How to Write an Artist’s CV When You Don’t Have Much (Or Any!) Professional Experience

A woman works on her artist's CV at a computer

For new and emerging artists, creating an artist’s CV (also called an artist’s resume) when you have little or no experience can be a bit of a Catch 22. You don’t have much 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.

When writing an artist’s CV or artist’s resume, some of the most frequently asked questions are “What if I don’t have an exhibition history?” or “What if I didn’t go to art school?” 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 that article, aimed specifically at “professionalizing” the CV of an emerging artist who has yet to gain professional experience as an artist.

If you’re writing a CV, check out our Artist’s CV Templates. Create your own industry-standard CV with 16 different category options, plus examples. Included are three options specifically for emerging artists!

How to format personal details on your artist’s CV / artist’s resume

Refer to point 1 in the original article. As I mentioned, many established artists keep this section quite short. However, if you are putting together a CV when you don’t have experience, 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.

  • DO have a website set up, and include the address
  • DO add where you live and work (and when you were born, if you want to)
  • DO add professional contact details where someone can actually contact you
  • DO add a short bio or artist statement, concisely and professionally describing your practice
  • DON’T use a non-professional or obscure email like metallicalover@saucy.com
  • DON’T use your office phone number or your Mom’s phone number
  • 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 formatting for contact details:

Vincent van Gogh
~Sometimes called the world’s most famous artist~!!!

Email me! fancypants2@yahoo.ca

Example of good formatting for contact details

Vincent van Gogh
Born March 30, 1853

Currently lives and works in Paris, France

vincent@vangogh.com | www.vangoghgallery.com
Vincent van Gogh is an emerging artist, working primarily in oils. He often employs bold colours and emotive tableaux in a post-impressionistic manner.

Listing Education on your artist’s CV / artist’s resume when you haven’t gone to art school

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.

Despite what you may think looks professional or not, you can use the education section of your CV to highlight any casual mentorships, art classes, workshops, and schooling that you have had. If you feel that the institutions or situations of your art schooling are less than professional, the best way to present them is to highlight the teachers you have studied under, instead of the specific classes or institutions.

  • DO include any teacher or artist you’ve studied under
  • 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

Studied under:
Lynne McLaughlin
Tom Backlund
Geoff Parker

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


Listing exhibitions on your artist’s CV / artist’s resume when you don’t have any, or have very few

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 aspects 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!

  • DO list all of your exhibitions, even if they aren’t in a gallery
  • DO list all of your forthcoming exhibitions and projects
  • DON’T make anything up.

If you’re writing a CV without much professional art experience, we made Artist’s CV Templates. It’s the easy way to put together your professional CV, and includes three options are specifically for emerging artists.

Example of a good formatting for an exhibition list

2022  Group exhibition, Vancouver Art Gallery (forthcoming)
2021  Site-specific installation, “Alleyway”, Vancouver, BC
2018  Solo exhibition, Moon Cafe, Vancouver BC

Example of a bad formatting for an exhibition list

2023 Planned gallery exhibition (forthcoming) <– if you don’t have any solid details, don’t include it
2012  Solo exhibition, Museum of Modern Art, NY <– you made that up!

Listing collections on your artist’s CV / artist’s resume when you don’t have any, or have very few

Refer to point 5 from the original article. If you are a 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 good formatting for a collection list

Private collection, Vancouver BC
Private collection, Winnipeg MB
Private collection, New York NY

Example of bad formatting for a collection list

Anna van Gogh
Theodorus van Gogh
Elisabeth van Gogh
Theo van Gogh
Private collection, Paris France
Private collection, Paris France

Finally, if you’re an emerging artist and you still don’t have enough to put on your artist’s CV / artist’s resume

You can think of some creative ways to visually enhance your CV:

  1. Include an image of your artwork (not usually recommended, but between that and the blank page, one image is better).
  2. 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.
  3. 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.


Planning to sell your artwork over email? Presentation and professionalism matters! Check out our templates for managing and emailing your available artworks.  


98 responses to “How to Write an Artist’s CV When You Don’t Have Much (Or Any!) Professional Experience”

  1. I just LOVE your informative post, Fantastic advice!! I’ll be coming to read this again for sure. Have a lovely day. God Bless

  2. Hello, I’m an emerging artist writing a CV. Your article has been very helpful, but I have one question. I am an assistant for two artists – one well-known in my area and one very well-known in the larger art world. I would like to include this work experience in my CV somewhere. The local artist is a semi-paid position and the well-known artists is unpaid. While they are not exactly my mentors, I did take on these positions in order to gain experience in the art world and learn about how to be a professional artist. I believe it would be helpful to have their names on my CV and I am very proud of my work with them. Where would you recommend putting these entries, if at all?

