Artist Resumes: What Goes In Them and Why You Need One

Artist Resumes: What Goes In Them and Why You Need One

Tattooing is a unique line of work. It is such a tight-knit, relationship-based community. If you travel, then you probably have a network of friends in shops all over that you can stop in and work for a few days or weeks as you need to. If you have conflicts with the shop you are at, then you can always go down the street. You can go your whole career on just a well-built portfolio and a positive reputation. And that is fine for tattooing unless you want more as an artist.

But what if you want more of your life and career? What if you want to venture beyond the humming sound of tattoo machines?

In the last blog, we discussed online and free venues where you can take courses to help you grow as an artist and a person. I should probably get back to writing a piece that complements one of Jakes interviews, right? Not quite. Follow me as I lead you down a very specific rabbit hole over this and the next few blog posts. Follow me as I show you how to pave the way to transition

lets talk about resumes, shall we?

If you have been tattooing for any length of time, then you know that it is not a common practice to maintain a resume. In fact, if all you have ever really done is tattoo, then there is a good chance that you have never done one at all. Afterall, many tattooers consider it a perk of the profession that you are living outside the whole resume and necktie paradigm of 9 to 5 living. However, there is a whole universe of opportunities out there for artists that you can pursue. Some things yield financially lucrative results, others are simply opportunities for growth and a change of scenery. Regardless of what you decide works best for you, a good artist resume can allow you to open doors that you would never even be able to knock upon otherwise.

Whether they ask for it outright or not, having a resume means that you have the specific information on hand that you may often need to supply under deadlines. Such opportunities may include:


If you are reading this, then there is a good chance you read one of my earlier entries where I mentioned artist Toby Penney. This inspiring painter just documented her several weeks participating in a painting residency in France. You can check out more on her Instagram at tobypenneyopenstudio. As you can see it is a good way to travel and get paid to do it.

If you want a residency in another direction, Adobe has one that is pretty freaking cool. It is a little different than most residencies in that you stay in your current location. Don’t worry, you get to travel. They foot the bill for several conferences and engagements where you will get to show what you are doing. They pay you a decent salary and provide any equipment or other tools that you might need to complete the project you have proposed.

other residencies are like mini-retreats for you to just get away and have some peace and quiet to work outside your comfort zone. Many are year-long gigs where you can stay in a lodging provided and work in studio space that is provided. In short, you get to a free place to live and work for a year and all you have to worry about is making artwork. If this sounds like something up your alley, then I recommend just typing in “artists in residency programs” on the old google and hit enter.

Don’t forget the more eccentric programs, like the now-defunct residency through CERN where you could go hang out with a bunch of scientists as they worked two miles underground in Switzerland and showed you all the cool mind-blowing inspirations one would find in the presence of great minds and a particle collider.

Other paths you can pursue as an artist and tattooer include:

Shows and galleries

Entering the world of professional exhibitions is a great way to build your portfolio and add to your resume. Most are basically like entering an art competition where you get to put the show where your work is displayed on the resume. Plus, there is occasionally some money thrown your way.

This can, of course, lead to regular gallery representation. You make the art. They sell the art. It is a beautiful relationship. The most common commission fee range for a gallery is around 18 to 20 percent of what they sell your work for.

Fellowships and Grants are also good to pursue. They generally require a bit of writing skill. There is a lot of money out there to be had. You can fund your larger scale projects and not have to worry about choosing between eating and making art. However, as I mentioned, there is a bit of writing involved. I may address this in more detail on a future occasion. Just nod at your computer screen and visualize the blue-eyed bearded guy winking at you. Teaching gigs

Teaching is one of the best ways you can give back. However, I’m only going to mention teaching in passing because it requires an entirely different form of resume called a CV or Curriculum Vitae.

I’m in. Tell me what goes on this Resume you speak of.

Please note that I’m starting this section with a small disclaimer. I am going to give you a taste of how I would adapt a tattoo based line of experience to go in a fine art format. Resumes are funny beasts. Every situation is different. If you don’t have information that fits into this category, talk to someone who is in fine arts or is an artist who already put one together for themselves. They can help you decide how to word things, what to leave in, and what not to include.

There are many templates in Microsoft Word for resumes. You can pick one that is visually appealing to you from a design standpoint. You can also look at examples of regular resumes on the OWL website. This is the online writing lab for Purdue University and has several examples and resources for resumes.

Contact info

At the very top of your document, you should always have your name and contact information. In the case of a tattooer, I would include your studio name as well. You should have your phone, email, website and social media.


In a traditional resume of any kind, you would always list your education first. However, this may be problematic if you are a tattooer who has only done tattooing and not received even the slightest foundation in a formal setting. First, be aware that you can include any training or education you have had, even if you didn’t finish a program. If you went to art school but didn’t finish, put the dates you attended.

Include your licensing and certifications in this area as well. As a tattooer, you would at least have a blood borne pathogens certificate in most states.

After that, you can list professional workshops and developmental courses you have taken and completed. Hint, if you have gone through our Find Your Style program or taken any of our webinars or guest taught painting seminars, you can list those bad boys.

Work experience

This is something that will be up to the individual. If the last job you had before working as a tattooer was at Baskin Robbins, you will most likely not want to include this section. However, if you have worked a shop or two, then you can put it down. If you have worked in a similar or related area, such as framing or at an art supply, then put it down. I worked at a photography supply in between semester before getting a job as a digital retoucher at a photography studio when I was in art school. Both were included on my professional resume, even though my first jobs out of art school were in graphic and web design.

Awards and Juried shows

If you have competed in competitions or been selected for exhibitions, put it in. This may be something you have to build at first if you haven’t done much outside tattooing, but these are not difficult to find. Most of your art magazines have adds and calls for entries in exhibitions and art shows.

You can also list any success in the tattoo industry here. If you won best coverup at a tattoo convention, put it in. If you own a shop that was voted best tattoo shop in your city, put it in. Consider this like a bragging section.


Anything you or your work have been included in is usable. If you were interviewed for a magazine or website, put it in. If your work was featured in a magazine, put it in. Since both art and tattoo publications are primarily in periodicals, be sure to list the information you need to find things. This includes dates, volume number, and page numbers. All of this information applies if you have published any writing in your field. Yes, blogs count.

Books count as well but may be more of a rarity in our field. Many people contribute flash to compilation publications. If you get to a point where you can put your fine art out in a printed publication, then congratulations and you most definitely include this. Why would you not?

Other stuff

There are many other areas that you could also include on your resume. If you have multiple galleries representing you, list them. If you are designing in other areas, then list it. Ok, so we aren’t all Ed Hardy’s with our own clothing lines, but some of you may have some side gigs. List em.

When in doubt, you can always contact the people for whatever you are applying for. There is always a person running point for whatever you are applying for. Their email should be listed on the website and you should always be able to contact them with any questions on what to include. With any tact, you might even be able to explain that you are new to this area of business and talk them into a critique. These would be the most qualified people to give you suggestions for information to include and take out.

And this is where I will leave you….

As always, thank you for supporting what we do here at fireside.