Tips for Writing an Artist Statement
Explaining your ideas, concepts, and motivations in a clear, concise manner can be difficult. In fact, one common mistake is relying on generic “art speak” or complex jargon that only serves to confuse rather than aid the viewer.
Keep your statement brief. Two decent sized paragraphs, around 100 to 200 words total, should be sufficient. Remember, most readers won’t read through pages of explanation and need to be captivated quickly by your concepts. This length is also helpful for future usage, as the statement may be placed on gallery websites or printed in exhibition materials, where space is a premium. Sticking to the proper length will help you avoid rewrites.
Keep things in the present tense. The text should speak to what you are currently doing, not future goals or what has happened in the past.
Use captivating language. You want to immediately grabs the reader, right from the first sentence, as it will pull people in and encourage them to keep reading. Since the statement is for a wide audience, keep the language universal and uncomplicated.
Keep things clean. In terms of design, clear fonts without a fussy layout are best. Remember, people are here for your words, and it’s best not to distract from them.
7 Core Questions
How? What? Why? These three key elements will inform the questions you need to ask yourself when preparing the write. To give you a helping hand, here are a list of questions you may want to consider when writing your artist statement. Keep in mind, you don’t need to answer all of these questions, but they do provide good starting points.
What is your motivation?
Why should people care about your work?
How does your technique communicate your ideas?
What are your influences?
How is your work unique?
What do you want people to take away from your work?
Who is your audience?
What to Avoid
Using quotes as a crutch. People often feel the need to lead with a quote from a famous author or artist. The first statements should come directly from you, not someone else.
Flowery language that distracts from your message. Though the text doesn’t have to be aseptic, there is a fine line between descriptive and flowery language. This is why getting outside feedback and editing is essential. With such limited space, every word should be used to enhance your core message, not take away from it.
In-depth technical explanations. While your technique can be addressed in the statement, as mentioned above, avoid technical explanations of your medium. This isn’t the arena for a step-by-step guide to how you produce work so much as a description of how your technique is unique or enhances your message.
Generalizations. Get as specific as possible when thinking about your art, as this is what makes you unique. Generic, vague answers will only result in an artist statement that doesn’t distinguish you in the field.
Statements by third parties. If you are thinking of including the great feedback from a famous museum director or a line from a review by your favorite art critic, think again. An artist statement is all about what you think of your work, not what others think of you. Rather, this type of material belongs in your CV, biography, or a section of testimonials.
Obscure references that alienate your audience. This is a mistake many artists make, feeling that this makes their artwork more intellectual. Instead, these references can often serve to confuse the audience, with the end result being that your message is lost. As an alternative, think of how you can rephrase the concept in your own words, without the reference. If you can’t, then reframe your idea.
Direct comparison to other artists. You may think you paint like Picasso or sculpt like Michelangelo, but it’s best not to draw comparisons to other artists, as not everyone may feel the same way and you may end up doing more harm than good by inviting the comparison.
Leading phrases that direct people on how they should feel. Your statement should focus on what you feel, allowing others to draw their own conclusions and form opinions. That’s why your text should be peppered with “I” statements, not “you” statements.