Society of
Children's Book Writers
and Illustrators

It’s All About You: How to ‘Take’ a Portfolio Review

Another post on this blog acknowledges how hard it is for a writer who has submitted a manuscript for critique to sit still and listen to someone else dissecting their “baby” (i.e. their manuscript). As an illustrator submitting your portfolio for review, you are not so much in the position of a proud parent—it is you, yourself, under the microscope. Your portfolio is you. It defines you. It’s a promise to whomever will listen of what you can do if given the chance. It’s your i.d. card, your resume, and your autobiography all rolled into one.

Okay, that’s the scary part. Here’s the warm and fuzzy. 

Professionals we bring in to the conferences to review your portfolio understand how personal this is. They’re rooting for you. THEY are the proud parents hoping to pass on their knowledge to help you become what they know you can be. When an art director says, “Work on your drafting,” or “Think about building a world for your characters,” he or she is saying they believe you can. Drawing skills can be practiced and polished. A sense of setting can be developed. They know how hard you’re trying, and they want to help you focus so that your efforts are productive.

They also know the market, either as buyers or as successful navigators of the children’s publishing landscape. Pay attention to what they like about your collection of work: do they compliment you on your characters’ interactions? On your use of detail? Often we need someone else to show us where our strengths lie.

Finally, it is true that this is a subjective business. Your reviewer will probably offer suggestions about a direction to follow. You may or may not agree. Don’t follow any path that doesn’t resonate with you, but respect the wisdom that prompted the suggestions. Challenge yourself to see your own work in a different light.

NEW this year!

Because your printed portfolio is only part of your professional presentation, this year, when you sign up for a review, you will also receive a review of your illustration website or online gallery*. We will have wifi set up at the review table so that you and your critiquer can view and discuss your online presence during your expanded, 20-minute consultation.

*If you do not currently have an online presence, you may use the extra time to discuss the pros and cons of marketing yourself online—and perhaps get some tips about which images in your portfolio might form the nucleus of an online gallery.


Bonnie Adamson is the Carolinas Illustrator Coordinator. Contact her at if you have any questions about Portfolio Reviews.