Monday, October 25, 2010

How to use an iPad as your artist's portfolio

Last week Sarah Wimperis (The Red Shoes) showed me how she was now using her Apple iPad as an artist's portfolio of available artwork.  Here's my interview with her plus photos I took last week.

Sarah Wimperis showing me her iPad portfolio
What made you think of using an iPad as a portfolio?

Sarah:  I think a big part of selling your work and yourself as an artist is presentation.  Any painting will look infinitely better when the framing is carefully considered.  Compare something that you have done stuffed in a clip frame to the same piece in a beautiful frame for example. 

Visiting galleries or commissioning clients with a large cumbersome portfolio also fills me with dread, everything gets muddled, I get flustered and I hate it.  So I wanted something smart and easy to use. 

Anyway after making a kind of scrap book catalogue of all my paintings in an attempt to bring some order to my presentation Big Dave (her husband) suggested an ipad (I had secretly wished for one but it did feel like a self indulgent extravagance!).  He said "Why not try one out, after all you wouldn't paint with inferior paints so why present yourself in a scrap book kind of way".  He had a point. 

So we visited a shop and I played with one.

The advantages are numerous - the work looks great, the resolution is fantastic and you can zoom in on a painting without loss of detail.  It is easy to find a particular piece that you might want to show.  You can also tip the pad up so that the person sitting opposite can see and the image swivels around.  It's wonderfully slick and sleek.  It fits in my bag like a dream, no more sweating and lugging huge portfolios around.

Sarah turns the iPad towards me
and an image swivels 180 degrees 
to be the correct vertical format for me to see it

In the future I will take two smallish framed pieces, to see and hold and the rest in the ipad.

Tell me how it works.  What do you do to create a portfolio on your iPad?  How did you get the images of your work on to the iPad and into galleries?

Sarah:  It is very easy to use, I simply make a folder on my computer of images that I want.  For example:
  • if I was to visit someone who wanted to commission a painting of their house or garden I would make a folder of garden paintings. 
  • If I was then going to see a gallery that dealt in marine paintings I would also make a folder to hold paintings of boats and another with water paintings, I might further separate out the watercolours and the oils. 
When you have done that you just plug in your ipad.  It will open in iTunes and you click on it, then click on photos and add whatever you want from your computer, press apply and it dutifully copies what you want onto the iPad via your home network. 

It is very simple and as I have all my images on my computer anyway because I blog and use Flickr it was extremely easy to do.

You can further customise it by adding your own wallpapers and screen savers.  As with any apple product it seems to be very easy to use.  "Intuitive" I think is the word.

The iPad provides large format images which fit the screen whatever the format
plus you can zoom in on any part of the image

I know how impressive it was when you showed me last week, but for those who have not seen the demo:
  • what are the advantages for you in using an iPad as a portfolio?  
  • what can the iPad do for you in terms of displaying your work?
Sarah:  I would say the advantages are that it is smart, it shows that you take yourself and your work seriously, it displays a lot of work, more than you could or would be advised to carry and so when you get into a work displaying situation you can go with the flow

For example say your client suddenly said "I love your flower paintings but what I really have a secret passion for is cats, you don't do cats do you"  you could respond with a "Voila! Why are some extraordinarily expensive but beautiful cat paintings that I have done" and bobs your uncle, you have clinched the deal!!

You can also find work very quickly if you organise it well and you can zoom in easily on any part of any image.

Which iPad did you buy - and do you think you made the right choice?

Sarah:  I brought the least expensive, the 16 GB, which is fine, more than adequate as far as capacity goes. 

However I was totally unprepared for how user friendly it is, how easy browsing the internet would be with it and while I can use the internet at home or in a wifi free place, I think now that the £100 extra to get the 16GB one with 3G and Wi-Fi would have been money well spent. [Making A Mark Note:  That would have also involved the cost of access to a broadband supplier - which is the bit I'm stuck on at the moment.  To 3G or not to 3G - that is the question!]

The apps that you can get are fantastic as well, I have got sketchbook pro, and spent the journey back from London happily drawing the motorway with my finger, it won't replace my sketchbooks but is fantastic  fun and, well, the more drawing, in whatever shape or form, the better!

Would a netpad do the same thing?

Sarah:  I am not sure, I don't think the net pads are as sleek, thin and easy to hold.  I haven't tried one.  I do know that Apple is very user friendly and I can't find much wrong with my ipad.  Actually I can't fault it!

How does it work tax-wise as a business expense?

Sarah:  I haven't checked it through with my accountant but I think it would be very legit as a business expense, I have it totally for my business.  I wouldn't have brought one if I wasn't doing what I do, but I am jolly glad that I had to!

[Making A Mark Note: My understanding is that if used for business then it is tax deductible.  However it is unlikely that you can claim relief as a lump sum in one year.  It's very likely that relief would apply in the same way as for any business related capital expenditure on fixed assets such as the method approved for you claiming tax relief for the essential business expense of a computer]

Which people do you think would stand to benefit most from using an iPad as a portfolio?

Sarah:  Anyone making presentations of images - a photographer, illustrator or artist. It shows films hugely well so animators and filmmakers will love it. Storyboarding would be fabulous on it. 

It also has very good calendar and notebook apps so anyone wanting to organise, it is like a 21st century filofax.

I am currently trying to work out how to make my own apps, I want to have apps for artists, like little workshops or demos that you could have for sale on your blog or web site, or even collections of paintings that people could collect and enjoy! I totally love it.


I did a bit more research as a result of Sarah's news that the iPad works well as a portable portfolio. 

This is a photographer talking about its potential as a portfolio and how it works in practice
I did have to make new versions of all the images I wanted on the iPad since most of my “web ready” images were at a lower resolution.  I made them about twice as large as the iPad’s resolution so a viewer can zoom in and still see a sharp image.
Here's the video Jeff made of how it works
Here are some more links to more resources for using an iPad as a portfolio:
The general consensus seems to be that iPhotos provides most of what you need but doubtless this will change over time.



  1. This is a brilliant idea, makes much more sense than carrying a bulky portfolio around.

    Here in Canada a 16GB ipad with Wi-Fi costs $549.99, 16GB with Wi-Fi +3G is $679.99 then of course 12% tax on top of that (in British Columbia).

    So, it is not cheap, but a worthwhile investment.

  2. Thanks to you and Sarah for this post, I never thought of using my iPad as a portfolio until you mentioned your chat with Sarah.
    A bit of extra information.
    You can load your photos directly onto the iPad using the iPad camera connection kit available from Apple for around £25
    Useful for the times when you don't have access to your computer the connector is small has a USB port and an SD port so makes moving photos from your camera to your iPad simple.

    I wish I'd spent the extra money for the 3G model, I got the 32GB WI Fi one and realise now how useful the 3G would be.

  3. Quick update, I got the app, portfolio to go after following your link Katherine. It is great for getting all of your flikr images, sets etc onto the ipad, very quickly I might add, and therefor it provides a wonderful databank of your work...but for showing work a simple photo album is better, you cant do the zoom and spin thing with the portfolio to go, so I have both!

  4. This is a great idea– and if you consider the cost of, for example, having to keep a stock of gicleĆ© prints of all of your works on hand (and up-to-date) I doubt the difference in price would be very great over time.



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