How to Write an Amazing Artist Statement

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.

ArtsysharkArtistStatement

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!

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Comments

  1. I have written countless artist statements. I am always looking for ways to improve and I appreciate your input and suggestions! I am inspired to go back and rewrite! Thank you so much.

    Diane Miller

  2. Andrea Wenglowskyj says:

    Hi Diane,

    Thank you so much for the positive feedback! We’re glad this article inspired you and best of luck.

    Andrea

  3. Thank you for your input! I have incorporated art and business from the beginning . Yet still nothing like looking back for more critiques.
    Thank You,
    Phyllis

  4. Could you point me to an example of a good artist statement? I am struggling with revising my artist statement.

  5. Here is one statement I use, which galleries like to have when they send out artist brief introductions via different methods as e-mails to invitations: Try to avoid using “I like to, I was,that “I” if first person overdoing intro per sentence or your name repeated:-

    “Vesa Peltonen has dedicated not only his art, but also his life to protecting and celebrating human rights. His paintings have a softened Cubist,Colour field and Expressionist fusion feel about them: as if the viewer were examining not just the shapes themselves, but also their shadows and the shades of color, from all angles. Because the emphasis is placed on shades of striking colours, however, the images seem to float despite their underlying realism. Peltonen has been a dedicated artist with his whole career in many art areas,which he has found most rewarding.”

  6. Great guidelines for anybody looking to write (or rewrite) their artist statement.

    Many artists resist writing a statement on the pretenses that their work should only need to visually speak for itself. Not true! Artists should be very articulate, both verbally and in writing, about what makes them tick as artists. They should also have a well-thought out statement to describe their work to people. Yes, it allows them to be categorized; what’s so bad about that if you want that categorization, and if it helps your tribe discover you?

    • You’re right, Mike – it’s important for artists to be able to talk and write about themselves, their work, their inspiration and also how it relates to their potential collectors. An artist statement is a great way to share with others who want to know more about what you make and why. It should also be a work in progress itself, revisited every so often and rewritten as the artist evolves.

  7. I have just submitted my paintings for the January 2015 art show at the Del Ray Artisans Gallery in Alexandria, VA. It was requested that I submit a Biography and an Artist Statement. I’ve been thinking for two days on what to say in my Artist Statement as my interest, techniques, and processes have changed over the year. Thank You for publishing this article. Now I can get started with writing my Artist Statement. I’m a new subscriber to Artsyshark; the published articles are pertinent and so far very helpful to my endeavors as an artist. I’m glad I signed up. Happy New Year! All the Best in 2015!

    • Thank you Tina! Good luck getting into that art show. And, when you have your artist statement completed, you probably won’t have to revise it again until 2016. Check that off your list!

  8. Would it be appropriate to post a rough draft of my new artist statement for critique here? I have my first art show in years coming up and I have to have an artist statement so I revised mine.

  9. This is the best advice on writing an artist statement that I’ve ever seen! I was just able to write my statement in 48 hours thanks to this – I appreciate it so much! I’ll be sharing this with the readers on my blog: http://www.mandyfitzgerald.com/blog so that they too can benefit. Thank you!!

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