Your artist statement is the first thing buyers, collectors, or someone looking to hire you for your creative services will look at to learn more about you. This short but impactful statement gives readers essential information about you as an artist.
Many artists think that their work speaks for itself, but in highly competitive industries, such as the arts, various factors can give you the edge over other artists vying for a sale, job, or freelance gig. At the top of that list is your artist statement, and it should be considered an essential part of your marketing strategy, written with the same care and attention you give to creating your artwork or design projects.
As part of your resume, artist bio, website, or social media profile, key decision-makers will see it, including curators, grant administrators, gallerists, employers, artist residency panels, art collectors, and others.
When you’re not present to talk about your work in person, your artist statement is your spokesperson, and you want your voice to be heard. Like any story intro, it should hook the reader so that they want to know more. After all, the longer they look at you, the less they look at someone else.
Essential Qualities of an Artist Statement
While every buyer, collector, organization, employer, panel, or curator may have a different purpose in mind when looking at you and your work, they’re all reading your artist statement to see if you have the qualities they are looking for: a clear identity, solid career potential, and for those wishing to hire you. that you fit their project needs or organization’s mission. An effective artist statement helps you convey how you meet these qualities.
1. Clear Artistic Identity
Having a clear identity shows that you are serious about your work and that you have reached a point in your artistic development where you are confident in what you are creating and have an established identifiable style. Art can be expensive for many people, so showing a potential buyer that you have a good foundation and artistic vision can help them feel that purchasing your work is a worthwhile investment with the potential to increase in value.
Many business owners looking to hire new talent also don’t want to (or can’t afford to) take risks. Based on your style, goals, and history, they want to know what to expect from you going forward. To demonstrate a clear identity, be sure to address the following points:
- Who are you? This can be as simple as where you are currently based geographically, where you are from, and how you self-identify as an artist. If origins are unimportant, focus on where you are currently based or give another detail necessary to your identity. Some things can be inferred, such as wanting to only go by your first name. You don’t necessarily have to explain this; you can show it.
Start with the facts. where you are from, your education and the media you work in aren’t opinion-based and should be simple to lay out, even if speaking about your work makes you squirm. Your artist statement consists mainly of facts; be sure you know exactly what an artist statement should include. Having a structure to follow makes it easier to develop your own.
For example, you might be a Latinx painter who grew up in Peru and is now based in Harlem; perhaps you would instead identify yourself simply as a New York City-based visual artist. Be as specific as you are comfortable with, but introduce yourself and establish who you are.
- What do you do? Be sure to mention the art form, media you work in, or the materials you use, especially if you opt for a broad title like “visual artist.” However, don’t stop there. Your readers want to know details about your creative process and what goes into making your art. Do you have a unique technique? Do you use rare materials or any particular method? Be specific about it and describe what you do eloquently and vividly. Because an artist’s statement is concise, you want to be sure that every sentence is impactful.
Example #1: “As a sculptor, I sketch out my ideas using CAD software to render three-dimensional models that can accommodate my special technique, which . . .”
Example #2: “My work transcends the limits of painting by using a unique approach that incorporates the framing as an essential component . . .”
- Your history as an artist. Mentioning exhibition highlights, awards, education, and training are the best ways to establish your history as an artist, although highlight only the most important ones in your artist statement. A few high-profile items will get your point across. Depending on the target audience, these highlights can change to best reflect their interests or needs. Leave the rest for your resumé or CV.
If you have a limited work history or experience, focus on your creative education, which doesn’t exclusively mean academic training. If you are a self-taught artist, mention it. If you studied independently under a master artist or craftsperson, include that. Your story as an artist is as important as your artwork. In your artist statement, explain what brought you to your creative practice and how you gained your skills. Even if it has nothing to do with art, your non-art experience or education can add another dimension to your work and makes you and your work more interesting!
For example, financial services professional Tom Mulqueen began painting after a coma. His artist statement reads:
“My Mom let me borrow her paints as I recovered. The first painting was simple, but I began to learn about mixing colors and shading, and I studied Bob Ross’ technique. I have continued as a self-taught artist, and I have developed my technique and explored additional media. I believe that art is an attempt to express the inexpressible, and should invoke a sense of wonder.”
