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Top tips for artists #5 - Writing an Artist Statement and a Biography

We continue our top tips for artists. Next up is how to write an artist statement and biography (bios).



Artist statement

Writing an artist statement can be a daunting and intimidating experience. Here are some simple tips to help break down the task to make it a more manageable and less overwhelming experience.

- An artist statement is a 100-300 word text, 2-3 paragraphs about your work, in first or third person - make sure it’s not a mixture of both.

- It should be about the artwork you make and why you make it.

- It is developed to enrich a viewer’s knowledge of your work by providing a genuine understanding of your motives for producing the work you do.

- It should be written by you the artist, not by an academic or art critic. It should avoid delving heavily into art theory unless it has a direct connection to your studio practice.

- Don’t write what you think people want to hear - write about what is authentic to the work.

- An artist statement should use articulate and succinct language, avoid art jargon and clichés. Your language should be well-defined, using visual and tonal adjectives and descriptions, think about the feelings and responses you want your viewer to take away. It is not an exercise in creative writing, or a display of your academic writing abilities or a chance to get the thesaurus out. Big words don’t make it clever

- It should be about your art - not you personally. Keep anything private out, no one needs to know your shoe size. Your artist statement does not gain anything by letting the viewer into your personal world. Its purpose is to help an audience understand your work better, not you as an individual.

A good old-fashioned brainstorm is a great way to get started. Throw words down that explain everything about your work. Consider the following

- What medium do you work in?


- How do you make your work?


- Why do you make this work?


- What are your influences and inspirations?


- What is your process?

The text should respond to the current direction of your work.

Next start crafting these words into sentences. Don’t worry about putting them into paragraphs yet, just get sentences together and once you have a few dozen down you’ll be able to see where and how they connect. Sometimes writing in third person can be easier than first and later you can switch it to which ever you prefer. Take breaks if the task is getting too arduous. Write a few sentences per day. Give yourself time to think and reflect what you are writing. Or free write and just put anything you can down, then edit it later.

Once you have up to three paragraphs written it’s time to edit. When editing keep anything you take out of the text in another spot on the page so you can go back and add it back if need be. Once you have perfected your text you can delete what wasn’t used. Remove any repetition.

Read your statement out loud to get a sense of how it is flowing and if it feels like you. Get a number of people to read it and provide constructive feedback. Have a friend who is good at editing and grammar proofread it.

As listed in Top tips for artists #1 – First Impressions - Written Submissions – always spell check for typos.

Biography

A biography is a text that summarizes your CV, this is usually written in third person.

It’s good to have a few different versions at different word counts. Say 300, 150 and 50. Here we’ll go through the long version which will be around three paragraphs in length. To get to shorter word lengths you could try keeping only your most significant achievements or cut it back to only the last five years, dependent on what works best for your practice.

The first paragraph should introduce yourself. Your name, medium and some general background information. This can include where you were born, where you work, where you studied, detailing your degrees.

The second paragraph should list previous creative activities - solo and group exhibitions, awards and professional achievements, important public art commissions and any significant collections your work has been acquired by etc.

Finally, the third paragraph focuses on the most recent, current and forthcoming creative activities (as above exhibitions, awards, achievements, commissions, accolades etc. It’s great to finish this paragraph off with news of exciting projects in the pipeline.

Always keep it up to date - it’s never a good look to send out a biography that is two years out of date. If you have biographies on gallery webpages make sure they have your most recent version.

Edit. Use correct punctuation and be consistent. If you have decided to list solo exhibitions like this –

Solo exhibitions include: In the city, Art Space (NYC, 2019)

don’t change group exhibitions to –

Ground exhibitions include - ‘In the City’, Art Space Gallery in New York City, 2019.

If you are italicising exhibition titles keep them italicised throughout; if you are putting dates in brackets, put all dates in brackets, etc. Ensure to include the most important and significant information. If you have a long practicing history you could consider including only the last 10 - 15 years, plus any really significant projects that pre-date that. commission.


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