How To Write An Artist Statement: Tips From The Art Experts

These valuable tips along with an infographic for quick reference will help you in writing and perfecting your artist’s statement.

Facebook
GOOGLE
https://www.agora-gallery.com/advice/blog/2016/07/23/how-to-write-artist-statement/
TWITTER
LINKEDIN

As a professional artist, you need to have more than your work to get around in the art world. Along with your portfolio, you should have an artist statement available at a moment’s notice. An artist statement should be considered just as important as your works.

Fred Tieken, Artist Statement, Art Career
Fred Tieken, Artist Statement, 2013
Acrylic on Cardboard
20″ x 20″

WHY DO YOU NEED AN ARTIST STATEMENT?

An artist statement is most often the front line of communication between an artist and the public. It will be used when you submit your portfolio to competitions, galleries, and museums. It may sometimes be displayed when people are viewing your works in person or on your website. If it’s online, your artist statement will be read by people from all over the world.

Useful Article: How To Create A Professional Portfolio

There are many paths to becoming an artist, through school or an apprenticeship, or through inspiration and self-teaching but no matter how you got there, being a professional artist means that you have to have an artist statement. If you have never written a statement before, or aren’t sure that your current statement is up to art world standards, it can be a quite daunting task to compose one.

Luckily, Agora Experts are here to help. Compiling years of experience in the art world, they are more than happy to share what they’ve learned.

Here are some valuable tips for writing an artist’s statement:

KNOW YOUR AUDIENCE

Remember, as an artist you are not only writing to an art gallery, but also to visitors, students, and potential buyers. You want all of these different groups to be able to understand what you’re saying about yourself and your art. You aren’t always going to be standing next to a patron to explain everything to them, so you have to make sure that your statement communicates all your ideas to any viewer.

Art Career
Gallery guest examining Nadia Lassman‘s statement

Content Header

CONTENT FOR YOUR ARTIST STATEMENT

Between 150-200 words (two paragraphs) is the best length for a statement that is going to be published. It is long enough to let a viewer learn more about you and your work, but not too long that they can’t follow your story and get distracted.

What information does an artist’s statement need to include? There are three elements to consider: the “how,” the “what,” and the “why.” There should be enough information in your artist statement that someone can begin to imagine the art that you make without having it in front of them.

Artist Statement Content

The “How”:

The ‘How’ refers to how you created your works. Many visitors are interested in knowing about your artistic process. Describe your works; what colors do you use, do you make large marks or small marks, or do you use blending so there are no visible marks at all? If you’re a photographer, what kind of tools are integral to your process?

The “What”:

Are your paintings abstract? Portraits? Do you take photos of landscapes? What is your imagery? When people describe what you make, what do they say? Describe the content of your works in a general way to flow from how you work to what you make.

And last, The “Why”:

Why do you make what you make? What does your life say about your work and your work say about your life? What symbols do you use and why? Explain the influences behind the meanings of your works.

You don’t have to have the same amount of each type of information, but it is a good idea to have part of your statement devoted to each of these categories. However, if one category seems far more relevant to your work than the others, feel free to emphasize it in your statement. You can put as much or as little of each category as you like; if your works are about the medium then you can focus more on how you make your works and if it is more about the “why” and your inspiration, focus on that. Balance your content in any way you need to.

Write down the answers to these questions on your own and then cut them down do the absolute essentials.

Once you have your content, then you can move to style.

Would you like to be updated with our latest articles and gallery events? Subscribe to our newsletter!

Artist Statement Style Header

THE THREE C’S OF STYLE

Artist Statement Style

Every artist statement must follow the three C’s of style: they should be clear, concise, and consistent.

Be clear: Use accessible vocabulary; keep in mind that your readers may not be scholars, artists, or art historians. Write like you’re speaking to a person on the street, somebody who goes to museums “every now and then,” as many of your viewers will fall into that category. Make sure the content in your artist statement is not too complex or technical. This will intimidate your audience.

Be concise: Don’t go on for pages and pages about your work. Even the most interested person will get lost in too much information. You want your statement to pull the viewer in, but you don’t want to bore them.

The average museum and gallery visitor spends 5 to 15 seconds looking at each artwork, according to numerous museum surveys. You want your statement to be brief enough that they can get the essential information in that time, and that their flow isn’t too disrupted when they stop to read the statement in full.

