I've had a lot of requests lately from artists asking for help with writing their artist statements, so I'm reposting this article on the subject that I wrote several years ago for Art Calendar magazine. I hope it helps make the writing process easier for some of my followers!
Writing Your Artist Statement
By Annie Strack (c) 2007
Sooner or later every artist is asked to provide an artist statement. If you sell your work through galleries, you’ll find that most of them will ask you to provide a statement that they can refer to when talking about you and your work to a client. Art festivals sometimes require artists to display their statement in the booth. If you find yourself being interviewed by the media, the information in your statement helps to provide them with your background information and serves as a written resource for them to garner direct quotes. More importantly, buyers like to read them. As an artist, people are interested in you and what you do, and genuinely want to know.
There used to be a time when artists would fold their arms across their chest and haughtily say “my work speaks for it’s self.” In today’s world, that attitude and response finds little acceptance. An artist who is prepared and willing to talk about themselves and their art has a distinct advantage when it comes to promoting their art. The artist statement conveys that you are professional and serious about your career, passionate about your work, and dedicated to your creative mission.
The Artist Statement is one of the three basic building blocks of your marketing plan, the others being your resume and your biography. Your Statement is an essential component of your overall plan, explaining who you are, what you do, how you do it, and why you do it. It clarifies and explains your artistic mission, philosophy, and ideas to the reader, and also sometimes to you.
You can start the process of developing your Artist Statement by answering four basic questions:
- Who you are
- What you do
- How you do it
- Why you do it.
Write your answers in first person, using descriptive adjectives but leaving out any technical jargon that the reader may not understand.
Who are you?
Think about what has influenced you and your work. Have you lived in interesting places? Have family, friends, mentors, or schools influenced you? Have you had a life altering experience? Write a few sentences about how these, and other things, shaped who you are or guided your work. For example: “In the course of building my own boat and sailing it around the world, I spent several of the most inspiring years of my life on the islands of the Caribbean. The people I met and the places I visited influenced me tremendously, and stimulated my desire to record my travels in the form of art.” Or maybe: “As a child living in the remote mountains of Montana, I grew up surrounded by the unspoiled vistas of the wilderness. At an early age I acquired a passion for the environment, and often hiked the verdant trails sketching and painting the beauty of nature.”
What do you do?
Now write a few sentences about what you do; the style, genre, and subject matter of your art. For instance, “I paint tropical landscapes in an impressionist style, hoping to convey the beauty and lushness of the hot steamy jungles and sun drenched beaches.” Or, “I paint wildlife in its natural setting, to share with others the majesty of these creatures and the splendor of their environment.”
How do you do it?
Write a few sentences about your artistic process, from start to finish. Do you work in the studio, or on location? What media do you use, and how do you use it? Why do you prefer this media, subject, and style? For example: “I paint in the studio using reference photos gathered from my travels through the Caribbean. I choose to paint in oils because the richness and thickness of the paint allows me to build up the texture of the painting and express the vibrant deep colors of my subjects. I prefer to paint in the impressionist style, using broad loose brushstrokes to convey the sultry hot breezes of the tropics, and the dancing light and shadows of the tropical sun.” Or, “I travel the world on photographic safaris with my camera, to seek out my subjects in their natural habitat. I prefer to work primarily with colored pencils because it affords me the control to accurately capture details and to effectively portray the individual character and personality of each animal.”
Why do you do it?
Write a few sentences about your life as it relates to your art, and what message you are trying to convey to the viewer. Explain what you find to be rewarding or meaningful about your work. Think about your own emotional connection to your art, and what you want viewers to think or feel when looking at your art. Maybe you have a personal philosophy about life or art that you can share in your statement. Here are a few examples: “Each painting portrays my own private sanctuary, and I hope to share with others the peace and serenity I feel when I paint. I want the viewer to be able to take a vacation in my paintings, to escape to my tranquil beaches and stand with me under my swaying palms and tropical skies.” Or, “Each of these wildlife paintings is a way for me to share my passion for nature and the environment with others. I strive to raise the viewer’s awareness of our environment, and share with them the fragile and fleeting splendor of our natural resources.”
I’ve given you a few examples, now it’s your turn. Think about these four basic questions and jot down your own answers. Once you have all of your ideas written down, it’s time to string them together and arrange them into meaningful sentences and paragraphs that will fit onto one page as your finished Artist Statement. Compose it as if you were writing poetry, using descriptive words that paint an image in the readers mind of who you are, what you do, how you do it, and why.
Don’t forget, your artist statement, resume, and bio are useful tools that you can use and refer to when creating other promotional materials. Once you have these materials prepared, you can excerpt information from these documents for your future press releases, brochures, flyers, interviews, etc., making each of these processes simpler to accomplish.
This article was first published in Art Calendar magazine in 2007 and reprinted in the book (The Artists Guide To) Art Business and Marketing in 2008. Annie Strack is an Official Authorized Artist for the U.S. Coast Guard and has earned Signature Membership in eight artist societies. Her artwork has received hundreds of awards and hangs in more than 1,000 public and private collections worldwide. In addition to being a highly acclaimed juror for art shows and popular workshop instructor, she is the producer and host of Painting Seascapes in Watercolor, which is broadcast on television stations worldwide and also available on DVD. Annie draws experience from her former career in corporate management to build a successful art career, and she shares her knowledge of business and marketing in her articles for Art Calendar, Professional Artist, and The Crafts Report magazines.
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