?

Aspiring Illustrator here!
Portfolio tips?
How to stand out.
What aspects are important.
Should I aim for internships first?

Thank you comment icon What I would focus on is uniqueness and difficulty, in that order. Sure AI can draw a unicorn, but can an AI draw a unicorn that seems to have a tusk-like horn in great detail? (probably, but this is less likely) Following up, difficulty. If you can draw a picture that looks like a photo, that's really good. If it's not quite photorealistic, it's fine if there's an underlying distinct style. Also, with animations, I think you should show your complete segments first, followed by walk-cycles, and then maybe go into animatic/storyboard just so there's a reference from primitive to advanced. As for internships, my belief is that the opportunities for undergraduates or high-schoolers are much higher, so I think one should aim for these when they're available. John Alston

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Ava’s Answer

Jen, freelance is absolutely work experience, don't discredit yourself! That's how many professional artists start out. Some even continue to do freelance full-time for their own business. Since you do freelance, you're already an illustrator, no "aspiring" needed! If you're passionate, do not wait for a job or internship to give you experience, just do it! Yes, you should absolutely apply for internships while you're still in school if you can manage your time well, but making projects on your own is a great way to build a portfolio and show off your skills. You're also teaching yourself how to learn without waiting for someone else to tell you.

Speaking of portfolios, tailor your portfolio to your unique interests and what you'd like to do for work. If you want to do character art, include character art. If you like creating scenes and environmental art, include that. You can even make multiple portfolios for different roles, the key is just proving you can and want to do it! Always seek to learn new skills and techniques, even if it's a little outside your comfort zone. Seek honest feedback from people you trust and whose artistic opinions you value the most. GDC has a series of industry panels about building your portfolio, this one was for their 2019 conference: https://youtu.be/93_6P-hXFGY?si=8PnP0bpae2S85Vdp

Best of luck Jen, I hope this helps!
Thank you comment icon Thank you so so much for your advice! It means a lot! I'll do my best to continue my own studies and maybe shoot my shot at some internships and small gigs🫶 Jen
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Matt’s Answer

Everyone begins their journey at some point, and building your portfolio is part of that process. So, don't worry if it seems a bit sparse in the beginning. It's fantastic that you have commissioned work to showcase - definitely include that. If you feel the need to add more content, spec work is also a good option. Even if the work wasn't for a paid client, the key is to highlight your abilities and what you're capable of. Help potential employers envision what you could bring to their team. Remember, entry-level positions don't require a portfolio bursting with years of experience. Instead, concentrate on showcasing your talents and what sets you apart in the most effective way possible.
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muhammad’s Answer

Remember, it's all about quality, not quantity. Show off your flexibility and shine a light on your strengths. Make sure to always put your best foot forward in a professional manner. Weave a story with your work, and don't forget to include your personal projects. Always be open to feedback, and customize your content to suit your audience. Let people see your creative process, and never stop updating and improving.
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