Saturday, March 3, 2012

How to write a (general) artist statement

Writing an Artist statement seems to be the scariest thing for most artists I've talked to over the years. It is not vanity to freely talk about yourself. You have too! You have to be able to describe who you are as an artist, especially if you want to apply for grants and the like. Whenever you meet someone and they ask 'What do you do?' and you repy 'I'm an artist'. People don't just stop there, they want to know more.

Having an artist statement not only validates what you do and what your art practice is about to yourself, but helps you express that to others. I find if you say 'well I dabble in everything', Say it so it means something: "I am a multi media artist; I work with all mediums and do not restrict myself to specialising in just one".

But before we go on, I must clear up the confusion on the difference between an Artist statement and an Autobiography. They are different. The two can be meshed into one, but most arts organisations or employees want these separate as one is about what you DO and the other is about your LIFE history not necessarily artistic practice.

So how to write your artist statement? 
Some people find it hard to just start writing about themselves. 
  • I LOVE to BRAINSTORM. I use this tool for alot of concept writing. 
  • Ask friends and family to describe you as an artist and your art style.
  • Use headings: Brief Background about me, Art Medium, Art Style, Art Technique, Inspiration and Influences
  • Make it interesting, show your personality in it. This does not have to be a formal piece of writing, and yes you should use FIRST person -'I', 'My', 'Me'. 
Writing your artist statement -answer questions like: 
  1. Describe your medium and style e.g. "I am a contemporary acrylic painter."
  2. Where do you live e.g. "I live in Brisbane, Australia; surrounded by the coastline but bordering close enough to the bush to be inspired by the encompassing environment"
  3. Describe your subject matter e.g. "I like to paint decorative landscapes using bold hues to manipulate reality into something more beautiful through saturation."
  4. Describe your style e.g. "I like to use a palette knife with texture medium to add areas of interest and detail and other times I use the brush in an impressionistic way."
  5. What other mediums interest you e.g. "I use a range of other 2D mediums to play and experimentation such as gouache and ink, pastels and occassionally printmaking".
  6. What other subjects interest you e.g. "Scapes such as landscapes, seascapes, skyscapes, and cityscapes for example are subjects I often explore. I also enjoy creating my own still lifes, photographing them and painting."
  7. Where does your inspiration come from e.g. "I am inspired by my surroundings, the environment, the location of where I live and the flora and fauna that are present."
  8. What art movements and/or artists influence your work e.g. I admire the Impressionists greatly; Artists such as Monet, Turner, Degas and Van Gogh are all favourites."
  9. Do you have a process to create your work e.g. "I am very organised and plan my work. I can not jump straight into a painting without thorough planning"
  10. Summarise your art practice in a few words as a 'catch phrase' for you
  11. Expand on all these points to make it longer
Check out my own Artist Statement here

When and where do I use an Artist Statement?
  • On your website or other social networking sites
  • In your portfolio/resume/CV
  • when applying for funding or exhibition application
  • For yourself -to have a clear understanding of your own arts practice and to help you express that to others.
Layout -Make it eyecatching!
  • Use one of your own images as a watermark or
  • Use a header with a number of your images or
  • Use a template from Microsoft Publisher or Word 
  • Use no less than 12 point font if you can avoid it
  • Choose a nice clear font, nothing too curvey so it makes it easy and pleasing to read
How long should it be?
That is up to you. But I think 1/2 to 1 page is enough. Less than half a page and I won't think you'll have enough information. More than a page and you are blabbing and not being concise.
Break your page up into smaller paragraphs

Make your own catch phrase or statement to summarise your art if you want an extra zing.

Links to other resources 

Here are some other fun links to generate a spoof artist statement:

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