How do you know what the "Best" is?

Everyone tells you to only put the best stuff in your portfolio.  

"Your work is only as strong as the weakest piece!"

Sure sounds reasonable....but what then is your weakest piece?  I'm going to tell you a funny story about this painting:

I did it last year sometime, and I took it with me to IlluxCon.  I showed it to a lot of professionals I truly respect, and Eric Velhagen in particular said it was the best thing in my portfolio at the time.  I was pretty psyched!

A couple of weeks later, I went to CTN-Expo, and showed it to Robh Ruppel.  Without missing a beat, he said it was the weakest image in my (basically the same) portfolio.


Ok, so, which is it?  Professional artists I respect had given my wildly different points of view on the painting.  I trust all the people I spoke with to be honest, and all of them are educated and discerning viewers of art.

Here's the thing:

Only you can say what the best and worst thing in your portfolio is.

All anyone else can tell you is if they think it would be popular, or if they could use it....and if people were right all the time about things like that, we'd never have a "Battlefield Earth" movie...but we'd probably never have a "Rocky Horror Picture Show" either.

Here are a couple of things I think about when I put work in my portfolio:

  • Did you enjoy making it? If no, take it out!  You never want to get more work making stuff you didn't enjoy!
  • Do you make excuses for why parts of it are the way that they are?  Take it out!  Or fix it, but same thing.
  • Is it representative of what you want to do?  No matter how much fun it was to make, if it isn't where you see yourself going, nuke it from orbit.  I'm moving my book to work that I hope attracts AAA video games and live action TV and film.  I enjoy cartoony stuff, but I'm not putting a lot of that up right now.

I listen to other people's thoughts on my work.  You don't want to end up in an echo chamber of you and your mom telling you how great your stuff is....I try not to internalize it without digesting and thinking through things a lot.  Use other people to try to help you fix YOUR problems with the work.  If something is bothering you and you can't figure out what it is or how to fix it, that's a great reason to go to another pair of eyes you trust....trying to get them to tell you if it's good or not is a fool's errand.

This year, IlluxCon just ended, and CTN-Expo is coming up!  I hope you've taken advantage of all the opportunities you could, and if you are preparing for CTN, I hope it goes well for you, and you get what you need out of the event.  Thanks for reading!