An Artist Statement and Bio, what are they, why do you need one and how to go about writing them.
An artist’s statement is a short, written piece about your artwork, your art practice and an opportunity to briefly discuss the thought process behind making your work.
If you are struggling to write one for your own practice, my first suggestion would be to go online and read as many different artist’s statements as you can and see if you find something which resonates with you.
You will find that these statements are as varied and diverse as the artists who have produced them so as there are no hard and fast rules.
My comments and advice here are my own suggestions and should not be taken as gospel. There is more advice available but if you are just getting started my advice will point you in the right direction.
If you are planning on entering art shows, competitions etc. you will be asked to provide a statement along with examples of your work. This statement can also be used on your website, in press releases and at exhibitions where the organisers want information about the artists on display.
Depending on the event, you are likely to be asked for statements perhaps with as few as 100 words, or maybe 200 or 500 words or with no restrictions.
My advice is to start out and produce a 1000-word statement which can then be ‘edited’ down as necessary.
An artist statement is a way of introducing your work, the motivation behind it and your methodology or working practice. Its purpose is to give the reader an insight into your work, how you work, your methods and where your influences come from.
When writing your statement, use plain English when-ever possible. If there is a particular concept or method which uses ‘in-speak’, explain it clearly remembering that although your audience may not be specialists in your field, they don’t want to be made to feel stupid, so keep it simple but informative.
Be honest about what you do and where you are in terms of your artistic journey: most people can see through over-inflated egos and grandiose claims.
Explain why you make your work, where your influences have come from and where you see your work going in the future. Having a future vision also tells the reader that you are here to stay. Stay focused on your work and don’t wander off into a philosophical debate. The statement is about you and your work and should be written in the first person.
The following list of suggestions provides questions you should be considering when producing your statement.
- What medium/media do you work with?
- Do you work in other media too?
- Is there a crossover between the media you use?
- Why do you use this medium/media?
- Do you mix these media together? Why?
- Is one medium used for a specific type of work, what is the relationship here?
- Where do your ideas come from and how are they influenced by your chosen media?
- Are there any specific issues around the way you work? I have a friend who works with rust, so her summer is spent turning fabric and paper into rusted pieces which she spends the winter turning into wonderful artworks.
- Does your work have a message?
- Is your work influenced by something in particular, e.g. climate change, the war on plastics or is it the product itself?
The things you should not include in your artist statement are:
- Your working career as an artist or prior to being an artist;
- Your qualifications;
- Exhibitions in which you have taken part.
This information belongs in a CV or your biography, a completely different document – see below for more about this.
You can however include any TV, press coverage or critical reviews. Here you should always write in the third person.
Your artist’s biography should summarise noteworthy information about your art career and should always be written in the third person.
The following information should be included in your bio:
- Your place of birth;
- Your current location;
- Your art education, i.e. self-taught or formal education;
- When you first become interested in art;
- What your influences are and from where you draw your inspiration;
- Your media and techniques and why you use them;
- Significant artists you have worked under;
- Awards and prizes you have won;
- Exhibitions in which you have taken part. List this in order with the latest at the top of the list;
- Where your work is, countries in which you sell and collections you are included in, both public and private.
This document should also be listed on your website.
Finally, if you are feeling overwhelmed by the thought of doing this or if you don’t feel that you could write this yourself, ask someone to do it for you.
We all know people who have far better writing skills.
I have two wonderful men who check my written work for grammar and spelling. They are both far better in that area than I am and that’s fine.
They get to feel useful, wanted, needed and sometimes superior to me, but I still get what I need; accurate documents which I am happy to share with anyone who is interested.
They will both have checked this blog too, so thank you both of you. X
P.S. They were both unhappy to share a X so to keep them both sweet here are a mass of kisses or X’s to keep them happy.