An artist statement is your elevator pitch, a few sentences (or sometimes paragraphs) explaining who you are, what you create, and why it’s relevant. Artist statements are an important introduction to your art and are often required if you are applying for a competition, residency, or grant funding.
Writing your statement can be an excellent chance to evaluate your artwork, and put into words what you are trying to accomplish, but it can also be difficult for those not used to expressing themselves in words. Amazingly, just a few lines can take hours or even days to craft. While there is no cut and dry format for writing your statement, there are a few general guidelines that will make writing one easier.
Look at your art, and think about how you would describe it
This part should be easy. Look at each of your pieces, and decide how you would describe what you create to someone off the street. Jot down some adjectives that you would use to describe your art, such as “dream-like” or “whimsical.”
Ask yourself: Why do you create?
What is it about your art that you enjoy? Is it commenting on people’s daily routines, or pointing out an overlooked piece of history? Whatever it is that gets you excited about what you do, make sure that it’s listed in your artist statement.
After you have written down some ideas of how you would describe your art, and why you create it in the first place, it’s time to begin writing. You may want to look at sample artist statements to get your creative juices flowing. Use the active voice, and write in the first person (“I” rather than “you”).
Depending on what you are writing your artist’s statement for, you may only need a few sentences, or it could be a few paragraphs. The basic premise for both is the same. Start by writing a few paragraphs, and pull out the sentences that you think are most relevant if you need to cut it down.
Write your introduction and conclusion to your artist statement last. Introductions are meant to tell the reader about what you intend to tell them – that can be difficult if you haven’t decided yet. Work on your body paragraph(s) first, and return to the introduction and conclusion after you have at least a rough idea of what you want to include. Don’t forget to include the medium you work with.
In your body paragraph(s) go into slightly more detail about your work, and the basic ideas you are trying to get across. Here you can get a little further into the “why” you create, as well as your technique.
What to Avoid
Artist statements are best when they are clear and to the point, and easily understood. Avoid clichés and run-on sentences. Don’t include longwinded explanations, and keep details of your life to a minimum unless they are directly relevant to your art. Finally, be honest about your work. If you aren’t existentially examining the human condition, don’t try to fake it in your statement.
Triple Check Your Work
Before you send your new written masterpiece into the world, put it away for a few days and come back to it. Try not to overthink it, but read it over with a fresh pair of eyes. You may also take this opportunity to send your statement to any mentors to see what they suggest.
Overall, your artist statement should leave a lasting impression that interests the reader in your art, and invites them to appreciate it based on the information you have given them. The right statement can open doors for you to showcase your artwork, and truly express what it is that you are creating.