Guest bloggers Sara Jones and Andrea Wenglowskyj, the team behind Kind Aesthetic, are long-time collaborators, artists and advisors who have put together a toolkit for visual and performing artists to achieve their professional goals.
Do you dread writing your artist statement? You know you have to write one, but are frustrated because time is scarce and your internal voice screams, “I’m an artist expressing myself visually – why do I have to write about my work?” You’re not alone. We want to flip that frustration to motivation by providing a step-by-step process to getting it done so your artist statement can win you more opportunities.
The reason to have a genuine, well written artist statement is because you want to provide insight for your viewers into who you are as an artist, your motivations and process – it’s a chance to tell the unique story behind your work that will set you apart from the rest. It’s an opportunity to instill trust in your audience and allow them to have an intimate conversation with you since you’re not there in person.
Here are some tips to keep in mind when writing your artist statement:
- The ideal length is one to three paragraphs.
- It should be in first-person.
- You should not tell your audience how to feel or what to look at.
- You want to inform your viewer but not overly explain things – leave room for the viewer to make his or her own connections.
- Ask yourself: Is this writing specific to my work or can it be about anyone’s?
- Don’t use phrases like: I hope, My work aspires to, My goal is, The Viewer will, These paintings (do something).
Here are steps to help you write a clear, concise artist statement:
Remember: The key to an amazing statement is to write A LOT, then edit, edit, edit. You should go through at least 3 drafts. This is not something you can do in an evening – it’s going to take time, so find the best time of day that works for you to write, such as over morning coffee. Write in a way that feels comfortable – type or write long hand.
- To begin, set a timer for 1 hour and answer these questions in great detail:
- What does your work look like?
- How do you make your work (process, medium, materials, how much time does it take, where do you make it, how it exists in space)?
- List your inspirations (art historical, personal, current events, motivating factors…anything!)
- Why do you make this work?
- When did you start making this work?
- Who is your ideal audience?
- What makes the work unique (is there a central idea or theme)?
- Take a break. It could be a lunch break or you may need to sleep on it. Trust your instincts, but don’t leave too much time between writing sessions.
- Next, set aside 1-2 hours, have beverages and snacks close by so you don’t distract yourself. Set a timer and use your notes from the questions above to start writing. Write your first draft until you feel like you have written everything you can about your work. Remember not to edit yourself or write in “art jargon.” Be silly, write in run on sentences, don’t worry about organization and just write. Push yourself even if it feels hard. Be yourself and don’t worry, no one will see this draft.
- Print out your first draft and sleep on it.
- Congratulations! You accomplished the hard part. Now read through your first draft several times and highlight parts that truly represent you and your work. Spend no more an than hour doing this. Remember if anything is confusing to you, it will be confusing to your readers. Look for moments of clarity.
- Next, transfer the highlighted parts of your first draft and copy them into a new digital document. It’s time to refine. Keep refining until you have something you’re happy with that includes a strong first paragraph. This may take two more drafts with breaks in between.
- Read it aloud to yourself. Does it read clearly? If so, send it to trusted friends for some honest feedback. Give them a deadline of 1-2 days. Keep your momentum.
- The final step will be to ask someone else to edit your statement for spelling and grammar.
Once it’s finished:
- Once your statement is done, you need a shortened version of 30-50 words to include in some applications, on your website, or for interviews.
- You should have a statement for each project or body of work in addition to an overall artist statement. These will come in handy when applying to different opportunities.
- Update it on your website and elsewhere!
We hope these suggestions will help you write a strong, genuine artist statement. If you’re still struggling with writing about your work or want expert feedback and guidance about how to best communicate what you do online, in writing and in person, check out the DELVE Toolkit. Good luck!