Crafting the Artist Statement
Posted on: June 23, 2015 by: DedePerkins
“You cannot suit everybody, so you had better suit yourself.” – William Morris Hunt
“All that is not useful to the picture is detrimental.” – Henri Matisse
A few years ago, I was asked to help a group of young artists write statements about their work. The information was well received so I thought I’d share it online. Here’s the shortened version of the seminar, “Crafting the Artist Statement.”
What is an Artist Statement?
So you’ve created a portfolio and want to share it with the world. The next step is to write a statement that will introduce your work to the public. But what, you ask, should you write? What goes in an artist statement? How long should it be? Should you address one particular piece in the portfolio or the work as a whole?
The answer is, “It depends.”
Artist statements are used for a number of purposes, but whether you are presenting one work or an entire portfolio, your statement needs to answer the questions:
- Who is this artist?
- Why did he/she choose to create this piece of art or portfolio?
Before you can write an artist statement, you have to think about these questions. You need to brainstorm and gather your words and ideas in order to create the raw material you will then use to craft your statement.
The process of creating an artist statement, if done right, will push you out of your comfort zone and ideally, will help you grow as an artist. The process is invaluable, but so is the end product. A thoughtful and well-written artist statement will be your introduction to all sorts of people who may become stakeholders in your career. You may choose to send your artist statement to gallery owners, admission counselors, museum directors – heck, even the local coffee shop owner. Finally, your artist statement can act as your script when you meet face-to-face with these people, and they say, “Tell me about yourself, and tell me about your art.”
Wikipedia’s Definition of an Artist Statement
- An artist’s statement (or artist statement) is a brief statement of an artist’s intention through their work.
- A short statement of one page or less, written by the artist, that provides background information and influences on the artist’s body of work, overall artistic philosophy, and a brief history of the artist’s development.
Questions to Consider Before Writing an Artist Statement
Remember I said you’d have to think about your art before you can write about it? Here are questions to get you started:
- What is your favorite medium and why?
- What themes and subjects show up in your art?
- What do you do differently from the way you were taught? Why?
- What patterns emerge in your work? Is there a pattern in the way you select materials? Is there a pattern in the way you use color, texture or light?
- Where do you find inspiration for your work?
- How do you hope people will respond to your work?
- What would you like your audience to understand after viewing or experiencing your art?
The answers to these questions will be the raw material from which you’ll craft your artist statement.
After thinking about and jotting down the answers to the above questions, you should have enough rough material to organize your rough draft. If you’re not happy with what you’ve come up with so far, dig deeper and consider your developing statement. You know you’re done with the brainstorming phase once you have enough material to honestly and clearly present both yourself and your art.
The next step is to highlight the most important information—the information that resonates with you—and start your rough draft. Cut and paste your favorite ideas into a new document. Organize your thoughts, add words, smooth transitions, and arrange and rearrange your thoughts until you have shaped your statement into two to three fairly strong paragraphs. This will be the base of your statement, but at this point it’s best to set it aside for a while.
Revising the Rough Draft
Depending on how much time you have, revisit and rework your statement in an hour or a day or a week. By setting it aside each time you work on it, you’ll see your words with fresh eyes. You’ll notice what works and what needs to be refined. Don’t be surprised if you have to revisit and revise your statement many times. In fact, I encourage you to do just that. Give your artist statement the time and attention it deserves.
How do you know when your artist statement is ready to share? When you read it (after setting it aside) and you make no changes. When that happens, it’s time to share your statement with someone you trust.
Asking for honest feedback from someone you trust, someone who understands you and your art, is an important step in the process. Trusted family members, friends and associates will let you know if your statement honestly and effectively represents you and your work. Balance others’ feedback with your own instincts. If your reader says something that resonates, revise your statement (even if you don’t want to). The revision process is what will make your statement the best that it can be.
Finished Artist Statement – Send It Out!
When your artist statement is finished, it’s time to share your work with the world! I wish you generous patrons, appreciative audiences, and years of engaging, productive work.
Free downloadable PDF: