How To Write An Artist CV When You Don't Have Much Experience
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Every journey starts with the first step.
Listen, everybody's gotta start somewhere. You're probably reading this because your at Square One. Plan A. Ground Zero. But your journey doesn't end there, and that's point.
You may be searching for art opportunities, residency programs, apply for grants, looking for a job or switching into an art career or profession for the first time. Sooner or later you'll be asked to present your Artists CV.
Like any job, employers or anyone who hires you for work will want insight into your work history, accomplishments and relevant skills. Typically they'll check out your website, social media, they'll ask for a CV or resume and sometimes they'll ask for your portfolio. They'll want to know this information before they decide to meet you for an interview. Here's how you can put your best foot forward when writing your Artists CV, even when you don't have much experience.
What's the difference between a CV and Resume?
For an artist, a CV is essentially a list of your achievements and professional experiences. A CV is useful and often requested when applying for opportunities like exhibitions, grants, awards, commissions and artist residencies. Typically they're much longer than a resume.
A freelance artist resume is just like a resume you'll have other types of jobs. It's a brief document, often one page, and highlights particular expertise that'll help you land a particular job. You can find hundreds of free resume and cv templates on Canva.
Both a CV or resume can be presented online, in print or both. Artists typically post their CV online and distribute a resume either digitally or in print when it's requested.
How to write an artists CV when you're just starting out?
First things first. When writing your CV as a newbie, you gotta own it! Make it look good. It's a good idea to have both a printed version, and pdf version and optionally an online version as a page on your website.
Something to remember is that this is your resume so you can take some freedom in how you present the formatting and design for the information you include. Just make sure it's clear, easy to read, and not too fussy. I've outlined a couple of format options for some of the sections.
A great CV can really set you up to be noticed as a professional, or at least as a person whose progressing nicely in their art career.
But what if you're at the very beginning stages of your arts profession and you really can't fill up all these sections?
Not to worry, you can still make a lasting impression even if you have little to no experience behind you by putting what you DO have experience in and really focus on your wording and any relevant skills you've gained so far.
Draw upon any experiences you've gained through paid or unpaid work or programmes that you believe are relevant to the opportunity you're applying for. And include any things that may come in handy while you're on the job.
You may also consider incorporating any upcoming programmes or courses you've been accepted into and 100% confirmed, that may be relevant and useful in the opportunity you're applying to.
We can all aspire to have a long career in the arts, no matter what the starting point is. So as an example in formatting, we'll highlight the truly admirable career of Amy Sherald. Just so we can see how a professional artist does it, learn from one of the best and aspire to one day have as many amazing accomplishments on our artist cv as she does. Her CV is posted online and is seriously impressive, super inspiring, yet simple and succinct.
Sections you could have on your artist CV:
Profile / Bio
Artist CV Template:
Below is a guide of the sections you can include in your cv for artists, and how to format the information. It's important to make sure the information is clear, consice and easy to read.
Be sure to use one, simple font that is easy to read, and use font size 12-16.
*Disclaimer: Some details may be altered for the sake of making an alternative example.
Here you'll put your full name, place of birth and place of work
Amy Sherald American, b. Columbus, GA 1973 Lives and works in Baltimore, MD
Amy Sherald (b. 1973, USA) Resides in Baltimore, MD
PROFILE / BIO
You may choose to include a short profile or bio. This section is optional and really depends on preference.
For a resume, I'd say yes, include a profile. However a CV doesn't necessarily call for one. Keep in mind that your profile should essentially be a summary of the information in the CV and is quite different from an artist statement.
A good example of an artist resume profile/bio:
Amy Sherald received her MFA in Painting from Maryland Institute College of Art (2004) and BA in Painting from Clark-Atlanta University (1997), and was a Spelman College International Artist-in-Residence in Portobelo, Panama (1997). In 2016, Sherald was the first woman to win the Outwin Boochever Portrait Competition grand prize. In 2018, Sherald was commissioned to paint the official portrait of former First Lady Michelle Obama for the National Portrait Gallery. Sherald has had solo shows at venues including Monique Meloche Gallery, Chicago (2016) and Contemporary Art Museum, St. Louis, MO. Residencies include Tong Xion Art Center, Beijing, China (2008) and Joan Mitchell Foundation, New Orleans (2017). Public collections include National Museum of Women in the Arts, Washington, D.C.; Kemper Museum of Contemporary Art, Kansas City, MO; and Nasher Museum of Art, Durham, NC.
A not-so good example of an artist resume profile/bio:
Amy Sherald is a professional artist seeking a residency opportunity at the Joan Mitchell Foundation. A portraiture artist with over 20 years experience looking to inspire the next generation. Good time-management skills with the ability to work with tight deadlines and has a talent for promoting creativity in an academic environment.
