Part of a Norman Rockwell illustration with the words underneath "How to write your artist cv "

How to write your artist cv

You may be familiar with Norman Rockwell’s famous 1948 illustration entitled “The Gossips”. At the time I expect the narrative he was telling was different to how we would read it now. I use it in one of the of the art-business training modules from “Success and the Business of Artwork” to describe how our artist CV works. Our CV is as much about what we’ve got to say, as who hears about it. I’m a member of the Australian Watercolour Institute. Each year we vote in members. Of late, the list of achievements of these prospective members has become as important as the painting they make.

what is an artist cv ?

It is a list of all the things you’ve done as it relates to your career/s.
Curriculum Vitae loosely translates to mean “the course of my life”, the plural form is Curricula Vitae. Other types of writing that describe the success of the artist include a resume, and various forms of short bio. These each have their own formats. Artist statements are usually more about the artwork itself.
It is a fluid document existing in many forms at once, depending on its context.
It is a list of successes, edited – a complete list of absolutely everything, and a second (or third) list which selects and summarises from the first.

why have a cv ?

It places your practice within a particular hierarchy. Which, I might add, you don’t necessarily need to engage with in order to be a successful artist. Once, I was a finalist in an opportunity that includes international travel and exhibitions. That year the person who won the McGregor Fellowship had a Masters ahead of my BA, she’d taught at TAFE ahead of my community teaching, she’d been collected by the Qld Art Gallery ahead of my smaller public collections. It would be another three years before my cv was healthy enough to be awarded the fellowship. It was a valuable exercise in experiencing this hierarchical phenomena first hand. And painless: I was happy that my friend received the award when she did. Read more about how that trip, when I eventually went on it, made suchg an impact on my practice.

Your cv gives your practice a credibility that increases the perceived, and actual, value of your work. If you’ve just won the Archibald, for example, it would be reasonable to expect that your prices could increase.

what to do with your cv

Keep it up to date. Allocate time on a monthly basis to tweak.
It’s easy to forget details in the bunrush of getting an application in.
If nothing is new, proof read again, and again.

Share the news
If your work has been collected into public, corporate or larger private collections, keep them on your mailing list and send them your updated CV annually or biannually:  it adds value to their collection, and keeps you in their mind.

Include it as part of your exhibition didactic or catalogue (usually in edited form, or re-written as a short bio)

Always have it on your website.

Use it to check how your career is going The list of possible categories listed below is not complete, but it’s a way of seeing where the gaps might be. If, for example your cv is lacking in solo exhibitions, or you’ve not shown overseas then a) decide if you want to go down this path b) start to find opportunities that can add substance to your cv.  Look for art show prizes that have really good titles like “The Tursa Award”. Consider charity exhibitions or postcard swaps that match your media, content or ideals. Find out about acquisition policies for public collections.  Don’t disregard donations. Get articles written about you, publish, speak. Get well known for it, and write it down.

how to collate your cv

Write down every success in one document
from that document to create other documents as required.
Save files
labeled thus: cv July 2019 abbrev   
Send files: CPORTER cv July 2019 – or however stipulated.

  • What to include
    – include the impressive details but be truthful. Remember that if you fudge, those who read it will know those same tricks.
    – your name, contact details, website address and date updated are at the beginning of the document
    – date and place of birth. Eg born Lismore 1975. But only if you think this is pertinent. I’ve a friend who doesn’t include her age as she feels it disadvantages her. Likewise adjust your place of birth, so it adds to your story. Born Lismore, may not mean much if it is a national or international show you are involved with, but may be imperative if it’s about local community. Again it will depend on what the audience needs, and have asked for.
    – Think very carefully about what you include in your selected version. My art business was once sent an unsolicited CV that included information about the applicant’s previous employment as a topless waitress!
  • How to order them
    – put most important thing first, if it’s a collection for example of galleries where your work is shown.
    – when it’s a dated event such as career history, exhibition or prize start with the most recent eg 2020 The Working Shed Gympie Regional Gallery. The next line continues with exhibitions from 2019
    – if something spans several years:  2007-2014  Lismore Regional Gallery Volunteer
    – place things on your cv where it reads best. The above sample could go in career info, or it could go in Art volunteer work.
    – Social media pages can be in the contact section, or in the bibliography with other published works
  • Format for legibility.
    – with your selected CV the “one page rule” is about legibility, not font size
    – depending on the audience, consider academic referencing for books and journals. Otherwise make a decision about formatting and use it across the whole document
    – I am wary of including artist photo
  • Research if you are unsure
    – a quick google search found this page about punctuation for your cv, and one of my favourite punctuation queens is Lynne Truss.
    – get a second pair of eyes to look at it. Writing a document is a skill. We don’t have to be perfect at everything – I don’t service my own car for example. There will be someone you can pay to put this document together.

your main list

Add information to as many of these headings that you can. If you don’t have any, just leave that section out.
Academic Qualifications If you haven’t finished your current degree:  XXX University, Bachelor of Visual Arts, midway. Career History   Solo Exhibitions  write “proposed” in brackets if it’s coming up Group Exhibitions include curator, exhibition title, gallery. These aren’t as a rule, the sort of school or charity art shows where you just send an entry form in, they are exhibitions where a group of artists is represented. Juried art shows If there is a competition where the artwork is pre-selected, then these go under this heading. Prizes for the complete list, put absolutely every prize you receive. You can summarise later.
Grants Collections – public, corporate, private Summarise your friends’ purchases as “private collections Australia wide” or the world, if that is the case Affiliations If this is an elected or jury selection include, if you just pay membership, you might not.            
 or Publications include digital references Gallery Representation        Curating Experience          Commissions    Residencies           Teaching Experience     Professional Development undertaken Arts Industry Positions Arts Industry Skills (Don’t forget your “other “skills as well) Arts Industry Volunteer positions  
Plus anything else that is part of your story

then for your abbreviated cv select and adjust as needed

Only include categories as they are needed for the particular grant, job application or opportunity
Change the headings to show that you’ve chosen the best:
Selected Career Highlights
Selected Solo Exhibitions
Selected Group Exhibitions

Selected Major Prizes – Summarise the less important prizes thus: 1991- 2019 more than 250 prizes in art shows and competitions Australia wide


Art isn’t about judgement, but winning grants, getting jobs, being awarded positions is all about comparing the best people for the job. This list of your successes is simply a way to keep those in one place.

Even if you don’t intend to go there, it doesn’t hurt to keep the list up to date, if only to show yourself how far you’ve come.

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