How to Write the Perfect Artist Statement

by John R. Math on October 17, 2010

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Have you ever read someone’s artist statement and said to yourself “what the heck does all of that mean” or “those are some fancy words that I just do not understand?”  If you were having a personal conversation with the artist and you were asking about their art, would they talk like that, in those terms?  Probably not and neither should the artist when composing and writing their artist statement.

Here are some tips and ideas for all artists to think about when composing a new statement or revising their current artist statement.

1.  Keep the Statement Simple:   What I mean by this is that the artist statement should be written both clearly and concisely for a wide range of people who will read it. The artist is neither speaking down to someone who is uneducated with fine art, nor are they talking up to that person trying to impress them.  The best way to write the statement is to do this as if you were speaking to someone in person.  Basically, an artist statement is an introduction of their art, without the artist being there.

2.  The Statement Should Tell Why:  The artist should explain why they create this kind of art.  This could be in the form of an explanation of the artist’s motivation, subject matter or maybe someone who inspired the artist to express their art.  In addition, the “why” could also discuss any artistic or personal influences.  Overall, the artist is telling the reader the personal reasons why they create their art.

3.  The Statement Should Tell How:  Explaining to the reader the “how” can be a short sentence or two about the artistic process or describing if there are any special techniques that were used in producing this art.  The artist should not get technical or provide a step by step guide on how to create their art.  If there are any unusual materials used, that can be mentioned too.

4.  What it Means to the Artist:  Overall, this a personal statement of the meaning of the art for the artist.  This may be the most difficult thing for the artist to write about as it will reveal something personal about the artist.  It is very difficult to write about yourself, especially when you need to keep it short.  For this, think Twitter and try to write this with 140 characters.  It is tough to do but try to do it in at least 2 to 3 concise sentences, maximum.

5.  Keep it Short:  Remember that people’s attention spans are quite short and that if the artist statement is too long, too complicated or poorly written people will just not read it!  Avoid big, flowery and complicated words.  It just does not work.  You are not trying to impress anyone, you are trying to communicate to a very wide audience what your art is about.

Here are some other things to consider and incorporate into an artist statement:

 Avoid using I and me throughout the statement.

• Do not say “I want to…” or “I am trying to…”  Just say it and be precise.

• If you have multiple bodies or work, materials or techniques, have multiple artist statements for each.

• Do not “tell” the reader what they “must” see in your art.  That is what the artist sees and the viewer may see or interpret something else.

 This is not a biography.  Do not get that mixed in with the artist statement.

 If the artist is unsure about the end result of the statement, then the artist should have other people read it, comment on it or find someone that will help the artist.

 After it is completed, the artist should reread it and make sure that the sentence structure and spelling are perfect.

The artist should then put the statement away.  In a few days, they should look at it again and follow these steps all over again!  At that point, the artist will see how a phrase, sentence or a word can be changed in order to make the artist statement clearer and overall better.

Finally, if the artist is happy with the statement, then it is good to go.  If however, the artist is still not completely happy with the statement, put it away again and  reread in order to fine tune and communicate the artist statement clearly.

Remember:  The artist statement is speaking to the viewer in the artist’s absence.  Therefore, the artist statement should be short, concise and well written in a conversational language.

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