Here you add your email, website and phone number. (If your CV is going to be posted online I personally wouldn't include your phone number, but that's just me.)
email@example.com | www.yourwebsite.com | 123 456 7890
Or, if you're represented by a gallery, you may be required to put their contact details instead:
Amy Sherald is represented by Hauser & Wirth. For work inquiries, contact: firstname.lastname@example.org
Events on your cv should be in descending chronological order (going from present to past)
*Reminder: some of these details are fake, for the sake of examples for formatting.
2004 MFA, Maryland Institute College of Art, Baltimore, MD
1997 BFA (Attained with Distinction), Clark-Atlanta University, Atlanta, GA
1995 BA (Hons) in Illustration & Design - Whatever College of Art, USA
1985 GED Diploma | Whatever High School, Altanta, GA, USA
You may prefer to separate your headings into 'Solo Exhibitions' and 'Group Exhibitions', although if you haven't exhibited very much, just combined them under one 'Exhibitions' heading.
2018 (Solo) Contemporary Art Museum Saint Louis, MO
2017 (Group) Color People, curated by Rashid Johnson, East Hampton, NY
2016 (Two-Person exhibition) Title of the exhibition, Gallery Name, City (With Sculptor Name)*
2018 Contemporary Art Museum Saint Louis, MO
2017 Amy Sherald, moniquemeloche LES, New York, NY
2017 Color People, curated by Rashid Johnson, East Hampton, NY
2016 About Face, Creative Alliance, Baltimore, MD
It can be displayed in a written list with hyperlinks, or visually on your website with screenshots that link to the source. However you display it, keep it simple and clear to read. You may use Chicago citation format which is typically used in Business, History and Fine Arts.
Author Last name, Author First name. "Title of Piece", Company Name, Edition/Volume, Date.
If you have many publications in one year (congrats!) you'll put the Year as the subheading, and put the Day/Month at the end if you know it.
2018 Gittlen, Ariela. “Obama Portraitist Amy Sherald Gives Advice to Young Artists,” Artsy, February 27.
2013 “Presence of Mind- Revealing Africans in the European Art”, Transitions: International Review, Issue 111. March 23rd “Resisting Homogeneity in the 21st Century”, The International Review of African American Art, Vol. 24, No.2.
Keep in mind, somethings are intended to be posted solely on your website.
Even if you've never had anything published but you're a social media butterfly and have been featured on a popular Instagram page, tweeted about or mentioned elsewhere on social media, that counts for something! Just not on a CV... Though you might consider making screenshots of these mentions and display them on a 'Published' section on your website.
But as for your CV...
If you only have 1 or 2 publications per year, you could put the Date first before the Author, purely for the sake of easily organising things chronologically.
2018, February 27. Gittlen, Ariela. “Obama Portraitist Amy Sherald Gives Advice to Young Artists,” Artsy.
Essentially, collections are any public institutions or people that own your artwork. These can be separated by Public and Personal headings.
Kemper Museum of Contemporary Art, Kansas City, MO
The Nasher Museum of Art, Duke University, Durham, NC
If you've only sold work to a few friends and family, you might put something like this:
Personal collections in USA, Australia and Europe.
Or, Personal collections in London and Manchester.
This is where you'll put any art related employment or work experience. If you have a significant amount of work that falls under one main area, like Teaching or Curatorial, you may want to use that as the heading instead of 'Work History'. But if you've done a little of this, and a little of that, you can put them all into the heading of 'Work History' or 'Work Experience'. You could even include that time you were asked to paint a window display at your retail job, or that time you volunteered to paint a mural for your school hallways.
2018, Art Instructor, Introduction to Painting Workshop, Contemporary Art Museum Saint Louis, MO*
2017 - 2018 Teaching Art & Design, Whatever High School, London, UK
2016 Guest Lecturer, College of Art, US
AWARDS & GRANTS
Here you can include any relevant awards or grants you have received such as a portfolio award for your college application. (Check out this short online course by Teresa Huff 'Grant Writing Basics For Beginners: What You Must Know Before YourStart Writing Grant Applications' for super useful, invaluable and practical advice on how to approach your first grant application.)
The list of grants should specifically be related to your artistic practice, unless your award is extremely notable, such as the Turner Prize (lucky you!)
2016 Bethesda Painting Award - Outwin Boochever Portrait Competition Grand Prize, Smithsonian National Portrait Gallery
2015 Semi-Finalist for Sondheim Artscape Prize
If you've done an artist residency, you'll definitely want to include it on your CV as it indicates a great dedication to your artistic practice and professional development.
2017 Joan Mitchell Residency, New Orleans, Louisiana
2014-16 Creative Alliance Baltimore, USA
Be sure to check out other artists websites to see how they've constructed their online CV's. Take a look around the web to get some ideas.
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ABOUT THE AUTHOR
Lauren was born in London, but grew up in Canada where she received her degrees with distinction in Fine Arts and Education. Now she's back, she continues her work in creative arts by making art and teaching it, while developing opportunities for early career artists by creating and running the online platform Dark Yellow Dot.