In this post you’ll discover a 3-step formula to write a good artist statement.
You’ll also discover the things you must avoid when writing your artist statement – and we will address the “how long should your artist artist statement be?” question.
After having read this, you’ll be able to hit the ground running and start writing your own artist statement.
Or if you have already written one, you’ll have some additional tips to use to revise your existing artist statement.
So let’s first look at…
What Is An Artist Statement?
There is no doubt that the actual work an artist produces is his or her ultimate testimony to their vision and purpose.
However, there is something quite alluring about an artist who has a definitive explanation for what they do, why and how they do it.
That is why an artist statement could be considered to be the “decoding document” that summarises your artwork.
If you don’t currently have an artist statement, make sure you watch this video by clicking the link below:
I take you through a 3-Step Formula to get you motivated to write your very own artist statement.
Some artists struggle with how to write an artist statement.
I know I certainly did in the beginning.
I first wrote it off as unnecessary and pretentious crap.
This was because my initial reference point was from some artists who wrote long winded over explanations – to read them was about as exciting as chewing on sandpaper.
Hence, I didn’t have a very good association with the principal of having an artist statement.
However, as I discovered along the way, your artist statement doesn’t mean you have to come up with some far out philosophical poem.
You just need to be authentic, honest and specific.
The right words can actually be quite powerful.
An artist statement could be summarised as…
A written deed or verbal illustration that clearly explains the motives, inspiration, influences and overall philosophy behind the artist and his or her work.
But it’s not all about explaining what you do just so the public will understand.
There is something fundamentality unique about having an artist statement. It’s actually a personal endorsement to your position as an artist and to your creative vision.
How Important Is Having An Artist Statement?
The most basic explanation I can provide is that by having an artist statement, it shows you are excited about your work.
It shows that you are serious about what you do and it provides you with a point of difference.
Having an artist statement is not as important as the work you produce.
From a marketing perspective, it’s a very effective alternative of communicating to your audience.
If you think about it…
Your physical work captures the public’s attention visually and emotionally.
Your statement captures people’s attention on a theoretical level.
An artist statement is much like an invitation into your world as an artist.
It is an invitation that many onlookers want to accept, but they can only do so if you make it easily accessible.
What I mean is – if there is any element of confusion from your audience, they will have reservations about wanting to enquire further into your work.
Your artist statement is also a great reference for when you submit your art for exhibit, or to galleries.
It helps them understand and appreciate the direction you are heading as an artist.
When I first started exhibiting I used to get a lot of questions about my work.
At the time I was still discovering my path, so I did not always have a solid answer.
However, I began to notice people were asking the same questions, just in different ways.
Eventually I came up with an answer that summarised the basis of these enquiries and used it in my artist statement.
I even noticed one lady nodding her head slowly as she read my statement, which was positioned next to my work.
Her body language was saying, “Ah… I was just about to ask about that… and here it is.”
So one good kick-starter for you may be to simply address common questions people have asked at your exhibits and incorporate the answers into your artist statement.
What Is The Best Approach To Writing An Artist Statement?
The first thing you have to do is stop the “mind noise” buzzing about in your head and try not to over analyse.
One of the biggest frustrations an artist has with creating their artist statement is this fear that they will not be able to give their work the justice it deserves in word format.
Part of this problem is because they are concerned they will “pigeon hole” themselves unintentionally by not being able to completely express their world as an artist with words.
There is no need to be concerned that you will be misinterpreted, criticised or judged by your artist statement if you simply apply a little confidence when you begin to write it down.
When you control those fears then you’ll avoid writing too much and appearing superficial.
If you don’t control those fears, what happens is you may end up using too much jargon.
The fear can also make you susceptible to writing too much – which is of course is over compensating, and simply dilutes your message.
A good point to remember when writing your artist statement is to write it so a 12 year old would be able to understand it clearly.
In other words… the more clearly and less “artsy” you can be with your statement, the more interest you’ll capture because you will be catering to a wide audience.
Another thing to consider is the tone of your statement should be conversational.
It doesn’t need to be formal or sound official.
Avoid using cliché creative explanations as well
Example: avoid using words like creative, passionate, emerging artist, or original.
Also avoid using week explanations of your work
Such word as “I am trying to…”
Or words like “attempting…”
Use stronger pro-active or action words like investigation, examination and questioning.
An artist statement is not about trying to impress people.
Its purpose is simply to welcome your audience and present the foundation of you as an artist.
Additionally, try not to “tell” people what they will see in your art.
I’ve always felt it’s not really our responsibility as an artist to coach your audience or inform them on how they will or should respond or interpret your artwork.
Your statement does not need to be fixed or permanent either.
In other words, you don’t really need to write an artist statement to encompass your whole body of work.
I create new art statements for each exhibit.
I find it a lot easier to create statements around each series of work I produce. This could be the case for you too.
Because you are constantly evolving and creating new work, you may prefer to create variations of your art statement for each exhibit or series of work you produce.
So now that you have a cohesive understanding as to the principals of having an artist statement, how do you put it all together?
Ok so here is a formula you can use to start writing your own artist statement…
The most important principal is to make sure that whatever you come up with, it has a your “YOU” branding stamp.
Step One – The What
The first paragraph is the “what”.
So consider addressing things like…
What you believe to be true.
Where you came from.
What is your discovery?
What is your personal challenge/adversity?
You can even use a combination of two of those – like, what you believe to be true and your personal challenge.
Step Two – The How
The second paragraph is the how.
So consider incorporating how you use what you believe to be true…
How your personal challenge is…
How where you came from is…
How your discovery or adversity is driving/advancing you to question, investigate it as an insider and an outsider and then incorporate the action you take or process you use.
I mention as an insider and outsider because it shows you are actively considering your own view and interpretation as well as your audiences.
It sounds like an invitation into your work, and an invitation in to their world as well.
It’s not critical – but worth considering.
You ideally only want to write about 200 words or two paragraphs.
This does not mean you only ever write 200 words.
If this is the first time you’ve written and artist statement or you need to readdress an existing art statement you are not happy with, stick to the 200 word principal.
Add as much impact into just two paragraphs.
As you advance in your art career, you can add more and be more descriptive.
But remember we are simply trying to make significant progress as quickly as we can without getting bogged down in complexity.
So some key points to remember are…
Do not write in the third person – write in first person talk. Present tense.
You really do not need to use toffy nosed hop knob words to sound artsy or to sound like something you are not, because it sounds corny.
Remember to write it so a class of year 6 students could read it and understand it.
And for the last step…
Step 3 – Get a Second Opinion
When you think you have something that you are happy with – road test it.
Before you sign your name to your artist statement so to speak…
Get another point of view – run it past some of your friends, family, and your art coach and art colleagues.
If they look a bit bewildered when they read it, and they don’t make the connection with your artist statement and your artwork – then maybe consider rewriting your statement.
Remember it has to have your “YOU” stamp on it.
It can never sound like something another artist could get away with using.
You want them to be able to appreciate the message as much as you appreciate it.
Just remember to be authentic, honest and specific.
Do that and you’ll eventually document your world as an artist into groovy words that everybody will understand and appreciate.
I hope that helps.
Your art buddy,
Artist/Coach/Owner Of 25-year Old Stones T-Shirt