Be consistent: Make sure that what you say in your artist’s statement matches the works that are going to be on display. If you also have a press release or biography available, make sure that your statement doesn’t contradict these texts at all. Keep updating your artist statement as you grow and evolve as an artist.

REMINDER: An artist statement MUST be in the first person, everything is “I” not “he/she/they.” Imagine your statement is having a conversation with a viewer, it is speaking for you, and you would always say “I did this.”

PRACTICE MAKES PERFECT

Write out your statement a few different ways and think about which one best describes you and your work. Read your statement out loud to make sure it flows properly. Read it to people familiar with you and your work and listen to their comments.

If you are represented by a gallery, or if you have an agent, see if they are available to help you with your statements. Agora Gallery, for example, often helps artists edit their statements. If you don’t feel like you’re the best writer, have someone help you correct your grammar and make sure the artist statement says what you want it to say.

REMINDER: If you are sending your statement somewhere with a word requirement (usually between 150-200 words) take their advice and write at least that much. Whatever word count they give you is likely the minimum for certain publications, and you don’t want to be left out because you didn’t provide enough text. Many organizations have similar requirements, so you don’t want to have to re-work your statement every time you send it somewhere new.

TIPS FOR NON-ENGLISH SPEAKERS:

Write your statement in your native language first, and then translate it. You can use a professional translator, or you can try to translate it with an application online. Just be sure that you have it double checked by a native speaker of whatever language your statement will be published in before you submit. Don’t try to limit yourself to your foreign language vocabulary. Do your very best to compose something for yourself.

REMINDER: Do not submit a statement with too little information or no statement at all. If a gallery or competition asks for a statement, be sure to provide one. If there is a suggested word count, meet it. You don’t want someone to misunderstand your process or your work by writing more into your statement just to reach a word requirement for publication. Your statement should be personal to you and your work and not according to someone else’s thoughts, especially since a statement is something that will usually be seen by anyone who looks at your artwork. You want to be able to communicate with viewers in your own words.

Artist Statment Presentation header

FONT, PAPER, DESIGN

Once you have your statement ready to go, you need to prepare it for submission. You may submit to a gallery, a contest, a local collective; it doesn’t matter, they all will need your statement, and you want your statement to do its job. Whether it’s a paper submission, or online, here are some tips for making sure your statement makes it to the correct people.

Most submissions to galleries these days are online, like ours, which makes worrying about how your statement looks a no-brainer. The online forms will take care of that for you. If you have the information there, then that’s all you’ll need.

If you are submitting a printed statement, here are some tips for making it up to the art world standards:

KEEP YOUR ARTIST STATEMENT CLEAN

Make sure your paper is clean, crisp, and classic. You want to look and have your materials look as professional as possible. You are essentially engaging in a business when you submit your work to a gallery and you want to present yourself the same way.

Plain printer paper or basic letterhead is the best way to make a professional impression. You don’t need fancy paper, paper you made by hand, or special design paper to submit your statement. It may seem eye-catching at first, but in reality most fancy paper designs are distracting from any important content. If it looks like a party invitation, chances are no gallery will take it seriously. If you want to go the extra mile and use nice stationery, do not go for something with an elaborate design. A thick card stock can be nice, but keep the paper white or off-white so that it is not too distracting from the content.

How-To-Write-Artist-Statement

KEEP YOUR ARTIST STATEMENT READABLE

The same rule applies to fonts. Make sure your font is clear and able to be read easily. You can never go wrong with basic fonts like Arial or Times New Roman. Fancy fonts can take away from your content. It doesn’t matter if the font matches what you think your art feels like: if a gallery owner or buyer can’t read it, then it hurts more than it helps. You want the communication to be as easy as possible between you and your audience, so make sure that your statement is readable.

Along the same lines, do NOT handwrite your statement. Very few galleries will even read a handwritten statement as it is unprofessional. It’s also a lot of work to handwrite an artist statement, and if you’re submitting to multiple galleries, writing out all those statements is a waste of your time. It’s easiest to type it out.

If you don’t have regular access to a computer or a word processing program, you can always work on your statement online and pay a few cents to have it printed at your local copy center.

artist-statement

 

AFTER YOUR SUBMISSION:

For now, you’ve done all you can. It is now in the hands of the gallery manager, collector or client that you’ve presented it to.

