Writing Your Artist StatementGood habits start early.
- You will survive writing your artist statement.
- Reflecting on why you’re an artist and what makes you tick is hard work.
- Professional artists make art on the regular. Post your stuff!
At this point in the semester, you should be doing the following each week. The work in this class builds over the semester, but you should be continuing to build the following into your own practice on a regular basis.
Share Your Process
Think About Money Sometimes
Connect with Other Artists
Care for and Feed Your Website
Write About Your Practice in Some Way
Your artist statement will never be done. You should be in a constant state of drafting this particular document. My advice is to always have a document with the following 3 things:
A 2 sentence version.
A 1-paragraph version
A 500 word version.
The following is excerpted from GYST (Getting Your Sh*t Together) and it’s a great summary of what an artist statement is and is not. I’ve replaced some of their advice with my own and it’s in red.
What Is an Artist’s Statement?
[This would be for your longer, 500 word version]
- A general introduction to your work, a body of work, or a specific project.
- It should open with the work’s basic ideas in an overview of two or three sentences or a short paragraph.
- The second paragraph should go into detail about how these issues or ideas are presented in the work.
- If writing a full-page statement, you can include some of the following points:
- Why you have created the work and its history.
- Your overall vision.
- What you expect from your audience and how they will react.
- How your current work relates to your previous work.
- Where your work fits in with current contemporary art.
- How your work fits in with the history of art practice.
- How your work fits into a group exhibition, or a series of projects you have done.
- Sources and inspiration for your images.
- Artists you have been influenced by or how your work relates to other artists’ work. Other influences.
- How this work fits into a series or longer body of work.
- How a certain technique is important to the work.
- Your philosophy of art making or of the work’s origin.
- The final paragraph should recapitulate the most important points in the statement.
What an Artist’s Statement is NOT:
- Pomposity, writing a statement about your role in the world.
- Grandiose and empty expressions and clichÃ©s about your work and views.
- Technical and full of jargon.
- Long dissertations or explanations.
- Discourses on the materials and techniques you have employed.
- Poems or prosy writing.
- Folksy anecdotes about some important event in your life.
- Nothing about your childhood or family unless it is very relevant to your work.
- Not a brag fest or a press release.
[But it’s totally cool to start with all of these things if that’s what you need to do!! That’s what revision is for.]
Why Write an Artist’s Statement?
- Writing an artist’s statement can be a good way to clarify your own ideas about your work.
- A gallery dealer, curator, docent, or the public can have access to your description of your work, in your own words. This can be good for a reviewer as well.
- Useful in writing a proposal for an exhibition or project.
- It is often required when applying for funding.
- It is often required when applying to graduate school.
- It can be a good idea to include an artist’s statement when your slides are requested for review or your work is included in the slide library of a college or university. [Lol. I don’t think this really happens anymore. But they might ask you for digital images!]
- Good to refer to when you are preparing a visiting artist lecture, or someone else is lecturing or writing about your work.
- Useful when you are applying for a teaching position.
- Good idea when a press release is being written.
- Useful when someone is writing about your work in a catalog or magazine.
- Useful when someone else is writing a bio for a program brochure.
- It is a good way to introduce your work to a buying public. Often the more a buyer knows about your work the more they become interested in what you do, and in purchasing a work.
- [It’s required for this course.]
How Should I Write It?
- This most often depends on the context where it will appear. Who is your reader? What assumptions can you make about their knowledge?
- Emotional tone
- Theoretical (but not over-the-top)
- Academic (but not dry)
- Ask yourself “What are you trying to say in the work?’ “What influences my work?’ “How do my methods of working (techniques, style, formal decisions) support the content of my work?’ “What are specific examples of this in my work’ “Does this statement conjure up any images?’
- Use [Google Docs] so that you can make changes and update it often. You should [make yearly copies] so that you can refer to them if you should need to write or talk about your older work or if you have a retrospective.
- Refer to yourself in the first person, not as “the artist’. Make it come from you. Make it singular, not general, and reflective of yourself and your work.
- Make it clear and direct, concise and to the point.
- It should not be longer than one page.
- Use no smaller than 10 — 12 point type. Some people have trouble reading very small type.
- Artist’s statements are usually single-spaced.
- Do not use fancy fonts or tricky formatting. The information should wow them, not the graphic design.
- Be honest.
- Try to capture your own speaking voice.
- Avoid repetition of phrases and words. Look for sentences that say the same thing you said before, but in a different way. Choose the better of the two.
- Vary sentence structure and length. The length of a sentence should relate to the complexity of the idea.
- Organization of detail is important. Significant ideas should be at the end of each sentence for emphasis.
Where Should It Go?
- In a binder at the front of the gallery with your resume, list of artworks, and past reviews or articles about your work. [Hahahaha. I’m leaving this one in just for fun. Put it in a binder if you want but ALL of these things need to be on a website because it’s 2019. Some galleries may post a statement on the wall during solo exhibitions, but for the most part your statement will be digital.]
- You may want to hang it on the wall, regular size, or enlarged as a didactic statement. [Again, this is kind of old school, but you may want to put it up in your studio to help you focus your work.]
- Include it in a program for performance, screening, or panel.
- In the application package of the grant you are applying for. [Leaving this one in for fun as well. I’ll give you a quarter for every grant application you can find that prefers mail-in submissions.]
- Give to anyone who you feel would benefit from the information.
Writing a Draft
Just sit down and start writing. I really don’t have any better advice than that. If you need me to sit with you while you write for 30 minutes, I’m happy to arrange 1:1 meetings and I’ll cheer you on the whole time. If you’re really struggling, sit down with the very specific intent of putting two pages of bad writing down. That can sometimes take the pressure off and give you the psychological space to write. Those two pages will clear the cobwebs at the very least, and if you’re lucky something good might actually appear buried in the bad writing. You can even use something like 500 Letters to help you get started.
All of my artist statements since 2006.
ArtsPartner.org Artist Statements: A Quick Guide
Agora Gallery: How To Write An Artist Statement: Tips From The Art Experts
Artsy: 4 Tips for Writing a Good Artist Statement
Art Business.com: Your Artist Statement: Explaining the Unexplainable
Renee Phillips Artrepreneur Coach
How to Write Your Artist’s Statement
Art and Artist’s Statements — Quotes by Famous Artists
Art-write book: https://www.amazon.com/Art-Write-Writing-Guide-Visual-Artists/dp/1937303128
Art-write book website: https://artwritebook.com
A few things you should be prepping for and working on.
You now have 3 pages Continue polishing your photos and adding them to your website.
A draft isn’t perfect. It isn’t finished. It isn’t polished. Drafting over and over is key to a good artist statement. Walk away from it and come back to it. Have a friend read it. Revise and draft again. Writing is a practice in the same way making art is a practice.