Documentation and Consistency

There are several pieces of writing that must accompany most applications. These documents must also be displayed in galleries as support information for exhibitions. Each of these documents tell the story of who you are, who you are as an artist and act as a means of translation for viewers. They also oddly say a lot about who you are as a person. If you come across as sloppy in your applications because you lack consistency or did not follow the directions, reviewers may think twice about choosing you. Organizations for whatever type of application you are submitting are taking a risk on you if you are the one to receive the thing for which you are applying. If you come across as detail oriented and thoughtful, reviewers are more likely to trust that you are less risky than someone who did not follow this advice.

TAKE YOUR TIME! It is a part of the nature of an artist to put things off, whether you would rather be in the studio, or you want to make sure you submit the newest and latest work, it is all too common to send things late. Use your timeline  and make your own deadlines for a few days before things are actually due. Take the time you actually need to do this well. If you rush, you are not only wasting your own time, you’re wasting the reviewers’ time. It is tough! In so many ways the business of art goes entirely against the nature of an artist. Think of it as eating your vegetables. Studio time is dessert. If you create a practice that includes time for the business of art, you will find that you actually have more time for your studio without something hanging over your head. It will get easier as you make this a part of your practice!

These documents are highly functional. Therefore, this is not the place to display flare. Keep it simple. Make sure all of your documents are in the same font and the same point. 11 or 12 point is acceptable. I strongly discourage you from going larger or smaller than those. If you are running out of room on a page, use Garamond as it is the most space efficient font.

Consistency of information: In addition to maintaining the sam font and size throughout your documents, stay consistent with the order of information you present.

If you have your name and contact information on each document, make sure that this is done in the same order, and same style from one document to another. This will help to identify your documents as yours.

Do not for example have your information listed this way on one document:

Caitlin Brown ~ 10 Church Street~ Alfred, NY 14802 ~ website~ email address~phone

Then label the next like this:

Caitlin Brown~Email~Website~phone~Address

Choose one order and stick to it.

The same goes for your reference lists and resumes- as well as from one document to another. Choose an order and stick to it!


Saving your Documents: It can sometimes get a little tricky keeping track of all your documents. Try to be disciplined in where you keep everything. It is best practice to keep a file for each of your specific documents:

  • Artist Statements
  • Resumes
  • Bios
  • Cover Letters

From there, organize how you like. I have another file in which I keep a complete copy of any given application I submit.  So, I have an Application folder in which I have a folder for each application labelled with the name of the place and the date. This way, I don’t accidentally mess up the format of my original document, but can save my files using whatever is called for in each specific application.

Master Copy: I keep each of my originals labelled in a consistent manner: Caitlin Brown Resume 2016, Caitlin Brown Artist Statement 2016, Caitlin Brown Bio 2016 etc.

*notice that I save my files with my name, the name of the document and the year- in my own files! This might seem strange, but in this way, if I need to send something quickly, I can send the files secure in the knowledge that my file will be identifiable to whomever will be receiving them. As an administrator and sometimes exhibition juror, I cannot tell you how often I have received files titles “resume”. These files, particularly when the application is for something with a large pool of applicants, can so easily be lost. Do not make your recipient retitle your documents. It’s annoying to them, and allows them to prejudge you, making room for some doubt in their mind about their ability to trust you as someone to work with. It’s also possible that they will lose your files. Every organization has a different system, but these files are often taken from the email and dumped into a large folder to be reviewed at a later date. if your document is simply labelled “resume” and yours is one of 5 “resumes” in that folder, your information might not be reviewed. 

Therefore, best practice is to ALWAYS label your documents with your name at the very least, and even better with the document type too

Content: Just as it is important to label your document files with your name, it is also important to label the document  content with your name and the very least your email address. It is best practice to have this in the header section of the document so that this will show up on every page. If you have more than one page, it is a good idea to also have page numbers. Imagine some poor soul carrying printouts of 100 applicants to the jury and dropping them! If you do not have your name on each page, and even better with page numbers, your work may not be reviewed. This seems like a silly scenario but trust me, I’ve worked behind the scenes for quite a while now …

Following directions, labelling your content thoroughly and consistently, maintaining consistent type face and font size, numbering your pages and the like does several things:

  • You clearly communicate with the reviewer that you are thoughtful, detail oriented and that you care a great deal about how you come across
  • You show respect for the rules laid out by the application, showing that you care- about yourself and the thing for which you are applying
  • You make life easier for whichever administrator is handling your application. The easier you make it for them (often a chain of people from intern, to administrative assistant, to juror(s)), you increase your chances of having your work seen and reviewed. If you make it difficult, they may -and often do- discard your application, making this a waste of time for all involved.

Printing: While most places are looking for digital files, you may need to print and send these via snail mail in some circumstances. When printing these documents, use high quality white paper. I strongly discourage you to use the cream colored resume paper you find at Staples and the like.  Make sure the ink in your printer is full.

Style: As not all systems are made alike- your reviewer may be using a PC while you use a MAC, stick with a simple, web safe, common fonts. These fonts are read easily by all operating systems and don’t typically reformat when opened with a different operating system. I recommend using one of the following:

  • Helvetica.
  • Arial. ABCDE
  • Times. ABCDE
  • Times New Roman.
  • Garamond
  • Verdana.
  • Tahoma.

I do not recommend using logos or fancy headers. Keep it simple. The information is the important thing.

Common Document types: Really pay attention to what the application calls for. Each organization is a little different. Some want PDF files and some prefer Word docs. There are benefits to both.  .doc files: most computers will open these files in one way or another without reformatting. PDF: some organizations struggle with keeping up with their Adobe software, making this a little glitchy for some. The benefit of a PDF file is if using Acrobat and not Professional, the document is automatically locked and cannot be changed- preserving your formatting and content.

You should maintain a current copy of your CV as a Word document because it is the easiest format to edit and update. PDF files are best to submit or display because spacing, margins, and formatting are retained across computer platforms. If no submission directions are given, or if an institution gives you the option of sending a Word document or a PDF, you should always choose to send a PDF.

If you have a Mac and do not have Microsoft Word, when you go to save your document, save in the .doc format rather than the .docx format. This is because Macs are able to read either format, while PC’s are not always able to read the .docx format.  Screen Shot 2015-12-22 at 11.18.06 AMIf you can’t save your document as  a pdf using the Save As function, you can go to File>Print (even if you don’t have a printer) and click the bottom left corner where you can save your document as a PDF.Screen Shot 2015-12-22 at 11.18.41 AM


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