Oh boy! More writing! (Yay.) It might suck, but it’s kinda important for artists to prepare an Artist’s Statement. You’ll be asked for one from time to time from various sources, whether you like it or not.
Sure, you can not write one. You can be stubborn. You can be a smart-ass and write one that’s a big “fuck you” to the whole idea of one and the art world at large. Some places won’t mind or care. But you might turn others off too. I’m just offering help to those of you who feel like writing one.
The thing is, you probably shouldn’t prepare just one. You should have a few different ones or at least different versions of one—all of them short and to the point.
Personally, I don’t think this task is simple. Crafting it to be concise is an art in itself. I’ve seen artists ramble on for dozens of long paragraphs, trying to explain away who they are and what their art is all about, their parents and upbringing, toys they liked to play with, how sad they were when the family dog died, and how much they love their spouse. Maybe a touch of that is okay, but but no one wants to read all that. Not really. Galleries, in particular, are exceptionally busy and just don’t have that kind of time, if they can skim these things at all. Your art should speak for itself all in all.
Your main statement really should never be more than a few hundred words, and in fact, under 300 words is ideal. For instance, many granting and show applications will ask that you keep it under 300, and some might ask you to keep it under 150 words. A little longer one is fine for, say, your website, but galleries look at your website too, so keep that in mind.
What kind of information do you have to jam-pack into these limited words? The basics will do, but it’s still quite a lot, even though it’s a What-How-Why sort of formula.
For instance, some of the questions you should answer are, where are you from? What kind of education do you have? What sort of media do you work in? What inspires you/your artmaking? What’s your art philosophy, or what is your art about? And what are you trying to convey with your work? But you don’t even need to answer all of these.
You don’t have to describe what your art looks like because that will be apparent in the work itself. You may not need to mention the subject matter either unless you’re making a statement about WHY you’ve chosen to use it.
There’s a way to get to the final statement by first writing it all out and not giving a shit about how long it is and then editing it down later. After you get it all down, pick out the most important elements that answer the main questions. Pull those sentences out and word them concisely. Keep editing it until you can make it as short as possible. Try for under 300 words and see if you can do it. Then try to make an even shorter version at 150 words. This takes some doing.
The most important part of this statement is that it should be written, and sound like, YOUR voice. Don’t try to make it sound over-the-top artspeaky if you can help it. Try to sound like yourself best you can without sounding like a moron. Not to say you’re naturally a moron, I just mean you should make your spelling and grammar correct.
It’s probable that you will write and rewrite this thing many, many times over throughout your entire life! I’m for real. Different places will ask for it differently, and you might need to modify it depending on who you’re sending it to. It just turns out that way.
If you’re interested in mine, it’s here, but I rewrite it all the time. One of my shorter versions has the top two paragraphs cut. Another short version has variations of sentences from the middle two paragraphs, and so on. I’m always trying to improve on it.
Artist’s statements should be written in the first-person singular. An artist bio, which you’ll also need, should be written in the third person. In fact, it’s even better if a third person actually writes it! You really don’t want it to sound like you wrote it yourself. If you can, get another person who knows about your art to at least help you write it.
The bio needs to be professionally written objectively. It shouldn’t be clumsy at all or sound like your statement in any way. It should be crystal clear, very readable, and give basic information about you, your art, and your accomplishments. It needs to be relatively brief, like your statement.
If you don’t have “accomplishments” yet, that’s okay! You can still have a bio. It can replace your resume for a while until you build one. Instead of your accomplishments, write a little more about your background or how your art has impacted others. Write how you are still an emerging artist making your way onto the art scene, as you are a fresh voice. (This gives you a certain advantage in some ways.) There are all kinds of ways you can word it, almost like a press release. Without having a CV yet, the bio can be a lot more creative and more like an introduction to the artist. Get inventive!
Now, despite telling you to keep these things short and sweet, I sure didn’t keep this article that way, now did I? Ha ha. Still, I hope you paid attention and that you have a pleasant tomorrow.
I’ll be back Monday speaking on one of my favorite subjects: the internet! Woot woot! Hallah! Throw your hands in the air like you just don’t care…