The post How to Write an Artist CV in 10 Steps is the most popular in the history of The Practical Art World. Some of the most frequently asked questions people have after reading it are “What if I don’t have an exhibition history?” or “What if I didn’t go to school?”
For new and emerging artists, creating an artist’s CV can be a bit of a Catch 22. You don’t have much or any experience to put on your CV, but to apply for “experience” in the form of exhibitions, grants, and schooling, you are asked to provide a CV.
Fortunately, there are ways to tailor what relevant experience you have into an artist’s CV format. Just remember: don’t lie, and don’t make up anything that doesn’t exist. Just tell the truth, shaping it a little (creatively– it’s what you do best, right?) into the established CV format. If you haven’t already read How to Create an Artist’s CV in 10 Steps, start there. Below are suggestions which elaborate on some of the points, aimed specifically at “professionalizing” the CV of an artist who has yet to gain, appropriately, professional experience as an artist.
Refer to point 1 in the original article. As I mentioned, many established artists keep this section quite short. However, if you don’t have a lot of other material and experiences to add to the rest of the CV, this is a good opportunity to tell your reader about yourself. Adding a very brief bio / artist statement can be good if you would like to talk about experiences which don’t fit into the rest of the CV. If you are going to do this, just remember to keep it brief and concise.
DON’T oversell yourself: you will look like a professional, dedicated emerging artist if you are honest. You will look desperate if you pretend to be something you are not.
Example of bad contact details:
Vincent van Gogh~Sometimes called the world’s most famous artist~!!!Check out my work here http://www.ibiblio.org/wm/paint/auth/gogh/
Email me! email@example.com<
Example of good contact details
Vincent van GoghBorn March 30, 1853
Currently lives and works in Paris, Francevincent@vangogh.com | www.vangoghgallery.comVincent van Gogh is an emerging artist, working primarily in oils. He often employs bold colours and emotive tableaux in a post-impressionistic manner.
Refer to point 2 in the original article. Many emerging as well as professional artists are self-taught, and yet for some reason the education section of a CV tends to be intimidating for all but those who have a Masters degree. It doesn’t have to be that way.
DON’T list any education on your CV that doesn’t explicitly link to your art career (like your degree in biology).
Example of a good education history, for those who did not attend “art school” or university
Example of a bad education history, for those who did not attend “art school” or university
One hour workshop with Lynne McLaughlin
Informal classes with Tom Backlund
Has received feedback from Geoff Parker
Bachelor of Science, Biology major
Refer to point 3 from the original article.
One way to add exhibitions to your CV is to list any which are forthcoming. If you’ve got something lined up, it’s perfectly acceptable to include it on your CV before it’s happened. Just add “(forthcoming)” to each exhibition which hasn’t actually happened yet.
Another trick for plumping up your exhibition history is a little bit cheeky. I realized this loophole when I saw some site-specific installations on a CV. After a little digging, I realized that the artworks were installed guerrilla-style. In other words, someone made art and put it somewhere without invitation or the formal facets of a traditional exhibition. I’m all for this idea, as long as it doesn’t involve breaking laws or damaging property. It’s a great idea to show your artwork (though, you might not be able to get it back), and certainly an artistic project that can be added to your CV under your exhibition history. Just make sure you classify it properly, as to not mislead anyone!
DON’T make anything up.
Example of a good exhibition list
2014 Group exhibition, Vancouver Art Gallery (forthcoming)
2012 Site-specific installation, “Alleyway”, Vancouver, BC2010 Solo exhibition, Moon Cafe, Vancouver BC
Example of a bad exhibition list2016 Planned gallery exhibition (forthcoming) <– if you don’t have any solid details, don’t include it2012 Solo exhibition, Museum of Modern Art, NY <– you made that up!
Refer to point 5 from the original article. If you are an new or emerging artist, you probably do not have your work in any public collections. Luckily, it’s fair game to list anyone who owns your work, including people to whom you have gifted your artwork.
Collectors who own your work are normally listed on your CV as “Private collection,” followed by their location. You should not actually name someone unless they have explicitly agreed to be listed as a collector of your work, and / or if you have some other reason to do so (for example, they are a very well-known collector).
DO make a list of people who own your work, even if they didn’t actually purchase it; most of these you can convert to “Private collection,” followed by location
DON’T put your Mom’s name on the list, or anyone with the same last name as you
DON’T list a city more than once if more than one person owns your work there
Example of a good collection listCollections:Private collection, Vancouver BCPrivate collection, Winnipeg MBPrivate collection, New York NY
Example of a bad collection listCollections:Anna van GoghTheodorus van GoghElisabeth van GoghTheo van GoghPrivate collection, Paris FrancePrivate collection, Paris FrancePrivate collection, Paris France
FINALLY, IF YOU HAVE AN ESPECIALLY SHORT CV AND THINGS ARE LOOKING DESPERATE
You can think of some creative ways to visually enhance your CV:
- Include an image of your artwork (not usually recommended, but between that and the blank page, one image is better).
