Pull out a pen and some paper, cause we are going to confront an essential task with unadulterated confidence. Here are my seven savvy tips to writing an absorbing artist statement that will perk the minds of gallery curators and shrewd art collectors.
What Is An Artist Statement?
An artist's statement is an artist's written description of their work. The brief verbal representation is for, and in support of, his or her own work to give the viewer understanding. As such it aims to inform, connect with an art context, and present the basis for the work; it is therefore didactic, descriptive, or reflective in nature.
I know, your anxiety levels are peaking through the roof right about now, but no worries, I have some reliable solutions to ease the onslaught of overwhelming frustration.
For many artists, it is an unnatural encounter to describe the meaning of their visual work in words. It almost seems like an oxymoron, but penning your statement is necessary for everything from grant proposals to curated gallery exhibitions. Especially if you plan, or want to be viewed as a professional in the art world.
This document will greatly influence how people view your work, whether you agree, or not. A dull statement for exhilarating artwork can do a great disservice to the artist—and I’m afraid the world is full of uninteresting artist statements full of theoretical language that does not precisely represent the work. The key here, is to engage your viewer. Capture their attention and make them, want to know, or see more. Not an easy feat.
Here is my statement for my "Famous Faces" series.
"Quietly observing the chaos around me; I’m fascinated by the simplicity, yet the overall complexities of the world.
With diverse influences as Elton John and Clint Eastwood, my "Famous Faces," Spontaneous Realism series juxtapositions representational art with fluidity and vulnerability apparent in abstract-expressionism. Splashes of vivid color along with dynamic brushwork fuse vigorous combinations synthesized from opaque and transparent layers enhanced into a prestige manifesto.
By reconnoiter the relentless credo of Pop-culture and the emotional reminiscence of celebrity icons from decades past. Only leaving a sense of decadence and the chance for a new understanding. As momentary derivatives become static through emergent and various practice, the keen observer is left with a subtle clue to cultures that are fading away."
1. Deep Dive Into Your Creative Mind.
First things first, relax. Get yourself in a calm state of mind. Find a quiet place, perhaps your studio to sit and reflect upon your work. You need to get an overview - If you try to jump right into your statement you might miss connecting the reader to overarching themes.
Mind maps are great, but simple brainstorm strategy that really work. Things you want to ask yourself are - How does your work connect? What repeats? What collides together and stands out? What is your most unique? The answers to these questions are likely the meaty guts of your statement. This simple strategy can kick-start the process in a fun, lighthearted way.
2. Have A Friend, Or Family Member Interview You
Sometimes mind mapping isn’t enough because you can get trapped in the same words over and over. It can be difficult to get out of your head. So I suggest asking a friend, or family member to interview you about your art.
Have them ask you questions that they truly are interested in knowing and answers those questions with honest integrity and will will discover things about yourself and your art you may not have thought of before.
Now Sure What Questions to Ask? Here’s a Starting List:
Who is your intended audience?
Who are your art influences?
Explain your work as if to a child.
How do you make your work?
How do your materials impact your concept?
How is your work unique?
Why is your work on a particular theme?
3. Outline Necessary Information
Your artist statement needs specific information. It can be helpful to make an initial list of essential information which becomes the foundation for your statement. By clearly stating this information, your writing can be more concise. I would strive to make your statement no more than 150 to 200 words. Shorter is better. Think of it like an elevator pitch, you have thirty seconds to sell me on your concept and make me want to buy your art.
4. Avoid Jargon
Avoiding jargon doesn’t mean dumbing down your writing for a mass audience either. It means using the most specific language with economy.
5. Write in the “Active” First-Person Voice
Using the active voice in your writing accomplishes a few things. It allows your writing to be as brief as possible. It also keeps your work in the present. This makes it feel current, important, and urgent which is especially impactful when applying for grants, or residencies.
Because this is a statement from the artist, it should also be written in first person. Your experiences and your thoughts. Not third-person from an outside point-of-view.
6. Use Proofreaders—at Least Three!
There are few documents more important than your artist statement. Honor its importance by scrutinizing it with a fine-tooth comb. Try to choose proofreaders with different skills. Include someone who understands your art work, someone who’s an expert writer with great grammar and lastly, someone who doesn’t know your work. Make sure not every person is an artist—readers should be able to understand your statement without knowing all the references, or terms in the art world.
7. Create Different Versions for Different Opportunities
Artist statements are the cover letter of the art world and just like a cover letter, you should modify your statement for different applications. This doesn’t mean adjusting what your work is about, it means shortening, or lengthening it depending on requirements of the application. It could also mean emphasizing different aspects of your work.
I will also be scribing a blog post in the near future about writing your artist bio and it's importance in your artist marketing bag. An essential document that goes hand-in-hand with your statement. So stay tuned for that.
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