    • Hi Bekah, I think it’s a great idea to add these to your CV. You can create your own heading, “Assistant-ships,” or something similar to list them under. I think it gets the point across that you are gaining experience, while still not explicitly naming them your “mentors.”

      • Definitely include this! I would put it under the heading ‘Professional experience’ or even just a sentence saying something along the lines of:

        Assistant to: Damien Hirst (2004 – present), Anthony Gormley (2002)

        A lot of young and emerging artists do not have a lot of exhibitions to add to their CVs but it is worthwhile remembering art-related work (paid or unpaid) which was not directly related to your own practice, such as assisting other artists, or invigilation, volunteering etc.

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  4. Hey thank you very much for this help, i really need it!
    Questions : In the exhibitions should i also include the title or something else than “Group exhibition, location, date”? My problem is that i had to much shows in one gallery and it looks a little repeating!! Thanks 😀

  5. How should I include online features? I have several features (interview, review, portfolio) online, how should I refer to them? Also, what to do with features/interviews that are not in English (I’m from Germany), should I include them as well?

    • Online features are great to include. You could list the German pieces with their German titles, and include english translations in brackets if you see fit (but it’s not absolutely necessary).

      • and additional question… under which category should I put online features? bibliography, publications or something like ‘selected press’? thanks for your help.

  6. so glad i found this!! 🙂

    just a question though what do you think of the more creative resumes/cvs? the ones where it practically looks like an artwork itself?


    • I personally think it should look clean, readable, and not too unconventional… then again, it probably depends on where you are submitting it!

  7. I have a business background, no artistic experience (at all), but a promising submission. What should I do?

  8. Very good.
    I enter a lot of juried online art shows.
    How does one show these on a CV.
    Checking my blog kenben.org will give you examples in my about me.

  9. bobjheath says:

    Thank you for the great ideas for us beginners. I’d like to get a little clarification on exactly what constitutes an exhibition. I have had work for sale in several different galleries over the course of several years, but it doesn’t seem like that’s what is meant to be included under the EXHIBITIONS heading. I have had my work in a few short term shows (not in galleries), and I’ve also just been juried in to show my work at an important gallery.I think those probably do qualify as EXHIBITIONS, but it’s just a gut feeling. Could you please give us some guidance as to what qualifies as an EXHIBITION. For example, does it have to be in a “gallery” or does a bunch of artists getting together to put on a show count? Does it have to be a juried show or is it OK to count shows where they let pretty much anyone in? Does it need to be short term in nature, like a week or a month, or does having your work in a gallery for five years count, and if so, what do you list for the date of the exhibition?

    • Whenever your work is exhibited, that is an exhibition. I don’t know if there is one true definition, but that’s what I think! I also think it is an acceptable rule of thumb for your CV.

      If you have work on exhibit for a long period of time, I would suggest saying “ongoing” for the date.

      Cheer 🙂

    • cathy marie says:

      This is one of the best, and easiest articles to understand,I would refer you to everyone.Thank you

  10. Thank you for such awesome and informative articles! I was invited to apply for an artist in residence program (it was invitation only), and I was a finalist but I did not get the residency. I feel proud to be invited, should I add this to my resume?

    • Certainly you should! Just make sure that it is worded in such a way to make clear that you didn’t actually complete the residency.

  11. This is super helpful, thank you!
    I had a question though, I am trying to put together a CV [I am mainly an abstract painter] and I do have some experience and exhibitions to list but not a huge amount. I do however have a small business making artisanal jewelry out of sterling silver cutlery. Through this I have had some press and many juried shows. Should I include some of that in my CV as well? Or just focus on the painting side?

    • Hi Katelyn,
      I would include this on your CV, as it is part of your artistic experience. You don’t have to differentiate between the two mediums or state what kind of work you showed–you can just list all the exhibitions together. Likewise with press.

  12. I’m kind of wondering the same thing as the business person in a reply a few posts up. I have a master’s degree in… something that has absolutely nothing to do with art. I never took any formal art classes beyond high school, either. What I’ve learned about art is from (lots of) reading and doing. I feel like I’m creating a body of work that is relevant and has plenty to say, but my only meaningful exposure is a reasonably active Instagram account that is slowly, but steadily gaining followers. (I have a dA account, too, but that one’s not getting much action.) Moreover, for personal reasons that I’d rather not get into here, I want to remain as anonymous as possible for now, and I would really like my work to just speak for itself. Am I just screwed, or do you have any ideas on how I should go about this?