- Center your text with large margins. Yes, this is cheating when you’re writing an essay. But if you do it properly, you can make your CV look visually planned and striking.
- Include an artist statement and CV on one single page. Often these are asked for separately, but if you are able to combine them, it’s a great way to make your presentation look great.Images:
This week’s project is more open ended than previous ones, but I believe it is very useful method that can work for almost anyone.
It is not uncommon to meet an artist who loves to make art, spends countless hours in the studio, and dreams of one day having their art displayed in a big public gallery. Or maybe to see their work sell in a big commercial gallery. Or perhaps on a beautiful website that gets tons of hits. The only flaw in this plan is that there is no plan.
Unfortunately, artists are not likely to be “discovered” based solely on their private artistic talent. For example, Continue reading
Many artists, ranging from emerging or amateur artists all the way to fully established professionals, create commissioned works for clients. The idea of a commission is that the purchaser has some input into the finished work that they are buying. This can range from vague direction or discussion all the way to specific agreed upon terms for colours, subject matter, materials used, size, etc. It is up to each artist to decide how much input or direction they will accept from a client and how much they prefer to decide for themselves.
Whatever your artistic boundaries are for commissioned works, you should always create a written contract or commission agreement outlining your own stipulations. I have listed some common examples below. Having a written contract signed by both parties is meant to: Continue reading
With many artists vying for the same few spots at galleries or exhibition spaces, the “competition” for exposure can be difficult and disheartening. Unpersonalized rejections, lack of feedback, or unresponsiveness from galleries can lead artists to take drastic measures to stand out from the crowd. Sometimes these attention-getting tactics are great, and sometimes they ruin your chances before you’ve even begun. Below are some ways to stand out from the crowd.
1. Visit the gallery regularly, be friendly with the staff, and chat about whatever exhibitions they are showing. When you drop off your portfolio in person, the staff will be much more likely to give it proper consideration since they are familiar with you. Continue reading
At any point in an artist’s career, they many begin to seek out representation from a commercial gallery. This has several benefits for the artist, including more exposure, a better venue to show work (presumably), less self-marketing, and hopefully more sales (if that is what the artist is after).
As many galleries are quite established and receive numerous submissions constantly, it can be tricky for artists to get a good “foot in the door.” The best first step is to do your research and approach a gallery to see if they are actually accepting submissions. This is best done with a respectful, polite email (with a link to your portfolio cleverly inserted).
Example of a good initial email:
For the attention of the curator,*
I am a Vancouver artist seeking representation** locally. I am writing to inquire if you are currently accepting submission proposals. If so, could you please let me know which format or materials you prefer.
The key points in this email are: Continue reading
There is thought to be a stigma around including prices on an artist’s website. But whether or not you should include prices on your website depends on what exactly you use your website for. There are of course no clear-cut rules; below are my suggestions for deciding what works best for your artistic career goals.
If you are a self-marketing artist, there are advantages to including prices on your website. If you are interested in selling your work directly to clients, art consultants, designers, etc, then clearly listing the availability and prices of your work makes it easier for potential buyers to decide whether they would be interested in investing in your work. This simply saves them emailing you to ask. I have heard of many self-marketing artists hesitating to list their prices, but if you are truly interested in selling your own work through your website, consider that many high-end commercial galleries clearly list prices on their labels. It does not diminish the artistic value of your work.
If you are setting up your website as an online portfolio with the intention of acquiring gallery representation, I would suggest that you not include prices on your website. A professional gallery will not necessarily care what you charge for your artwork, because Continue reading
Research the gallery you are submitting to. Make sure you’re not wasting your time submitting to galleries that would not show the kind of work you make.
Inquire about whether the gallery is actually accepting submissions. Your portfolio in the garbage doesn’t benefit anyone.
Respect the gallery staff, regardless of who you talk to. Being rude to the intern will not land you an appointment with the curator if the intern schedules appointments. Becoming friends with the staff is a good way to get a positive recommendation.
Attend openings or exhibitions that the gallery puts on. You are more likely to meet and talk to staff, who will then regard your submission inquiry with more care.
Contact other artists who show at the gallery. There’s no guarantee they will reply, but if you politely ask questions or for advice, this might be your best insight into the workings of the gallery. Many artists have websites and are easy to reach via email.
Be pushy or think that demanding attention will get you attention. (It is more likely to get your submission in the garbage).
Be unrealistic about your career. Submit to galleries who show artists in similar stages of their careers.
Request a critique of your work. That’s not the job of a gallery and you end up looking like an amateur.
Harass the staff if your submission has been declined. Instead, ask if you can keep them updated about your future work via email.
Lose hope. Persistence, hard work, and a good attitude will pay off.