A Guide to Artist CV's
If you want to stand out as an artist, of course you should be making interesting work and be able to talk the talk! But one factor that is important to the career of an artist is an Artist CV.
The bottom line is, even if your work is great but you send a bland CV - chances are you will not be considered as an applicant.
As a collective, we bumped our heads together and created this guide on Artist CV's based on our own experiences - so that you can avoid common mistakes and showcase your art practice in the best way possible. If you’ve already got an Artist CV and are looking to improve it, or if you are making yours for the first time - this guide should be helpful. Whether you are a recent art graduate, aspiring artist or even an established artist.
What is an Artist CV?
An Artist CV is a professional document that lists your experience and achievements as an artist to date. It is used to apply for exhibitions, funding, artist residencies and more opportunities. An Artist CV differs from a regular/general CV in that it is more specific to an applicant with an art practice.
If you are wondering how to write an artist CV with no experience, we are here to help.
The Hybrid Artist CV
It can sometimes get confusing when you are an artist and you are applying for a “day-job” or for part-time work, specifically if the role is art related. For example, if you are an art student who wants to work in an art gallery as an assistant. In this case, you would want to send over a traditional CV that details your employment history (even other fields such as hospitality or retail work) - because this shows you have skills, training and are trustworthy. Check out r/resume on Reddit for some great advice there. Unlike a traditional CV though, you do want to highlight that you are an artist - so it’s important to list your own exhibitions, awards and art education. This shows that you are knowledgeable and serious about your own career as an artist.
If you find there is too much text on your CV, or it’s not concise enough - remember you can always have 2 CV’s and send both together. A traditional CV with your work experience and an artist CV to accompany it. Just remember not to repeat sections such as your education.
Establish What Your Artist CV Is For
It would be ideal to make only one version of an Artist CV which lives on your desktop, ready for sending out to opportunities at the click of a button… but life is little more complicated than that. We highly recommend tailoring your Art CV for the specific applications before applying.
We recommend keeping a “general and all encompassing” Artist CV somewhere safe, so that you can copy it and edit it as per the opportunity. It’s also a good idea to get this version uploaded to your website, as you never know who’s going to look at it. You may have heard of the terms “Sniper approach” and “Shotgun approach” when making applications. From our experiences as artists, the sniper approach is worth the extra time and energy. You’ll get more positive responses from a tailored CV and opportunities don’t come around everyday for most of us, so make the most of them.
How To Write An Artist CV
The Golden Rule
Check your ego. The fact that you’ve referred to this guide is already a sign that you are well grounded, it means you are aware that the art world is super competitive. Confidence is great when applying for funding, residencies or shows and it’s important to be confident in what you make. But, if you expect to hand over a shabby looking CV just because you think your work is sick, you won’t get very far. Remember, the better the opportunity you are applying for - the more CV’s they will receive.
When sifting through a pile of 100+ applicants, galleries/collectors won’t have time for bare minimum - even if your work is amazing. “My art speaks for itself”... No, it doesn't hun. 💁
What Should An Artist CV Include?
These are the components that can be included in an Artist CV, roughly in this order:
A Profile picture
Contact details (including your website)
Social Media Handles
Grants / Awards
Do Not Include
A full Artist Statement - this should be a separate document
Photos of your artwork - this is for your portfolio
We highly recommend including a clear and professional photograph - this is a great way to immediately build a relationship with whoever is reading your CV. It’s also a chance for you to get some of your “brand” across as an artist.
Make sure your profile picture isn’t too big, has a clear background and is high quality. A full body shot standing by your artwork isn’t advisable because it’s too much detail. Consider getting headshots done in a local photo studio, it’s highly worth the upfront cost.
Here's Cherish Marshall, who has a perfect example of a profile picture that is good to include on your Artist CV.
Including your social handles is a good way to allow the person to explore more of your art practice and personality if they want to. Often galleries will check your Instagram following to see if you are active and engaged with a community. We hate to say it, but they’ll likely also be considering how many followers you have.
If your social media is strictly for personal use (photos of your day drinking or of your dinner) then we’d advise not to include this, unless you feel it’s very relevant to your art practice.
The design of a CV could be an entire guide in itself but we will try to keep this as brief as we can. In short, prioritise functionality. Your CV should be easy to read, clearly sectioned and look professional. Once you have the fundamentals in place you can start messing around with different fonts and colours, but our advice is to not go too crazy with this.