  13. Thanks very much. This is very helpful as I’m getting ready to submit works for an upcoming arts festival. I’m using your ideas of naming instructors and private collections,
    A question – I am self-taught, however, I grew up in a family of artists and writers, such that being around paint and other materials is second nature to me. I also plan on enrolling in school with the goal of obtaining a studio art degree from a local college. Should I somehow note these points on the bio/CV? Thanks.

  14. Hey… Thank you for this great article. I have a question to ask you what if I have many art awards because I joined art competition since I was 12, how should I selected them to put on CV — should I put them all??– or only the award I got recently??– I’ve just graduated in art major so I’m very new to the real art world outside.
    Thanks again.

    • Hello,
      I would suggest putting the most recent awards, as well as the largest or the ones with the most exposure. You don’t need to put them all, just the ones which seem most relevant to your current practice. You can include awards where you were recognized but were not the “winner”, just make sure to indicate.

  15. Echoing the long line of thank yous for this and a quick question – I’m primarily trying to promote myself as a painter and illustrator, however I work full time as essentially a creative director and graphic designer and while I think I probably should include it because it’s in a creative field and it relates, I’m not sure how much to include and what to talk about.

  16. This is very helpful! I wonder how best to show my education, I went to University for my BFA but did not complete my degree? I got extremely close but had to stop for financial reasons.

  17. hi there all again…. Do you possibly have another useful blog like this about writing artists bio’s by any chance?!

  18. Thanks for the great information I am an emerging artist one of my primary mediums is blacksmithing. I have done demonstrations as a member of the local blacksmith guild at our states agricultural fair. How would I reflect this on my CV. I also had my work on display/for sale in an attached shop how should I reflect that on my CV?

    • Hi Colin,
      You could make a heading called “Demonstrations” and include the info about the agricultural fair. If the works were on display, you could list that under “Exhibitions”.

  19. Hello there! This blog is wonderful and this post has been most helpful. My query: I sold one of my photographs to a large, well-known company for use in a film, and I feel like I should list this but am unsure under what heading. Thanks for your help and time in replying.

    • Hi Kate,
      You could list this under “Collections” as the well-known company is now the owner of the work. Side note: since the piece was in a movie, it’s not a secret that they own it. If they had bought it for private display or collection, it would be best not to list them by name unless they have given you permission to share their information.

    • Alana O’Driscoll says:

      Many thanks for such an interesting and informative article. However I have one critisism, in that I do find it frustrating where some questions have gone unanswered, particularly as they are probably often very relevant to many readers.

  20. Hello there,

    This blog post has been very useful indeed, thank you. I have a question relating to private commissions, I am a digital artist so technically no physical copy of the end product exists and as such, I’m unsure as to whether I could list them under “collections”. I have done some commercial pieces recently but most of my work is commissioned for personal use – how would you list this kind of experience on a CV?

    Thanks again!

  21. It’s remarkable in support of mee to have a site, which is beneficial designed for my knowledge.
    thanks admin

  22. Thanks so much for this. It was a life saver!
    I am president of my local art guild. Is that ok to have on the CV and if so, where should I put it?

  23. Wao! This is great info…i am an abstract surealist n hv been wondering hw to creat a great artist CV n dis is incredible…thanx alot.

  24. Hi there,
    I was wondering if its appropriate to put in the pictures of the works you had done for an artist in your portfolio. I have been working for an artist and had been doing many of his art works. Do let me know before I request him for pictures of the work.
    thank you

  25. Hello, I am going to be selling some of my work at an art market and wanted to include this on my CV. Where would this fit under? Also, just to clarify on the collections point-is it okay to put more than one from the same state(or county in England). Thank you very much.

  26. Keny’e Bogan-EL says:

    What if my only exhibition was a senior show in highschool? And I have attended two colleges, do I put both of them in?

  27. Thabiso Dakamela says:

    Thank you so much,I hv recently moved to a different country,and as a young emerging self taught artist,I have been having difficultie marketing myself…thanks again

  28. Thank you for this– it’s so useful. One question: Can I include favorable reviews in my CV?

  29. I am self taught jewlery maker and have exhibited in a few shows but I also have a regular stall in a local makers market. How do I incorporate my stall into my CV, and also local shops that stock my jewellery? Should I? and what about previous stockists?

  30. Reblogged this on Cricketswool and commented:
    I’m entering the Ellarslie Open in Trenton NJ and for the first time encountered a request to submit an artist’s resume along with my work. This led me to a post on The Practical Art World. I highly recommend this blog and especially this post to all artists.

