Last Updated on February 14, 2017
In today’s global marketplace, where nearly every artist can communicate online directly with their audience, it’s your job — and privilege — to create and control your own artist narrative. The more a buyer, editor or influencer knows about you, your work and your process, the more likely they are to make a purchase or want to connect with you. Your personal story and motivations will make your work even more alluring, adding depth to a viewer’s interaction with your work. Your narrative or story is called your artist bio.
What is an Artist Bio?
There are different schools of thought on what an artist bio is and what it includes. Some refer to them as artist statements, for example. Whatever you call them, they serve the same purpose. Some online marketplaces have sections for an artist bio, while on your personal website it might be under “About” or “Bio”. For the purposes of this article, an artist bio includes two components: your artistic statement and your resume or CV. Together, they lay out your creative philosophy and artistic goals, along with highlights of your creative career, such as education, relevant work experience, awards, publications, and past exhibitions.
It’s not easy to write an effective artist bio. Visual artists communicate through images, not necessarily with the written word. While some artists may purposefully want to avoid explaining their work to leave it up to the viewer to decide, information about you and your work are critical to understanding and marketing it. True, crafting what you want to say in a compelling and succinct way in your artist bio takes time and effort, but it is well worth it.
The principal purpose of writing an artist bio is to draw the reader in and give them a sense of who you are, what you make and why you make it. Writing the your artist bio can mean straddling the line between selling yourself and self-aggrandizement. You want to discuss the meaning of your work without being confusing or overly critical. Avoid rambling passages that are too long and convoluted. Your reader has limited time and a short attention span. Use words that clearly describe your work and process. Shorter sentences are preferred. While it can be challenging, avoid “art speak”.
You can hire a professional to write your bio or you can most certainly take a stab at it yourself. Start by creating an outline of your career highlights and bullet what you want to say. At some point, don’t be such a perfectionist that you never finish. You can ask a mentor, colleague or instructor to read over your artist bio and make sure it’s concise and well-articulated. It’s also useful to ask someone who knows your work to give you feedback in case you’ve missed anything.
Here’s an example of fine art photographer Antoine Rose’s artist bio:
An artist bio is a brief description of your body of work that helps the reader better understand it. It should express your overarching creative philosophy and motivations, along with your relevant background that informs your work or provides context. Placed at the beginning of the artist bio, the artist statement is more personal than a resume or CV. Check out our article, The Essential Guide to Writing Your Artist Statement to get more information. The College Art Association also has standard guidelines and standards.
A resume is a 1-2 page document that summarizes your qualifications to apply for positions and opportunities (fellowships, artist residences) that you are interested in. It’s also a marketing tool used to communicate your credentials and distinguish you as someone worth interviewing. A typical resume will include the following: your full contact information, educational degrees, specialized training and certifications, relevant work experience (teaching positions, guest artist), awards, exhibitions, publications and any other item that makes you stand out.
The CV (Curriculum Vitae) is a more comprehensive list of what you have done and can be as long as it needs to be. A CV is less a way to market yourself and more a laundry list or inventory of all of your accomplishments. It is constantly being added to as new work is created or some other creative highlight occurs, such as winning an award or being in a magazine. Over time, the CV can become very long, which is why many jobs prefer a resume, while the academic and fine art worlds tend to prefer CVs. Once you understand the importance of telling your story through an artist bio, be sure to update that story as it changes or evolves. Don’t be shy to present these materials to potential collectors or other interested parties, and always remember to keep them polished and free of spelling or grammatical errors. Most importantly, remember that writing your artist bio and resume/CV conveys that you’re being authentic and truthful about the scope of your work and are taking your art career seriously.
How did you create your artist bio? Are there tips and resources that were helpful to you? What worked and what didn’t? We’re interested!
Jenifer Simon’s mantra is ‘Art Always in All Ways.” She is Artrepreneur’s Director of Business and Content Development and editor of Art Business Journal. She’s dedicated her career to helping artists sustain their creative careers and holds an M.A. in Arts Administration from Columbia University and B.S. in Studio Art and Art History from Skidmore College.