Naturally, artists have a tendency to personalise everything they touch - which can be an amazing advantage. Just be careful of over designing your CV. You want it to stand out, to show your brand but not to put people off. (TLDR: A Neon Yellow background and pink paragraph text might not be ideal).
What Fonts To Use On An Artist CV
Generally, sans serif fonts will look cleaner than serif fonts and can be more appealing to contemporary galleries. As a rule, we’d suggest sticking with 1 or 2 fonts as a maximum, maybe you’d like a different font for headings. We would suggest using the following fonts:
In terms of text colour, that’s entirely up to you. We’d advise keeping it professional, using mostly black or greys with careful use of brighter colours - this way they’ll really stand out.
Make It Yours
To entirely contradict the above, don’t be afraid to experiment with designs and ideas. Having a truly unique CV can be a make or break for getting an opportunity - just know that bolder design choices are also more risky. You’ll definitely stand out, but it may be for good or bad reasons. Keep in mind that a creative artist cv can be very powerful.
We’ve seen CV’s engraved in wood, written on receipts, spray painted on walls. If done well, an unconventional artist CV can be an amazing way to showcase some of your art practice, but if done wrong it can be a disaster. Try stuff, see what works! If in doubt, keep it simple. Your artist portfolio will do this part for you.
Be Careful Of Downloadable Templates
Downloading a CV template can be a fantastic way to speed up this whole process, but remember that list of “Top 10 CV templates” is probably pretty popular. That means other applicants could be using them too. If you do use a template, don’t be afraid to customise it to make it original. This template may be helpful as a place to start you off.
Be Open To Feedback
One of the best things you can do to improve your Artist CV is to seek feedback. Didn’t get into an exhibition, why not follow up and ask for some critical feedback. This is a double win because it shows you can make your CV better and show that you are ambitious. Often exhibitions will be held repetitively and this can be an effective way to be accepted for the next one. Ask your friends, family, peers and other artists for feedback on your artist CV too and don’t be afraid to take criticism. After all, it’s better for a tutor or friend to tell you now, rather than a gallery to turn you down later.
How To Send Your Artist CV
Make sure to save your Artist CV as an editable file type, for example if you are using photoshop - save it as a PSD file. We’d recommend generating a Google Doc, Word Doc or PDF file to send your CV. Never save your CV as a JPG/PNG.
Something that should not be overlooked is the file name of your CV. You know what we mean, when you're saving multiple versions:
CV_2018.pdf, CV(4).pdf, NewCV.word, newnewCV.pdf, CV_81y31051.wordx, 975109109u1ag.pdf, Galleryname_CV.pdf
Remember your CV will be sitting in a folder with dozens of others, to help the person reading through them - save your file as:
1. Your name
3. The year
For example: Pablo Picasso_CV_2022.pdf
This simple and clear format will look professional.
How to Make an Artist CV
We typically recommend using Google Docs as the starting point, it's free, easily accessible and widely used in the industry. It also comes with features to let you customise your CV to a pretty good extent. If you are looking for something more custom, Photoshop can be a good way to get more detailed and have more control over formatting. Just be aware that this can be quite tedious - so we'd only advise this for artists who have experience with this software. Illustrator is even better for this purpose.
Importantly, we'd recommend to actually stay away from Microsoft Word where possible, despite how popular it is. It offers very little control over customisation, if you are adding multiple vertical text columns, images, spacing - it can get a little un-slightly and super annoying to use. However, Word is probably the simplest to use out of the above, so if you do want an artist CV that is no thrills, it might be just right for you.
Get Ready For Rejection
As you likely already know, the art world can be particularly brutal. It’s one of the most highly competitive industries. If you talk with any established artist they’ll almost definitely tell you that there were more losses than wins along the way to begin with. If like us, you spend days preparing an application - it’s unfortunately normal for this to be rejected, despite the hard work that went into it. So when receiving bad news, take a day to decompress, let yourself be upset and then get back on it. With every application you have a better chance of being accepted.
Even great artists get turned down on a regular basis - this may be for reasons such as your work simply not fitting one person's idea of an exhibition, the gallery not having finances or enough staff as well as other factors. Keep your chin up.
Having a decent artist CV under your belt is an important part of your artist career and often overlooked. It sounds like hard work because it is, but it's not out of reach for you to do. We hope this guide helped you in some way. If you have any suggestions that you have found useful yourself - feel free to contact us and we’d be happy to expand this guide for our readers.
Good luck out there!
Uncovered Collective ✌️