Writing A Better Artist Bio
by Daric Gill
There are a couple pieces of writing that can greatly enhance an artist’s professional utility belt. Among those are the artist statement and artist biography. In this article, I’ll outline what makes a better artist bio and give several examples of what to avoid. This is a companion article to, “Writing An Effective Artist Statement”, which I feel is also a good resource to check out. Read onward for more.
Statement vs. Bio vs. Resume
A description of the relationship between you and your art; Why you make it.
A brief art-related description of your professional life as a person/artist; A personal conversation between you and your reader.
Artist Resume and/or CV
A formal presentation listing professional achievements and skills. For professional development, employment, or gallery relationships
Examples of What To Include
Section 1 - Name, type of artist, located where - Related background info - Pertinent training and education - How your unique inspiration ties together your skills and history
Section 2 - Past or current art-related highlights - Important collections, publications, awards - Significant projects coming up
1st Person vs 3rd Person Narrative
From personal experience, my bio is often lifted directly from my website verbatim and used by galleries and articles written by other people. For these instances, writing in a 3rd person narrative is quite handy. However, I occasionally change the bio to be 1st person if the documentation is in tandem with the work that is presented by me rather than a gallery. Third person is more versatile, but use your discretion per use.
1st person: "I hold an MFA from..." 3rd person: "Daric holds an MFA from..."
Current Themes & The Real Story of You
While you may have been great in high school art, it’s important to focus on who you are now. If you haven’t got a long list of personal achievements, find pleasurable ways to talk about how you’ve matured through life to get to the artist you are now. Find the story of you.
After spending 16 years amongst the coastal waters of Maine, Terrance found inspiration in the curves of the countless wooden boats lining the harbor. These compound curves can be seen in his current body of sculptures called, "Variations on The Nautilus."
General Things To Consider
– Avoid technical jargon
– Limit the usage of “I, me, my”
– Artist bio should change to suit your achievements and the current situation
– Don’t duplicate your artist statement writing (many times they are placed together anyway)
– Don’t pretend to be bigger than you are (I.e. “Stephan’s painting skills are unmatched”)
– Avoid a passive voice
– Keep your tone simple, clear, and unpretentious
Alternate Bios: Setting Word Limits
One of the best things that ever happened to my writing was a publication that asked for a 50 word bio. This took a whole day to pare down several paragraphs to 50 words. Since then, I keep several alternate bios on hand: 50 words, 150-200 words, and a whole page. It’s a good idea to stick to the 150-200 word limit for most applications.
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.
Once you’ve written your bio and artist statement, you’ll be done with the hard part. 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.