Thursday, December 24, 2015

It's About Time For Santa

Many illustrators over the last couple of centuries have created versions of Santa. In the U.S., the jolly old elf would be known as Santa Claus. In England, he would be referred to as Father Christmas, and an illustrator in Germany, would be portraying Saint Nickolas. In any persona, there's a rich tradition of picturing this historical fictional character (don’t tell your kids). Illustrators for decades, indeed centuries past, have described the character with acute visual similarity. And, although a few other illustrators had pictured Santa at the same time, the illustrator Thomas Nast can be credited with establishing the character's archetype. Even Norman Rockwell had referred to Nast's interpretations of the jolly old gentleman with white beard, portly figure, twinkling eyes, and red button nose.

© 2015 Don Arday.
Now as you all know, illustrators work from reference. Even if it's reference we acquire from one and other. But where did the original reference come from. Where did Thomas Nast obtain the reference he used to produce his portrait—one of the earliest of Saint Nick? Perhaps Nast used some reference from an illustration that appeared in Josiah King's The Examination and Tryal of Father Christmas, or the old gentleman, known incognito as Kris Cringle, was obliging enough, and kind enough to grant Mr. Nast a sitting in order for him do produce a portrait for posterity. And it is this portrait that has stood the test of decades, and over a century, to serve as reference for all illustrators who have pictured Santa since. What this all means is that perhaps there was a real Santa who existed, or perhaps he was an imposter. Or, there was a very astute, worldly Santa, who wanted to conceal his identity and masquerade as an imposter. Either way, there are now hundreds of thousands of illustrations depicting Santa with the accuracy that would assist Interpol in apprehending him, should they receive word of an actual Santa sighting.

We illustrators know without a doubt, there is a Santa. For how would an apparition, a phantom, a specter, a spirit, a persona, be able to actually make money appear in our bank accounts for the portraiture work we have produced of him?

Father Christmas as pictured in Josiah King’s
The Examination and Tryal of Father Christmas (1686).

St. Nicholas delivering toys. Illustrator T. C. Boyd (1848).

Saint Nicholas portrait. Illustrator F. O. C. Darley (1862).

Although this illustration of Santa Claus by Thomas Nast
was drawn in 1881, Nast had been publishing illustrations
of Santa as early as1862.

Santa Claus. Notice his elven stature. illustrator Frank A.
Nankivell (1902).

One of Norman Rockwell's earliest depictions of Santa
(1913). Rockwell illustrated Santa many times over his
long career.

Santa becomes a brand. Illustrator Haddon Sundblom (1931).
Sundblom illustrated Santa for Coca-Cola for more than two

               Enjoy the Season!    Best Wishes and Happy Holidays!

Thursday, December 10, 2015

Portfolio Presentation Resources

The number one error that young illustrators and recent graduates make is underestimating the extraordinary power a quality-based, professional portfolio presentation can make in a job or freelance solicitation interview. I have personally witnessed where the failure to invest an additional $100 in a portfolio has resulted in a job offer that was thousands of dollars less than what the work and the artist deserved. For some unknown reason, the importance of a portfolio’s appearance, with reference to its contents, is grossly underestimated.

© 2015 Don Arday.
It may only be human nature, but human nature is unwavering. Value and worth are presented materially, and potential employers view portfolios in relation to potential worth. An applicant must present himself or herself at the same level that an employer views their own business status or higher. Through technology, a new level of appreciation has evolved for high-end print and well-designed custom hard copy presentation pieces that engage a viewer in both a visual and a tactile way. As the saying goes, “first impressions last a lifetime”. Portfolios presentations that appear to be in an economic bracket below that of the potential employers will not be considered seriously, no matter how good the work may be.

The following is a list of resources that cover the three major formats for portfolio presentations; 1) paper portfolios, 2) digital portfolios, and 3) e-portfolios or remotely accessed virtual portfolios.

Paper Portfolios

Custom Portfolios

Klo Portfolios
Klo Portfolios allows illustrators, artists, and designers creative freedom to create a customized portfolio of their work. Custom portfolio books are fabricated, treated, and hand assembled by their craftsmen. Their selection of materials and treatments offer a variety of options that allow their customers to make a unique impression with their portfolio. Each material is locally sourced for sustainability down to the portfolio screw posts and custom bindings, allowing KLO to handpick the finest quality materials for your custom project.

Brewer Cantalmo
Brewer Cantalmo have been manufacturing portfolios for professional artists and illustrators since 1928. With a full line of superb quality products, and unlimited custom manufacturing, Brewer Cantalmo is one of the premier portfolio providers in North America. We are manufacturers selling worldwide directly to the public, There is no minimum quantity required and the typical turnaround time for a custom portfolio is about 2 weeks.

Shrapnel Design
Out of Canada, Shrapnel Design manufactures high quality screw-post portfolios and 3-ring binders. They provide handcraft custom presentation solutions for creative professionals. They offer original combinations of materials and techniques to help artists to display their work in a personalized way.

House of Portfolios
Thomas Lombardo, founded The House of Portfolios over thirty years ago. He began his apprenticeship in Italy and relocated to the USA where in 1990 he single handedly established his own company "The House of Portfolios" in NYC. He is a master craftsman in the top echelon of the custom-made portfolio industry.