  31. hi there, thank all of you very much to share your experience. i’m a self-taught painter and not much art training. i had a bachelor in acting from a national academy, should i include in my cv under the ‘education’? thank you a lot in advance best regards berkeley

  32. […] How To Write An Artist’s CV When You Don’t Have Much … – … you will look like a … an Artist’s CV When You Don’t Have Much (Or Any!) Professional Experience ” … to a post on The Practical Art World. […]

  33. I have an interesting situation. I started out as a fine artist in the 80’s. Then I veered off and became very successful as an illustrator. Then I took off a decade to be an actor. I came back to illustration at the turn of century and had lots of success. About four years ago, I quit illustration and came back to fine art. I instantly won a bunch of awards at high profiles competitions. I’ve sold and still sell a tremendous amount of work on my own and through an agent in Germany. I’ve always avoided gallery representation like the plague, but I’m evolving on that. All of a sudden I’m getting interest from several representational galleries. I’m given speaking engagements and workshops. And everyone wants a CV. Problem is that though I’ve been doing art for a long time, my CV doesn’t look like much and I can’t remember much of my winnings and exhibitions over the years, let alone who owns my work. Should I be putting in my illustration accolades too? I feel a bit like a fraud. What should I do?

  34. […] How to Write an Artist’s CV When You Don’t Have Much (Or Any!) Professional Experie… Visual artist curriculum vitae: caa – collegeart.org, Standards guidelines visual artist curriculum vitae: recommended conventions. adopted caa board directors february 1999; amended october 28, 2012.. […]

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  36. You have no idea how this helped me! Your post was so easy to follow and had such good examples. Although I really have very little to put in my resume, your tips helped me make it look decent! Thank you!

  37. Very helpful & the comments too. Thank you for adding that part about “guerilla art”. As a new installation artist (I’ve had two exhibitions now!) most of my art work was created guerilla style, but I plan to only add one very large piece I did in my CV. As you say, don’t OVER play it. Thank you again for this. Writing the CV is putting a knot in my stomach. You helped me break it down & simplify it. I think I can actually manage it now. 🙂

  38. Reynan J Punzalan says:

    Although I havent had any exhibits, I have participated in some Holiday sales at an art museum and a design studio. Do those count or is it not a good thing to include? If it’s not a bad idea to include them, where should they go?

  39. Thanks! I used this artcile to fashion together a decent looking CV for an artist that hasn’t had a lot of exposure yet

  40. Thanks for the great advice! I am an emerging artist with a very short CV but I was wondering how I would present artwork that was sold through a corporate art consulting firm to a hotel. Would I put this under collections and name the hotel? Or would I name the art consulting firm that bought the work?

  41. Jessie Turner says:

    thanks for the advice! really helped me out when i was writing my own. I’d just like to add that entering into art prizes where all entries are exhibited is a great way to boost your exhibition section

  42. Thanks for the helpful advice! Here’s a question: I mostly make a living with graphic design/illustration but am submitting my CV as required for a fine arts exhibit (I’m a painter). Should I briefly mention my graphics/illustration?

  43. Hey Great article..
    relay good for all the freshers who are starting there corporate life.
    Thank You.!!

  44. Great article! It has been very helpful. I do have one question though. Does the “do not list the same city more than once in collections section” rule of thumb still apply if you are using the collector’s actual names (as opposed to the generic “Private Collection”)?

  45. […] You might be an emerging artist, fresh out of school, or a late-comer to the art world with little to show for yet. In this case, take a look at this page. […]

  46. My CV is so short and can’t even cover a paper.. I’m pretty desperate,, what can I do ?

  47. CJ Walker says:

    I like many commentators above had a long hiatus in my painting career to work full time as a designer to support my family. Whats the best way to explain this?

  48. Hi. Thank you so much for this. I have a question. I am currently a BFA student finished with my 2nd year. I don’t have much outside experience. I don’t have a single exhibition to my name apart from my group exhibition held in school which was part of my exam (much like how BFA has a degree show). Can I include that in my CV?
    Also, one my works was gifted to the school so how should I include that? Or should I not include that?

  49. […] Your artist’s CV is integral to most grant applications. It is a way for the grant adjudicators to easily review your professional artistic history. Having your artist’s CV up to date and professionally formatted helps you present yourself in the best light possible. If you’re an emerging artist and you’re having trouble with filling out your CV, check out How To Write An Artist’s CV When You Don’t Have Much (or Any!) Experience. […]

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