Pixar Shares Portfolio Advice – by @grudevaa

Anna Grudeva

By Annie Grudeva  (and Bobby from Pixar)


I have a friend who works at Pixar and I was chatting to him during the holidays and he put together for me an email with advice on how to put together a great portfolio.


He talks about art but me and Jacqui feel it really resonates with the stuff MOSH is going through at the moment and might be useful. 


All the best,


Some say portfolios should be diverse while others say they should be focussed. What do you think is more effective?The only time you should have a diverse portfolio is if you’re really skilled in a variety of artistic fields. It’s rare that someone is a great storyboard artist, and a talented character designer, but that would be an instance where you should have a diverse portfolio.

If you want high-end jobs, you shouldn’t generalize your portfolio or even specialize it with the intention of applying to a specific job. The best jobs come when employers approach you, not the other way around. So instead, focus on creating an online portfolio of your best work that showcases what you are best at. This brings me back to what I always say to students who ask how to make a great portfolio. What I’ve learned is this, your ultimate portfolio is your online presence. If you’re showcasing only your best work, and only the work that you’re interested in doing more of, then the jobs of your dreams will come to you faster.

There was a time when I submitted portfolios with great variety for all kinds of jobs. The only position I was ever offered in that time was “Data Manager”. If you really want to make an impression, then just show your best work to the world, and focus on what you love so that when others look at your work, they understand what you’re all about and there’s no doubt about what you can do for them.

What mistake do you often see in portfolios that you would warn others about?

The number one mistake I see in amateur portfolios is that new artists get caught up in technical skills and forget that they’re drawing! It’s supposed to come from the heart, and not just from a textbook. I find the biggest difference in portfolios is that good portfolios have good technical skills while great portfolios not only display great technical skills but also have memorable pieces coming from great creative ideas.

Great art is about connecting with your audience at an emotional level. It’s about making someone feel exactly how you intend for them to feel. If you’re aiming for your piece to be awe-inspiring and it’s only kinda-sorta awe-inspiring then it’s not a great piece. Aim for an emotional connection with your audience and put it up online. If you don’t hit it, you’ll know right away.

Most famous paintings that come to mind at first thought are those that really affect the viewer emotionally. However, is this appropriate for a portfolio? Is it possible that too much emotion will make a potential employer overlook the skills that actually pertain to the job? Finally, who do you think of when you think of emotionally communicative artists? In an ideal world, one could loosen up off the bat, but in today’s world, you have to show that you have foundational skills, before most others will appreciate your work.

Your portfolio can have different sections talking about different things but should still have a feeling of cohesiveness. If you like working on preschool projects and also on horror movies, then separate those projects into two different portfolios.

One artist that I look at and immediately feel an understanding and a connection with is Van Gogh. His work is immediately striking, powerful, and highly emotional. A modern day piece that comes to mind is “Something Familiar” by Peter de Sève. It’s an illustration of an old witch on a broomstick looking at a black kitten in a pet store that strikes you with its adorableness and story in the very first moment you look at it. That’s what your portfolio is about; storytelling and human connection, and if your online presence is strong, and you have work like that, then the jobs you want will come to you.

Hope that helps,


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