Bella Forte
Extremely exclusive and highly crafted, Bridget, the company founder, began her bookbinding career over twenty five years ago in Italy. After studying the arts of bookbinding, papermaking and book restoration abroad, she returned to the US and opened her first bindery in Center City Philadelphia.

Etsy Portfolios
Etsy the web community for artists and craftspeople has numerous listings for custom portfolio cases constructed from a wide variety of materials that range from fabrics, to woods, to metals. And although the producers of these portfolio cases and binders are “home Grown”, there may be the perfect solution for a portfolio just waiting to be purchased and put to use.

Readymade Portfolios

Portfolios and Art Cases
Portfolios and Art Cases has specialized in prefabricated portfolios since 1995. Their inventory comprises an extensive selection of portfolio types for both flat art and rolled at presentation, storage, and transportation. Portfolios can be easily selected and ordered through their website.

Archival Methods
Archival Methods manufactures and offers a wide range of professional presentation portfolios. Customer service and delivery times set Archival Methods apart form their competitors. They offer complete portfolio solutions such as portfolio and board combinations, onxy portfolios, etc. Their service is professional and pricing is extremely competitive.

Light Impressions Direct
Established in 1969, and long having been the first choice for professional photographers and museums, Light Impressions offers the world's largest variety of fine archival storage, display and presentation materials for artwork and documents, negatives, transparencies, CDs, photographs, etc. Light Impressions is considered to have set the standard for readymade archival portfolios in the US.

Pina Zangaro
For the past 24 years Pina Zangaro have been redefining the way the world presents artwork and documents by designing and making innovative, attention-grabbing and functional portfolio books, binders, boxes and related accessories for the presentation and storage of artwork and documents.

Digital Portfolios


Apple/Apple App Store
For Apple hardware devices turn to the Apple Store. The iPad has now become an acceptable portfolio presentation format for certain situations and settings. Its size is just large enough for display. The iPad Mini is also available, but due to it’s smaller size, is inferior to its larger sibling. For apps to support the pad hardware use the Apple App Store. Although not covered here, a future blog will go into detail about specific portfolio apps.

Although the name implies a Mac exclusive inventory, MacMall is a great place to get tablets and products made by other manufacturers including Samsung, Lenovo, Acer, Viewsonic, etc. PCM, formerly PCMall sells tablets manufactured by nine companies including Dell, Toshiba, Asus, Motion Computing, etc. Apps for these tablets use the Android operating system.

Portable Storage

CD’s, flash cards, and jump drives are available from local electronics stores or online from vendors like These devices have the storage capacity to easily accommodate most portfolio presentations. Software to prepare the presentation for remote viewing like PowerPoint and Keynote are available from Microsoft and Apple.

Picture Frames

Best Buy
Digital picture frames offer a lower cost alternative to using a tablet to display a body of work. However, they don’t offer much in the way of versatile functionality. These frames are made by a variety of companies, some which also manufacture tablets like Viewsonic, Sony, HP, etc.


Free/Limited Free Portfolio Sites
There are a number of sites that allow an illustrator to upload a body of work. Some are totally free, while others place a limitation on the number of pieces that can be placed on the site without incurring a fee. Many of the sites provide a number of resources such as categorization, subject search engines, direct contact sales, and order taking mechanisms, etc. Researching, choosing and actually using the right portfolio sites may be a daunting task, but one thing to remember is ”it’s the company you keep” that will reflect back on you and your work. Choose those sites that project a personality you are comfortable with, and are directed to the markets you wish to reach.

Note: The site links below are for portfolio sites that do not require an illustrator to sign up webpage hosting or use unique website building features. Those sites will be featured in a future post.

Logo Portfolio Sites

Paid Portfolio Sites
There are several paid subscription portfolio sites to choose from, and the cost of having a listing on them can vary considerably, anywhere from $300 a year to upwards of $2000 per annum. Of course, the cost relates to the amount of service these sites provide. The main difference between a paid site and a free site is that the paid sites aggressively e-market your work, while the free sites do not. With the cost there are also amenities that may be well worth it. Paid sites can provide very specific individual data and demographics about who has viewed your portfolio and when. And, some paid sites can even provide the company and profile information as to who looked at your work.

Logo Portfolio Site

Website Hosts
Any list of resources in this category will have no end to it as there are new hosting sites literally going live on a daily basis. There are many reasons that go into choosing a specific website host, ease of use, capacity or bandwidth, reliability, pricing structure, accessibility, web identity services, security, etc. Ease of use or flexibility of the website building engines provided by these sites may be the deciding factor. What is more important is to secure the proper domain name, one that will be uniquely explanatory and identifiable, i.e., your own name. A proper domain name will assist potential clients and employers to more easily locate your portfolio on the web.

Note: This is a partial listing. It is meant for the purposes of getting you started. Many of these listings are not specifically designed for illustrators, but are popular hosting sites on the web.

Disclaimer: The list of website links is provided to be a resource for illustrators. It was not intended for the purpose of advertising or endorsing one source over another. Nor is it by any means complete. There are many other excellent sources not mentioned here.