Writing An Effective Artist Statement
An artist statement is an essential tool in the art world. But what exactly should you include or leave out? In this article, I’ll demystify the writing process so you can build an effective artist statement.
This is the companion article to, “Tips For Writing A Better Artist Bio”. I encourage you to also breeze by that article if you’d like some additional pointers. Read onward for some tips for writing an effective artist statement.
Artist Statements: A Story About The “Why”
Artist statements are generally a couple paragraphs explaining why you make the artwork you do. But before we get too deep, let’s take a step back and get some grounding. Go into your studio or find a way to spread out your work so you can see many pieces at once. Bring a coffee or your favorite beverage and just write down the obvious stuff first.
– What is it? (paintings, sculptures, electronics work, jewelry, etc.)
– Name a theme or two you see.
– In those 1-2 themes, describe what it looks like. Is it colorful, big/small? What materials do you use?
– What is it about? Imagine I’m blind folded. Describe to me in a few words if it’s political, environmental, social, mood-based, etc.
– How do you make your artwork?
– What or who are your obvious influences? (materials, art movements, relevant outside influences)
– What keeps you coming back to art making?
– Where is it going?
The artist statement is requested to go along side submitted or featured artwork. If the work doesn’t match the statement, there’s a problem. Collect your thoughts. The themes or elements in your writing should be seen in the work sitting right next to the statement.
Organizing What We Already Know
Before we get to grammatical structure, let’s just write down what we’ve already collected in the above exercise.
Paragraph 1: - Type of art you make and how you make it - A description of what it looks like and how it translates the themes you stated - How your influences keep you coming back
Paragraph 2: - Elaborate how Paragraph 1 can be seen in the work and how it's unique - Where the work is headed (without "I hope" or "I will")
Say It In Your Active Voice
With so many advances in technology, you have plenty of ways to make the tone of your writing sound like the way you talk. If you can’t seem to type as fast as your mind works, most computers and phones these days have speech-to-type abilities. Or maybe you want to record your voice describing the work and play it back for easy notation. And of course, there’s always personal dictation. Simply have a friend listen to you and write a few points of interest. There are also plenty of dictation apps out there that are just a keyword search away. Calmly talk about your work in your best active voice.
Get To The Point…Without You
Now that you have a rough draft, it’s time to make this enjoyable for the reader. Remove you and add your audience. We know you “like _______”, “are interested in _______”, and are “passionate about _______”. It’s hopefully pretty understood if you spent all this time making it into artwork. Let me show you how much better it is without it.
I'm passionate about landscapes because they show the tranquility of nature. I use a subtle color palette to show how I'm interested in the beauty of peaceful surroundings.
Through the use of a subtle color palette, you are invited into the tranquil surroundings of these landscapes.
General Things To Consider
– Avoid technical jargon
– Limit the usage of “I, me, my”
– Artist statement should change to suit the work
– Don’t include biographical information (save that for the bio, resume, or CV)
– Avoid a passive voice
– Keep your tone simple, clear, and unpretentious
Proof reading is one very simple, yet commonly over-looked steps. Have at least 3 people look over your writing before calling it finished. Explain to your readers what they need to be on the lookout for. One really clever tip: I often utilize the speech capabilities of my computer to read my writing back to me. It’s not a perfect system, but it can very easily point out typos and sentences that might ramble on.
Now that you’ve written your bio and artist statement, you’ve got the hard part done. Use this momentum to keep these documents updated. It’s far easier to update in small portions than to re-write them from scratch once they are too outdated.