Wednesday, 14 September 2011

Problems and limits of traditional, analogue portfolios

Written for students of visual creativity.

David Hockney's book; "Secret Knowledge: Rediscovering the Lost Techniques of the Old Masters" and the debate its Hockney-Falco thesis stimulated, should have encouraged drawing educators to introduce their students to the camera obscura, lucida and other optics as alternatives to groping for the image through "eyeballing", as Hockney described it (page 23, 2001). But just as drawing students are unlikely to be exposed to alternative drawing methods, most visual creatives are not formally exposed to the benefits of digital media as an additional portfolio medium to the traditional, analogue one. However, it is important for their students to fully consider all the limitations (and related problems) of relying solely on analogue portfolio media. Here follows a list of the limitations and problems for the student's consideration (plus the related benefits of having an online portfolio):

A. Difficult to assemble 
There's a reason that analogue portfolios are mostly collated only twice a year; they're often difficult to consolidate, frame and mount for presentation. This is likely to result in it being difficult for your teacher(s) to have an holistic view of your progress and for you to gauge the presentation of your year-end exhibit. Field research showed that a Visual Arts educator perceived a major benefit of students' online portfolio use being the resulting affordance to benchmark their progress and take pre-emptive action where they were unlikely to have sufficient work for year-end exhibitions.

B. No back-up
You don't have to own a Jackson Pollock to know that an original, physical artworks is often impossible to replace. So, if your artworks are stolen, damaged or destroyed right before your exhibition, it becomes impossible to physically prove your accomplishments to examiners! However, if you had kept a record of your work in an online portfolio, this would provide your a useful reference point for marking.

C. Poor distribution
Post-Google, those with access are very likely to use search engines to find background information on you and view images of your artwork. It is important to consider that by limiting your work to analogue media, you rely on your audience being close to the work for viewing purposes. By contrast, an online portfolio provides an opportunity for internet-connected audiences to easily view your creative work. Plus, you can study the digital audience of your artworks, its reception and how best to grow an audience for your artworks on the internet.

D. Lack of contextualisation for most artworks
In Secondary or Tertiary Education, students’ work is often contextualised by exhibition context and very often only feature the work's title and date. A benefit of online portfolio production is that it affords many options to label your artwork thoroughly. For example, Carbonmade affords options to add an "artwork title", "tags", "client tags" and a "folder description". By completing some, or all, of these tags appropriately, you can properly contextualise your artworks for ideal viewers; whether layperson or art historian :) . For example, you could add your "artist's statement" under folder definition or list any clients you have worked for under clients tags.

E. Limited opportunity to exhibit non-drawing work
There may be limited scope for you to include works done with reproduction (i.e. photography) and/or digital media (i.e. animations) tools in Visual Arts and Fine Arts exhibitions. If you need an outlet for other visual cultural interests, you can use an online portfolio such as Behance, DeviantArt or CGI Portfolio  to showcase designs and photos; potentially benefitting from ratings, comments and reciprocal links from other members.

F. No easily accessible feedback record
Educators seldom place feedback directly onto their students’ work as this would impact on the originals. However, a benefit of online portfolio pages is that your educator could use a social bookmarking tool, like Diigo, to comment on your pages, limiting the viewership to you (or select Diigo users). This could make your educator’s feedback easier to track and, hopefully, follow.


G. Digitisation for further study or job applications
Early exposure to digitising artworks could be beneficial for students who may need to submit digital portfolios as part to their university or job applications.

While your digital copy will never be the same as the analogue work it was sourced from, it can serve useful purposes when placed in an online portfolio. So, is there more to gain than what's lost in the "medium shift" translation of artworks and their use in online portfolios? Please share your view by commenting on this post. Ta.

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