“Simply put, an artist statement is a description of your work in your own words.” –artdex
You may need to write an artist statement for a variety of reasons, but the most common artist statements are:
The Long Statement about your work in general. This kind of artist statement is usually a full page of writing describing your work, your influences, and your style. You may also cover things like how your latest body of work relates to past bodies of work, themes that are a part of your works and your beliefs about artworks in general. You also will write about what you are exploring through your work. For instance, in my last body of work, I explored themes directly related to mental health and the journey through mental health struggles. This kind of statement is usually a general, all encompassing, “This is who I am as an artist and why I choose to work the way I do.” It’s like you are standing in front of a crowd of people for 10 minutes giving a talk on your body of work in general, where your work has been, where it is presently and where you plan on going with it all.
The Short Statement about your work in general. A condensed version of the long statement. You need to get in there, say the things in a couple of solid paragraphs and get out again. Imagine you have a couple of minutes in a conversation with someone who has asked you what you do.
The Short Statement about one work. Usually only a few sentences or one paragraph. Very short didactic explaining briefly the What, How and Why of the work you are showing. This is your 30 second elevator pitch.
Let’s discuss the SHORT STATEMENT ABOUT ONE WORK
Sentence 1. What do you do? I am a multidisciplinary artist exploring philosophical understandings of truth, reality and how we represent these concepts as personal narrative.
Sentence 2. Were you influenced by anyone in your work? This work was influenced by the Japanese horror graphic novel artist, Junji Ito whose style is minimal but compelling in its examinations of human condition.
Sentence 3. What Is it? This piece is an examination of the feeling of falling into a mental health low and the way in which it pulls you down into chaos and confusion.
Sentence 4. How did you do it? This Lino block print is hand coloured using fountain pen inks that were chosen specifically for the tendency to fade out over time like the fading of memory of moments once we leave them behind.
Sentence 5. Why did you do it? I made it as part of a narrative series examining my own personal story of mental struggle through a lens of acceptance.
Bonus Sentence. Is there one last thing you would want to say about this piece? I believe that by holding personal narratives about mental health up to the light, we can open up important conversations around our perceptions and treatment of the 1 in 4 people who are diagnosed with mental health disorders in their lifetime.
- Start with a 5-minute brainstorm. Write down as many things about your work, your influences, and your style as you can. Don’t overthink it, just write. Get it all down even if you think it is stupid. You never know what word or combination of words is going to help you.
- Remember your audience. Is this Artist Statement for a competition? Is it for an exhibition? Is it going to go in a book to explain art to children? Write to your audience.
- Be specific. If you paint, tell them what you paint with, not just that you paint.
- Consider this to be your elevator pitch. If you could tell people in 30 seconds or less about your work, what would you say?
- Don’t use passive voice. You are not “aspiring to” you ARE.
- Don’t use fancy language. Especially if you don’t really understand the meaning of the words.
- Don’t waffle on. This is a NO RAMBLING ZONE. Information is important, but only present the important information. Your audience does not need an anecdote about your great Aunt Bessie and her cat (unless the work is a portrait of Great Aunt Bessie and her cat).
Some good reference material to check out:
The Complete Guide to Writing an Artist Statement – Artdex
Artist Statement Guidelines – Get your S**t Together
How to Write an Artist Statement – Flying Arts Alliance
How to Write an Artist Statement – The Creative Independent
How to Write an Artist Statement in 7 Steps – Format
Also google “How to write an Artist Statement” …you will find so much information that it is a bit confusing. For tips on specific types of artists statement you might write try getting specific with your search such as, “How to write a short artist statement about one piece of work”.
Written and compiled by Alison James, Etal Gallery & Studio, Sandgate
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