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 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:
- Exhibition proposals;
produced for an exhibition that includes your work;
- Submissions to publications such as books, or magazine;
- Information for lecturers, writers, reviewers or bloggers talking about
on your web site;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
for A GREAT ARTIST STATEMENT
1. 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
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
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
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 proof
read your statement. Ask for constructive criticism and
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?