The Anatomy of a CV

If you’re interested in being an artist you will be asked for a CV over and over again. A CV (or curriculum vitae) is similar to a resume, but more detailed and is as much about your achievements as your experience. It’s best to start your CV early on because as time passes you might forget the details of certain items you’ll want to include – work, awards, etc. Although there are as many structures for a CV as there are professions, I will be looking at what to include and why from an artist’s perspective.

Why You Need a CV

I view a CV as a form of reassurance. Those interested in your work, especially if they’re personally taking a chance on you – by giving you a show or buying a piece – like to be reassured about their decisions. A CV is the easiest way to see if someone is serious about what they do, what their experience is, and what they have accomplished. You will almost always be asked for a CV when applying for grants or awards, submitting a show proposal, applying to higher levels of art school, and many other situations when dealing with the fine-art world. This being the case, it’s important to have an updated CV at all times so that you’re not caught off-guard when asked for one. Start by typing up a simple version in Word, making sure to include the following categories.

What to Include

Basic Details – It is customary to provide some personal information such as where you were born and where you are based now. I have even seen people put their exact date of birth, although I feel that isn’t necessary.

Education – Where you went to school, for what, and when did you graduate. I would only put post-secondary education unless you went to some sort of well known arts high school. Also, if you’re still in school, put it on there and include an “expected graduation date”.

Exhibitions – This is one of the more important sections as people like to see an active exhibitions list. This shows that you’re consistently producing and showing work. With more experienced artists this is often split into solo and group shows. Include the title, the gallery name, the city, and the date of the exhibition.

Publications – If you’ve had your work has been featured in any books or magazines put it in this section. List the publication, which issue you were featured in, and the date.

Press – This section is for mentions in newspapers, blogs, or other press. Include the name of the journal, the title of the article, the author’s name, and the date.

Awards – If you win an award for your work include it here. State the name of the award and when you received it.

Grants – Similar to awards, include the granting body, the type of grant, and the date.

Contact Info – Make sure that you have your website, email, and phone number somewhere on the CV.

Things to Keep in Mind

  • The sections above are only a guide. Some other headings one might include are lectures, collections, perhaps a short bio, etc.
  • Only include items relevant to your field.
  • Make sure you are consistent in how you structure the various parts. For example if a date is italicized, make sure it is similarly done in all the entries.
  • Within each section, arrange items chronologically with the most recent being at the top.
  • Have two versions – one that has been designed nicely in the form of a PDF and a very simple list in a Word file.

Putting together your first CV can be frustrating because each section will have very few items and in some cases none at all. However, overtime you will add things slowly and one day find that you need an extra page. Here is an example of a simple CV and here are some that are much more designed. In a future post we’ll talk about how to actively build and even out your CV.

Action Step: If you have a CV, make sure it’s up to date. If you don’t, what are you waiting for?

Images Sourced from: doktor_p