For new and emerging artists, creating an artist’s CV 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 a CV, 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 artist who has yet to gain, appropriately, professional experience as an artist.
How to format personal details on your artist’s CV
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 firstname.lastname@example.org
- 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~!!!Check out my work here http://www.ibiblio.org/wm/paint/auth/gogh/
Email me! email@example.com
Example of good formatting for 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.
Listing Education on your artist’s CV 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
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 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.
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Example of a good formatting for an exhibition list
2022 Group exhibition, Vancouver Art Gallery (forthcoming)
2021 Site-specific installation, “Alleyway”, Vancouver, BC2018 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 it2012 Solo exhibition, Museum of Modern Art, NY <– you made that up!
Listing collections on your artist’s CV 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
Collections:Private collection, Vancouver BCPrivate collection, Winnipeg MBPrivate collection, New York NY
Example of bad formatting for a collection list
Collections:Anna van GoghTheodorus van GoghElisabeth van GoghTheo van GoghPrivate collection, Paris FrancePrivate collection, Paris France
Finally, if you still don’t have enough to put on your artist’s CV
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.