2. Career Potential
Curators, art administrators, grantmakers, and organizations pride themselves on helping artists reach or exceed their potential. It’s a mutually beneficial relationship where an artist gets recognition or support. In turn, these decision-makers build their respected name and reputation as a trusted source for identifying talent. When these decision-makers read your artist statement, they want to get a sense of your potential and the longevity of your creative output. They should understand that you will continue to create, develop, and flourish as an artist, a return on their investment.
Career potential doesn’t need to focus on future marketability or financial-related success. The careers focused on deeper meaningful goals draw the most support. Your goal might be to create socially engaged art, a highlight for collectors or grantors supporting social justice causes. Or you may want to hone your practice to become a better educator; There are certainly organizations who wish to support that kind of goal. Showing your career potential is about getting your objectives across and showing your confidence in achieving them.
To highlight your promising career potential, be sure to illustrate the following:
- Your career goals. Your goals and what you will be creating in the future contribute to the value of your art and your upward mobility. Because an artist statement is meant to be short, you do not need to divulge a complete detailed plan; you also never know what will happen in the future or where your creative explorations might lead you, so keep it somewhat vague but purposeful.
For example, you might say, “I strive to create socially engaging work that can bring light to the income disparity in my hometown.” You can describe your goal without outlining the step-by-step plan or all the details.
- Your presence. Your current presence as an artist can be demonstrated by having a personal website, dedicated social media, selling on an online marketplace, or putting your work out there in another way beyond traditional exhibiting.
- How do you stand out from other artists similar to you? What is unique about you, your creative process, or the work that differentiates you from other artists in your art form or genre? How are you as a cityscape photographer different from other cityscape photographer? For example, “While photographers typically capture the spectacular density of our nation’s urban areas, my photographers reveal spaces considered ugly and desolate .”
3. Good Fit
While being a good fit is probably less critical to a buyer or collector wishing to purchase a single piece, for those looking to be your patron or hire you to work in their organization, “fit” is extremely important. The same is true for you, as well. Working where you don’t fit in is a recipe for disaster. Your artist statement can help target the audience you want to attract, which will most likely find you a good fit. The identity you present and the experiences or training you disclose will steer the audience you are speaking to and the projects you might fit into.
How Do I Get Started?
- Get inspiration from others. Read the statements of people that inspire you. Please note how they highlight or explain their career, creative philosophy, and work experience. Pay particular attention to the adjectives they use.
- Make a list of adjectives. Find the right words that you associate with and describe your work. You can draw from this list of keywords when writing your artist statement.
- Put it together. With your basic facts and keywords list, add the best adjectives to take your artist statement from straight facts to descriptive text.
- Put it out there. Get someone to read your artist statement. This can be a friend, colleague, or fellow artist. You must get outside input if you are uncomfortable speaking about your work. Giving someone a written artist statement to review and provide feedback is often easier than verbalizing it. Send your draft to someone and ask them specific questions about their impression. Do they have lingering questions after reading your statement? Do they feel anything important was left out? Does your artist statement leave them wanting to know more?
Artist Statement Do’s and Don’ts
- Don’t expect to write the perfect artist statement on the first try. If you haven’t spent time revising and refining it several times or more, you’re not thinking thoughtfully enough about it.
- Use descriptive and meaningful adjectives to paint a vivid picture of your practice.
- Don’t refer to yourself as an emerging artist. It isn’t bad, but an artist statement should feel timeless, not defining one moment early in your career.
- Do speak about yourself like a confident, established artist. Be proud of your work and yourself – self-assurance is respectable.
- Don’t use overly complicated language or jargon. You want your readers to understand who you are and your work. Write clear and thoughtful sentences.
- Do review your artist statement at least annually. Read through your statement line by line and consider if all the sentences hold their weight and are still relevant to your artistic practice.
Writing an artist statement can seem like an enormous task, but following the steps above, you will have a solid start to update and adapt to your budding artist career.
If you have examples of effective artist statements or suggestions that may have worked for you, ler us know in the comments below.