Write an Artist’s Statement

For most artists, facing a blank page is more intimidating than starting a new painting!  We can ’deal’ with artist’s block, but writer’s block too! But the reality is – all successful or aspiring artists need an ‘artist’s statement.’

What is an ARTIST’S STATEMENT?

Simply put, an artist’s statement is a short piece written for your viewers to answer questions they may have about you and your art. The artist’s statement is a vital marketing tool used to promote you and your work to potential buyers, critics, fellow artists, friends and exhibition curators.  It should be informative and add to the understanding of the artist in an easy, concise manner.  Much of it is personal choice, but here are some art industry suggestions.

The process:

  • Write a rough draft
  • Start with the pertinent and fill in details
  • Where you were born (if necessary) career, influences, education and finish with current working life (this is written more like a list than a bio or resume)
  • Keep it in chronological order
  • Include objectives and goals together (near the beginning)
  • Include interests and influences together
  • Experiences and activities should be together
  • Remember your audience and their interests
  • Connect your ideas
  • Check your spelling and grammar
  • Proof read it at least two times
  • Have a friend read it
  • Final draft
  • Save!

And yes, as your art changes – so will your artist’s statement

Some DO’s:

  • Describe your creative process
  • Who inspires you?
  • Why do you create and what does it mean to you?
  • Describe your philosophy and passion
  • What inspires you?
  • Is there a message?
  • Answer questions about your art
  • Put your art into words ( this can be difficult!)
  • What techniques, style and mediums are used?
  • What are your future goals?
  • Mention significant awards, exhibitions and important collections
  • Use language for non-artists! Don’t get too flowery or technical
  • Keep it 3 paragraphs or less (100 words or up to one page)
  • Some of the best statements can be only 3 to 5 sentences!
  • Read other successful artists’ statements for inspiration
  • Use informal first person, “I” or “Me” for website or blogging use
  • Use formal third person, “Name” or “He/She” for exhibition, grant and gallery use
  • Consider your audience – you might have 2 or 3 versions that you use
  • Use PMI: This means PLUS, MINUS, INTERESTING. This gets you thinking metacognitively which means ‘thinking about thinking’…Next time you finish a painting, write down one positive thought about the piece, one negative thought and one interesting though you had while creating the piece.  File this information for your next artist’s statement draft!

Some DON’T’s:

  • An artist’s statement is NOT a resume
  • It is NOT a biography
  • Don’t catalogue works
  • Don’t be funny
  • Don’t be pretentious
  • Don’t jump around from idea to idea
  • Don’t be afraid to ask what the event, gallery or exhibition is looking for in a statement

In today’s world, artists are expected to do more than just create.  We stretch and prepare canvases, frame paintings, ship them, sell and market our work and ourselves while trying to stay current within the art market. And…most of us don’t have the luxury of a personal assistant or secretary. If you really get stumped you can hire someone to help you write for you.  Try using a secretarial service, a college student, or an unemployed writer or journalist.  Remember, a good artist’s statement can often mean the difference between getting accepted or rejected for a show or gallery.

Happy Writing – Lori 🙂

For some more art business advice: The Right Art Gallery – How I Found Mine or 3 Tips for Artists to Promote Themselves or Their Galleries

 

2010-08-12T11:34:49+00:00 May 5th, 2009|Art Business Tips, General|12 Comments

12 Comments

  1. Bev March 20, 2009 at 5:13 am

    Great post with very helpful information. Artists usually are not also writers.

  2. Ana March 22, 2009 at 4:58 pm

    Thanks Lori, is a very interesting information

  3. Steve April 11, 2009 at 11:55 pm

    Good advice for a straight statement Lori. But you can also break all those rules fantastically and get away with it (once you’re established). I’ve got away with murder in mine sometimes (I also like to change my statement entirely from time to time!) Thanks for showing me the proper way tho – might try that and see if I dont get more peeps take me seriously! Thanks. (Saw yr Tweet this morn)

  4. Molly Gordon July 16, 2009 at 12:22 pm

    What a good summary, Lori. I’d like to share another resource from my Web site. It’s a free guide to writing an artist’s statement including several examples. And folks don’t even have to give up their name or email address. ♥

  5. Tyler Vo September 15, 2009 at 10:28 am

    Very good, this will help not only artists but everyone.

  6. […] your customer/collector or gallery? What makes you unique and collectable? Do you have a strong artist’s statement? Speak and write passionately about your art and your clients will be drawn to your […]

  7. […] your customer/collector or gallery? What makes you unique and collectable? Do you have a strong artist’s statement? Speak and write passionately about your art and your clients will be drawn to your […]

  8. Cheryl Winston January 20, 2010 at 9:38 am

    “Remember, a good artist’s statement can be often mean the difference between getting accepted or rejected for a show or gallery.”

    In the 20 galleries I sell my art, never once did the gallery owner ask me for an “artist statement”.
    In fact in nearly 20 years of selling art I have never been asked by any gallery for an artist statement. They look at the art and decide if they like it, does it fit in their gallery and can they sell it.

    I can`t ever imagine a gallery saying “We love your art and think we could sell lots of it, but your aritst statement is so weak that we can`t show you in our gallery.”

    • Lori McNee January 20, 2010 at 10:38 am

      Hello Cheryl-

      You disagree with this statement, “Remember, a good artist’s statement can often mean the difference between getting accepted or rejected for a show or gallery.”

      I have a close relationship with my gallery owners and directors and spoke to them prior to writing this article, they all agreed that a good statement and portfolio can be the deciding factor that sets the artist a part from the pack. The galleries get dozens of submissions a week and at times, a strong statement will make a difference. Also, every juried museum show I’ve ever been involved in requires one as well.

      This article is a way to help artists with the discomfort of writing. It is difficult to put our art into words and a thought provoking artist’s statement can be powerful.

      BTW…thanks for catching that typo as you quoted in your comment above! Glad that was not my artist’s statement! lol

      Lori

  9. […] article the other day written by artist Lori McNee that I want to pass on to you about writing an artists statement.  I’ve always been puzzled by this request, I have a biography and a resume, what else do […]

    • Lori McNee January 29, 2010 at 8:58 am

      Thanks for linking your article back to my post on an Artist’s Statement. I apprecieate it! Lori

  10. […] difference between one artist getting put on versus another. Having a well-developed and concise artist statement, an “elevator speech” for those impromptu inquiries in random conversations, even a […]

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