As you grow and evolve as an artist, you’ll want to revisit these steps as you revise your artist statement to reflect your current work. Remember, your brilliant work only does half the job. Your professionalism and other important things like your artist statement, CV and business cards make up the other half.

Useful Articles: The Artist CV and Artist Business Cards

 

As a promotional gallery, we take pride in the diverse group of artists from across the globe represented by us. Want to give your art more time, and leave the marketing and promotional hassles to someone else? Visit our Gallery Representation And Artist Promotion page for more information.

Join the discussion! Do let us know if you have any other suggestions about writing the perfect artist statement. You can also ask your questions in the comments or email us at blogs@agora-gallery.com!

This post is also available in: Spanish

35 comments

  • .This was e extremely helpful. Thank You

  • Thanks

  • What a great site! Thanks for all the detailed, useful info here. Super helpful.

  • Hei! A great peace of article! Got me inspired to look for different ways to express myself and trust my inner inspiration indeed. Thanks a lot!

  • Thanks For Providing good and usable information in your brief article.Will definitely a good guideline for everyone in the field of Art and paintings

  • helpful!!

  • Congratulation, all this tips are very helpful for presentation of artist, I will give this for other artist that belong to a Chilean Visual Women Artist MUART organization that I belong , Thanks.

  • Congratulation, all this tips are very helpful for artist. Thank you.

  • Thank you so much! This website was just what I needed to help me write my first reasonable Artist’s Statement. I’d been at a loss as how to start, or what exactly to write.

  • I’m struggling with mine a bit and have been told many times to write an artist statement in the third person rather than first person. Is there validity to that?

    • Dear Vincent, as we state in the article, the statement MUST be in the first person. Your artist statement is your conversation with your audience, an introduction of yourself, and it can not be in the third person.

    • Vincent, I agree that the statement needs to be in first person, but it may be helpful to write the first draft in third person. That exercise may very well free you up to be more objective. Then you can switch it back. Just a thought.

  • This article has been a great help to me.
    On question though; I see artist’s bio’s and their statements on the same page, When I present this information to a gallery, should I put them on the same page or on separate sheets of paper?

  • This is of great help to me as I have never written an artist statement. All I have been doing is draw what I can in my attempt to improve. But this would change things. thanks for the help.

  • great website!!! I love it<3

  • Clearly articulated advice. Very helpful! Thank you!
    I like your website. One always can find many very interesting articles.

  • I’m trying help my 11 year old daughter write an artist statement for a school art project that is going to be submitted to a contest. I’m at a total loss. This all sounds good, but for an 11 year old, the How, What and Why questions are pretty abstract. I need help! “I chose the color purple because it’s my favorite color” is probably not the kind of thing that the teacher is looking for.

    • Hi TJ, it’s important to mold the content of the artist statement to your needs and situation. Talk with your daughter, listen to what she has to say about why and how she creates what she does, and together you’ll be able to come up with a wonderful artist statement.

  • Very good advice. I was told to re-write my artist statement and didn’t exactly know what to implement other than what I had done before. Your article gave me the clarity I needed. Thank you!!

  • Great post, indeed. I have been looking for an info that would help me create my new art portfolio much better than the old one. However, I have a doubt about one thing. I mean about HOW? WHAT? and WHY? It seems to me strange to start a talk about my art with someone with HOW? The more natural way for me is to talk first about WHAT I do, then WHY I do that and HOW is the last point. My question is if that changed order I have proposed is equally acceptable?

    • Dear Danuta, this is a great question. As we mention in the article, you should balance the content of your artist statement in any way you need to. After all, this is YOUR artist statement. If you feel that you need to talk about the WHAT first, then this is what you should do, especially if it feels more natural to you.

  • Great article…just what I needed to know…thank you.

  • i so needed this right now. thanx. this will help me a lot.

  • Beautiful article. Very helpful. Can you please provide a couple of example writeups?

  • Thanks. This was helpful. I appreciate your time spent finding and posting this for the class. You are a good guy. Kisses, ba

  • Thanks, this is helpful.

  • Your comments are right on and remind me that from time to time I need to evaluate my statements. Thanks

Join the discussion

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *