How to Write an Artist CV: Advice for a Standout Curriculum Vitae

Crafting a Curriculum Vitae (CV) is like creating art; you need to understand and master the fundamentals before taking creative liberties. Below are a handful of best practices that will set the foundation for a professional and compelling artist CV.

Before we get started, let’s answer one question you may be asking yourself. What’s the difference between a CV and a resume? A CV is the record of all your professional experiences and often used in academia. A resume, on the other hand, is an abbreviated record, usually 1-4 pages, and often modified for a specific expertise, i.e. exhibitions, residency applications, and public art proposals. That being said, the advice provided here can be used for both CVs and resumes.

Modify your CV to match the application.

Elizabeth Keithline, artist, curator and previously grants and public art manager at Rhode Island State Council on the Arts, recommends artists rewrite and reorder their CVs every time they send it. Why? “Each application is different and it helps to tailor to it,” Keithline asserts. Make sure you highlight the experience and works that relate to the particular application. Include keywords from the application in your CV to demonstrate that your qualifications match the requirements and that you are an ideal choice.

Play to your strengths.

Similarly to the best practice above, it’s important to rearrange the order of your CV according to your individual strengths as an artist. Place the more important and relevant information near the beginning of your CV. For instance, you could put exhibitions before awards or honors if you have a great exhibition history.

Tell a story with your CV to convey your personal brand.

Liz Iracki, artist and former art consultant for Shapiro Art Consultants, believes in the power of an artist’s personal voice: “[CVs and resumes] are becoming more informative and less formal, illustrative rather than prescriptive. It is the job of the artist to tell a story through the work itself, the canvas, the clay, the charcoal. A CV further illuminates the artist experience, the philosophy of exhibition and the ingenuity in securing opportunities. Outside of an academic or museum setting, when appealing to personal and corporate collectors, artists should realize that their personal brand is often what pushes a sale over the edge. Many collectors want to relate to the story or be part of the story, so artists can be well served to embed potential for them to do so.” Be true to who you are as an artist and let your CV convey your unique story.

Keep your CV up to date.

This may seem obvious, but we often forget to keep records of our accomplishments. Develop a habit of documenting your exhibitions, grants, promotions, artist talks, etc. so that you do not lose track of relevant experience. We usually remember our positions and major exhibitions, but we may forget an accolade, publication or artist talk – the details that round out our experience.

Keep it simple and easy to read.

Layout and design are very important; hundreds of CVs will be read for one opportunity, so yours should be easily scannable so that the reviewer can quickly see your qualifications and experience. Organize content with clear headers. Select typefaces and sizes that facilitate reading. Consider simple and straightforward fonts like Arial, Helvetica, Times New Roman, or Palatino. Depending on the font, size 10-12 should be readable. Note: Times New Roman is very small at 10-point size. Avoid unusual typefaces that may detract from your content. And most importantly, use white space; margins are your friend!

Edit. Then edit again. And again.

This one may seem obvious to some, but you’d be surprised what typos make their way into our CVs. Thoroughly edit your work. Make sure your format is uniform. For example, if you use bullet points in one job description, use it in all job descriptions. And, don’t forget to have someone else review your CV. Fresh eyes are extremely helpful.

Keep a Master copy.

You should always keep a comprehensive master copy of your CV. This allows you to craft a shorter CV that speaks to a particular audience, opportunity and required length. This way you can easily add or subtract relevant categories and items.  You don’t want to forget all of the incredible work you’ve accomplished along the way!

Save as a Word document and send as a PDF.

It’s good practice to save your CV as both PDF and Word files. If you maintain a master copy as a Word document, you can easily edit and update the content. PDF files are the recommended format for submission because spacing, margins, and formatting are retained across computer platforms. You should always choose to send a PDF.

Check out these helpful resources for more recommendations and exemplary templates:

How to Resize Images: 5 Free and Easy Tools

Need to resize photos of your artworks to meet CaFÉ’s portfolio requirements*? Want to do it quickly and painlessly? Here are 5 free and easy tools to resize your images without losing quality.


1. Preview

If you own a Mac, you’re in luck! You already have a convenient photo editor on your computer – Preview. Select “Adjust Size” under Tools to change the dimensions and resolution. Avoid warping and retain your image’s original proportions by checking “Scale proportionally” and “Resample image.”


2. Paint

If you own a PC, you have a pre-installed editing program at your fingertips – Paint. Easily set your size in pixels and click “Maintain aspect ratio” to avoid image distortion. A more robust version of Paint is now available for free download, Paint.NET.


3. GIMP

GIMP (GNU Image Manipulation Program) is a great alternative to Photoshop if you don’t need all of Adobe’s powerful offerings. GIMP is a free open-source application with professional-level editing and retouching tools, and it’s available for both Mac and PC. It’s fast, small to install (spare your hard drive!), customizable, and very user friendly. You can download GIMP here.


4. Simple Image Resizer

Simple Image Resizer does one thing, and one thing well, resize. It’s best used when in a hurry. Simply upload your image, select “dimensions,” enter the desired width or height, click “Resize” and tah-dah – you have a proportionate, resized image ready to download. This tool is available as a Google Chrome extension and mobile friendly. Access the tool here.


5. Pic Resize

Need to upload multiple images to your CaFÉ™ Portfolio? Don’t want to edit them all individually? Batch resize your images with Pic Resize. Upload multiple images, select your size preference, and click “Submit Batch Job!”. Unfortunately cropping and special effects are not supported by Batch Resize mode and must be done individually in Normal Mode. Start your batch upload here.


For more helpful online image editors, check out CaFÉ’s Media Prep page.

*To upload an image to your CaFÉ™ Portfolio, it must be:

  • JPEG only
  • No smaller than 1920 pixels on the longest side
  • 72 ppi/dpi (standard web resolution)
  • 5 MB maximum

Best of the Web


Very often career advice for artists is heavy on the marketing and selling angle. The reality is that most artists want to focus on making art first, developing a new body of work, and getting exposure. We recognize that marketing and branding may not be your go-to skill set and certainly not at the top of your to-do list. You’re just not that kind of artist and that’s okay. For you we’ve put together a best of the web collection on advise from other artists that focus on making art. And making good art leads to opportunities.

 

 

 

  • How do you capture a portrait without a face-to-face encounter with your subject? Catherine Opie is is an American fine-art photographer. In this video Opie reveals her discovery and process that lead to capturing an alternate perception of a very famous and iconic movie star. Catherine Opie: Portrait Through a Home.

 

  • Unbreakable. This article at Grid on ceramic artist Stefani Threet is both inspiring and motivational. Stefani is overcoming adversity by focusing on what is most meaningful to her as an artist – “She wants to help other people to connect and find art as a way to enhance life.”

 

  • Don’t be afraid to take risks. Made Here is an amazing documentary series and website focusing on performing artists based in New York City. Each episode features an honest and candid view on the issues facing artists. There are so many to choose from! Here’s one on process.