When I decided to become a painter, 14 years ago, I hired an artist consultant to write my artist statement. It was well written and served its purpose over the time I was painting. Now I am working in tin and don't have the cash flow I once had to hire someone for this task (I save any extra $ for the photographer). Could you tell me please, what is your best recommendation for writing one's own artist statement? Any guidelines to follow that you know of? I am at a loss here. Thank you for any suggestions you may have on this topic.
Sincerely, one of your fans,
Dear Lost for Words,
This is a great question because, other than your work itself, the Artist Statement is your best opportunity to connect with the viewing audience. People rely on the artist's statement to gain context and insights about the work. I love reading a superb statement. It is also one of my pet peeves when an artist allows a poor statement to be associated with an otherwise good work of art.
If words are going to represent your work, those words better be good, as good as your artwork. A personal guideline is that composing the artist statement should take about 5% of the overall time spent to make the piece. It may sound like a lot of time but remember that your audience may actually spend as much time reading your statement as looking at the work.
Each series or important piece should have its own specific artist statement. A good statement focuses on the artwork (not your life history or philosophy). While working on your piece, start writing down thoughts and bits that you’d like to include in the statement. Then organize these thoughts into a coherent statement as you finish the piece or immediately after. It will be more difficult (almost impossible) to remember your inspiration months later when you’re thinking about different work.
The investment of time could really pay off since the artist statement can be used in multiple scenarios including:
- Grant proposals;
- Submission to exhibitions;
- Exhibition proposals;
- Catalogs produced for an exhibition that includes your work;
- Submissions to publications such as books, or magazines;
- Information for lecturers, writers, reviewers, or bloggers talking about your work;
- Statements on your website;
- Information to post with your images on social networking sites.
Below are a few suggestions for a better artist statement. Since writing styles vary considerably, keep in mind that these are only suggestions.
One final thought, do not confuse your artist statement with your bio. The artist statement should be about your work only, and the inspiration behind it. Make your artist statement as inspiring and interesting as your work.
For more details and additional examples about artist statements check out my blog ASK Harriete at http://askharriete.typepad.com
TIPS for A GREAT ARTIST STATEMENT
1. The first line needs to convey the most important insight about the piece. Make the first line good enough to stand alone -- full of information, but not too long.
2. Use descriptive language. Explain the source or inspiration of some key details. Minimize the use of the words “I”, “my”, or “me“.
3. Connect with your audience by modifying your statement and writing style. The artist statement for a coffee table book should be engaging and entertaining. A statement for a grant application should be constructive and insightful. Think about what the audience would like to know. Ultimately you may need more than one version of your statement for each piece.
4. Keep your statement short, specific, and sincere preferably one paragraph or two very short paragraphs. Stay concise! Avoid repeating the same concept with different words – a common problem in artist statements.
5. Include STRONG CONTENT such as unique features, special techniques, themes, content issues, or historical origin of a technique. Do not mention old work, past exhibitions, or awards in your artist statement.
6. Never say anything negative or complain. Negative statements devalue you and your work. Everyone struggles with finding time to do their work.
7. Never puff up your statement with positive self appraisement. Such comments sound like bragging with no substance. Do not include statements about how you are attempting something. Be confident, either you are “there” or don’t say it.
8. NEVER write “No Statement” in a proposal requesting a statement. You will be immediately disqualified for failure to fulfill the requirements
9. Technicalities - have two or more people proofread your statement. Ask for constructive criticism and feedback.
10. Update your Statement. Each time you use the statement, reread it thoroughly as if it were your first time. Is there anything that might make it more relevant to the new audience?
This post was updated on December 22, 2021.