While I was recovering from shoulder surgery I took some time and updated my artist statement and bio. I like to re-visit my artist statement and bio every so often so that when I need them they reflect where I am and what I am doing as an artist. At some point in your artistic journey you will probably need to write an artist statement whether it’s for a specific piece of artwork or a general statement for a website or exhibit catalog. A well written statement can create a bridge for the viewer to connect with your artwork.
What the difference between an artist statement and a bio?
An artist statement is a one to three paragraph description that gives the reader insightful information about the inspiration, techniques, tools and materials and processes that you used to create your art. Think of it as an opportunity to give the viewer some insight into your artistic process and the story or philosophy (if there is one) behind your artwork. A bio is typically short, 2 or 3 sentences and may include highlights from your resume such as exhibitions, books, your education and awards. Your artist statement is where you include highlights of your techniques, materials, inspiration, motivation and processes. Your artist statement should always be written in the first person vs the third person style used for a bio.
Don’t rush it!
Writing an artist statement takes time and it’s not something you should rush to jot down in a hurry 10 minutes before you need it. You may have to write and edit several drafts of your statement before you have one that you’re happy with. Here are four key points to keep in mind before you begin writing:
1: Keep it simple
Your statement is your opportunity to tell people the how and why about your art. It should be written as if you were standing next to the person having a conversation about your artwork.
2: Tell the reader why you do what you do
Why do you choose to create this kind of art and use the techniques and materials that you do? Use this as an opportunity to include information about your motivation to create a piece of work for a particular subject matter or what or who inspired you to create it.
3: Give the reader a glimpse of how you do what you do
Don’t write a tutorial! Keep it to the primary techniques and materials used. Maybe you dyed the fabrics, used paint, screenprinting, unconventional materials, found objects, or used some other techniques to create your art.
4: Keep it short
If your statement is too long you will lose the readers attention. The purpose of your statement is not to tell the reader about your entire artistic journey or talk about your degrees, hobbies, and all the art techniques you’ve explored over the years. Keep it to 3 paragraphs or less and relevant to the art that you’re making now.
If you’re having trouble getting started on your first draft begin by writing some individual sentences or words about your work. Just get some thoughts down on paper to use as a jumping off point. It might help to treat it like an interview and ask yourself some questions:
How do I begin a piece of artwork?
What techniques do I use and why?
What materials do I use and why?
What about my process do I want the reader to know?
What is my inspiration?
What story am I trying to tell?
Is there a certain color pallet I use – why?
What 5 words would I use to describe my artwork?
Is there a central image or idea in my work?
Once you have some answers on paper go back and read through them and start to put them together to form your first draft. Your first draft will be messy and disconnected and that’s okay. Edit, refine and rewrite!
While there are some artists who think that their art speaks for itself and therefore they don’t need an artist statement that’s really just an excuse to avoid writing one. The truth of the matter is, that if you want to provide your viewer or potential customer a way to connect with your art beyond just looking at it then you need to be able to write about it. When your art is on display at an exhibition or gallery you may not always be able to be there in person to talk about it so your artist statement has to do that for you.
If you would like help writing your artist statement book a coaching session with me.