A Free Your Portfolio & You Article: “Résumés for Artists”

All artists need a portfolio of their work, if only to remind themselves of what they’ve accomplished over the years. That portfolio — think of it as a package — begins as a combination of slides, photographs, show invites, postcards, publications, etc., anything in print or digital, which involves a show or project in which you are involved. It forms the visual proof of your past. It also provides the background for your résumé.

Your résumé is the second step in assembling your art portfolio. It’s a combination of your and your artwork’s history. Where you and your art have been. A résumé lists what you've been doing in the art world.

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A Résumé is a Résumé

Just as you have a 9–5 résumé for your day job, your art résumé follows the same idea but with different categories. Those categories begin with the most important and descend down to the least important. Organize your years chronologically within each category (see the sample below).

The computer makes it easy to keep your résumé up-to-date as well as neat and well-organized. Follow the same format throughout as it's easier for others to read and to find information about you. Only print out a résumé when it’s needed — they need constant updating! And when you're just getting started, it's amazing how much you will remember that you should have included.

A Résumé’s Structure

The first year mentioned in any résumé heading is always the current year followed in descending order, i.e., 1997, 1996, 1995, etc. Your master should go back to year “0”, but your tailored résumés should stop at five or six years back unless, of course, you need the padding or you have some very prestigious looking shows in there — go for selected!

Some of the things I've learned along the way are to highlight those shows, which are important or prestigious. It's better if the word “quilt” is not in the show title if you want to appeal to galleries. You'll look more well-rounded if there are other states (or countries) on your résumé other than your own.

As soon as you drop even one show from your résumé for purposes of brevity or even because it doesn't look very important, you can type EXHIBITIONS (Selected). Keep one master résumé, which lists absolutely everything you've ever done. If only for your own records, this is very important. Traveling résumés, which go out to shows, galleries, consultants, etc., should be tailored for the person to whom you are appealing and should not exceed two pages (usually). By tailoring, I refer to emphasizing one area of your work over another, i.e., art quilt vs. art-to-wear or pushing your style's particular appeal for publication, etc. Every situation is different.

When I'm sending a résumé out as part of a group or as a traveling résumé, I merge Awards, One Woman, Invitationals, and Exhibitions into one headed Exhibitions and delineate those shows which are one-woman or -man, invitational, awarded, or juried in italics at the end. Lectures & Classes are not included unless I want to be considered for teaching or lecturing. The Education section is mainly for your own benefit although it can very occasionally be of use. In other words, keep those categories, which would impress the people to whom you are sending it.

One word of warning on the “impressing” part. NEVER lie. You don't necessarily have to reveal all, but never invent something that never happened. It's much too easy for the invention to be revealed and the damage to your credibility will spread to everything with which you're associated.

The Rest of Your Portfolio

The rest of your portfolio will include an artist's statement, which tells anyone who reads it how you feel about your work, what your philosophy is, and what drives you to create. The art story is about a particular artwork. A biography is a story of your life (think autobiography) and what got you started with creating art and/or art quilts.

Feel free to download and use and abuse the downloadable Word résumé templates, Word 1996–2004 or Word DOCX

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Résumé Sample

Your Name
Company Name
Contact Information
(At a recent show, résumés, artists' statements, and art stories were all displayed along with the actual artwork. The ones, which stood out for me, were those where the artist had been creative in their letterhead. Something bold and catchy at the top made the whole page look more appealing, making me want to read them. I intend to work on this one myself. Mine looked soooo boring!!)
Brief (1 to 2 sentences) statement about yourself—this could be the artist's statement.
1997 Title of Show, Place Show is Held, City, State/Country, Awards (Honorable Mention, Merit, First Place, etc.).
1997 Title of Show, Place Show is Held, City, State/Country.
A show in which you have been asked to be a participant.
1997 Title of Show, Place Show is Held, City, State/Country.
A juried show carries more prestige so add this distinction if it applies to a show in which you participate.
1997 Title of Show, Place Show is Held, City, State/Country, Juried




This could simply say Private Collections, Corporate Collections, one or both could be detailed. Be sure to get permission of the owners for you to use their name in the résumé. As a security measure, list only the country in which they live so as not to advertise that the person does collect. It doesn't matter how you organize their names—by date of purchase, alphabetically by last name or by country.
LastName, firstInitial / Mr. & Mrs. FirstInitial., Germany. or
firstInitial. / Mr. & Mrs. FirstInitial. LastName, Germany.
XYZ Corporation, United States.
Lists those you have given or taught.
2002 Your Portfolio & You W/S
  Lecture & House W/S, Studio Quilt Guild, Durango, CO.
2001 Contracts W/S, Women's Arts Center & Gallery, Denver, CO.
2000 Lecture, The League of Northern Colorado Quilters, Fort Collins, CO.
  Front Range Contemporary Quilters' Newcomers Group, Westminster, CO.
  Evenings at Curtis, Curtis Arts & Humanities Center, Greenwood Village, CO.
  Your Portfolio & You Workshop, Curtis Arts & Humanities Center, Greenwood Village, CO.
Those galleries/stores in which you have a current, permanent presence
XYZ Gallery, 555 Main Street, City, State/Country.
Mrs. Miggins" Country Store, 1234 Main Street, City, State/Country.
Offices in a quilt guild; gallery work; exhibition work—curating, set-up, etc.; any teaching you've done (Artist-in-Residencies look good on a résumé); any graphics-related work; etc.
Year Position, Organization, Address, City, State/Country
Magazines or books in which your work is published; television or radio programs on which you or your work has appeared
1997 October Title (of artwork), page number(s) (if it's the cover, just type “cover”), Publication
  December Name of episode (with episode number if available), Name of television program, Name of television channel, i.e., Discovery Channel
1996 July Book title, page number(s), Publisher, City, State/Country (in which book was published)
  May “Article title”, inclusive page numbers, Publication
List those classes you have taken including any formal art training as well as any and all workshops—I added my French class!
Year Teacher Name of class

Hire a pro!
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Photo of Kathy Davie

Kathy Davie is an editor, author, and artist with degrees in Technical Writing & Editing, Digital Media, and History from Metropolitan State College in Denver, Colorado.

A huge believer in knowledge being power, Kathy has an ongoing and free set of Author Tools for authors interested in self-editing with an ongoing series of posts on Word Confusions, what’s Properly Punctuated, those tricky Formatting Tips, and the sleep-inducing Grammar Explanations. There is also an online tutorial on Using Microsoft Word’s Markup Tool.

And if you get too sleepy, explore KD Did It for various writing and editing services.

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