An artist statement is an easy-to-read and revealing “portrait” that expresses your artistic vision. There’s an unconscious language you use when speaking about your paintings, sculpture, furniture, etc… and when doing so you build the relationship between words and your art.
Your statement brings a vivid picture of a real person to the reader’s mind. In addition, as it’s the precursor to your visual impression, it gives your reader the opportunity to reflect upon your creations in a different perspective, the written word.
All in all, your artist statement helps collectors understand you and your art better and become more inclined to invest in you.
Don’t worry if you write “badly”. Give yourself permission to make mistakes. Struggling with the process will help you see the difference between a bad artist statement, an adequate one, and a great one.
Have someone who’s in the industry review your artist statement for you. If you’re lucky enough to know an art dealer or art patron, ask them for their thoughts.
Those reading your statement need to understand it easily, the first time.
- Write what you do
- Write how you do it
- Write why you do it
- Use specific ideas and as many senses as possible in your descriptions and accounts.
- Do not write, “I like painting.” Instead, write something that describes how the paint feels to you and how it feels when you work with it.
- Connect images and ideas – “The slow formation of my mind’s imagery on paper is as exciting the creamy merging of colors on my palette.”
- Link the beginning and the end of your statement by bringing an important word from the beginning to the end.
- Use polarities – opposites to create “drama”.
- Your best friend visits your studio for the first time. Quickly, how do you describe your work? What do you tell this person about your art? Begin writing and don’t stop.
- It is best to start with a long version of your artist statement, that way you can edit it down to a manageable size.
- An artist statement generally ranges between 100 – 300 words and no longer than a page.
- A longer artist statement might describe a large body of work, accompany an exhibition, or be used by curators, journalists, publicists, and critics.
- A shorter artist statement may address very specific information about a body of work and used as an introduction.
- A super-short artist statement, or “elevator speech” should be more-or-less memorized.
- Use 10 – 12 point type, not smaller or it will be difficult to read.
- Single space is the rule.
- Be simple, clear, and straightforward. Try not to overuse “art speak.”
- Vague, clichéd phrases leave readers with unanswered questions. ‘I’m inspired by nature.’ (What specific aspect and why?)
- Don’t instruct people on how to see, feel, behave, respond, or otherwise relate to your art. Instead, express your personal experiences and emotions.
- Connect what your art expresses with the medium that you’re expressing it in. For example, if your art is about world peace, and it consists of twigs protruding from pieces of clay, explain the connection.
- Arbitrarily stating that twig/clay protrusions represent world peace leaves people wondering. In order to succeed as an artist, someone beside yourself has to get the point of what you’re doing.
- Avoid comparative or evaluative comments that have been made about your art by third parties (teachers, gallery owners, critics, etc.).
- These belong in your curriculum vitae (CV). In your statement, they’re name-dropping; in your CV, they’re testimonials.
- Don’t sell. Give readers the option to agree or disagree with you.
- If you do include quotes, you must footnote the source.
While you’re working on it;
- Be honest and don’t lie or stretch the truth. You will be building a business relationship with people who read your documents and you don’t want to jeopardize that.
- Don’t force it.
- Be true to your own voice.
- Really look at the words you use. Try not to repeat them. Find a thesaurus and use it.
- Just like you create movement and work the composition in your work, same with your writing. Vary sentence structure and length so it doesn’t get boring, visually.
A really good way to begin writing your statement is to do so in a brainstorming session. Jot down everything that comes to mind about your work and pieces. It’s not about thinking things through but more about flow and concept.
You can start here; What does it look like? (Size, colors, shapes, textures, light, objects, relationships, etc.)
Make your description visual. What inspired the piece and/or where does the impetus for the piece come from, personally speaking? Talk about the work from a conceptual, thematic, and/or emotional point of view.
Is there a central or guiding image or idea? What are its different elements and how do they affect each other or interact? What kind of materials did you use/are you using to create the work? Why? What was the process of development for the work? How does the work use space/relate to the surrounding space?
What would be the ideal space in which to exhibit or present the work? How does this work fit into the overall flow of your development as an artist? Where does it fit into (or relate to) your awareness of other contemporary work?
Types of Artist’s Statements You Might Need:
- Full-Page Statement is what you will use most often. You’ll speak about your work, the methods, history, etc. It may also include specific examples of your current work or project.
- Short Statement is the full-page, abbreviated or is specific to the project-at-hand.
- Short Project Statement is about the specific project you are presenting.