Society of
Children's Book Writers
and Illustrators


Why should I display my portfolio?

If you’re an illustrator just starting out, you need to get used to displaying your work. At the very least, putting together a portfolio for others to see is a great exercise in self-editing and refining your voice.

If you’re a seasoned illustrator, this is an opportunity to define (or re-define) yourself, to demonstrate how your style is adaptable to a range of projects—or to focus on the type of work that excites you most. And, not incidentally, of course, you may just catch the eye of an art director, editor or agent—though we make no guarantees!

Are there any rules for displaying my portfolio?

We don’t have any restrictions as to size or format. There are guidelines, however:

1) Please don’t include original art—the portfolios are meant to be handled, and are displayed during the Saturday evening social hour, where food and drink are present. Accidents happen!

2) Corral your samples somehow: a loose-leaf binder or portfolio with plastic sleeves is ideal. That way, your images are protected, and you control the order in which they are seen.

3) Think carefully about size. Remember that your goal is to illustrate for children’s publishing, where the standard page size is 9” x 11.” If you have work that must be seen larger than that to be appreciated, it probably won’t be successful for the market. Most artists work at 150% to 200% of the finished size—if you do, that’s fine, but reduce your portfolio copies to the intended print size before displaying.

4) Identify yourself! Ideally, each page or image should include your name and contact information (email or web url).

What types of things should I include in my portfolio?

That’s a topic too big for our discussion here. There are excellent resources online and in books about children’s publishing, however.

Here are some  links you might find useful:   [Click on “Studio” and then “Portfolio tips”]

The basic rule is to include your very best work, and the work you want to be hired to do. I don’t know why bicycles always come up here—perhaps because they show up often in children’s books, and they’re hard to get right! You may be tempted to show off a successful bicycle illustration (for example), but don’t, unless you want to spend several months illustrating stories about bicycle racing. Seriously. The same advice goes for animals, or children: don’t include them just because you think you should, if you’re not good at drawing animals or children—or if you don’t want to draw animals and children.

Otherwise, please do consider your market. Don’t include “mature” subject matter, anything that would be offensive . . . or still lifes, no matter how lovely. You are not only representing your skill, you are representing your point of view, and your ability to carry a story.

Can I display business cards, etc.?

Yes! Please do! In fact, you should never display your work without providing some sort of take-away for interested art buyers: a business card, postcard or bookmark is best. Make sure your name and contact information are prominently placed. Because space is at a premium, we ask that you do not include business card holders or easels. Any loose material will be displayed alongside the portfolio. Please do not plan to display printed books, as space is at a premium. 

How about dummies?

You may include a dummy, either of an original story, or a treatment of a classic fairytale—either option would be a great way to show that you can portray characters consistently and that you understand pacing and flow, all of which are essential skills in producing a picture book. Again, make sure your name is clearly displayed, and please provide a pocket in your portfolio to tuck the dummy in, or, even better, attach the dummy to your portfolio with a ribbon.

How do I register for the portfolio display?

No need to register.

If you’re undecided, I encourage you to bring your portfolio with you to the conference anyway. Once you’ve had the chance to network with fellow illustrators, I hope you’ll decide to share your work with other conference-goers.