How To
9 min read

How to Write an Artist Statement: Everything You Need to Know

William Ellis

August 3, 2022

When you are an artist, it can sometimes be hard to speak for yourself outside of the artwork you create. 

This is why many artists are content to let their art speak for itself. While this works perfectly fine when your artwork is done merely as a hobby, it becomes a hindrance when you create for a living.

What if there was a way you could better accomplish speaking for your art?

Artist statements can help with this.

Visual artist drawing

Marketing your artwork effectively is one of the most important skills you need if you want to make a living. 

One of the first and easiest ways to start promoting your work is to use an artist statement. Here you will learn about an artist's statement, why you need them for your work, and how using them can help you take your art from hobby to profession.

What is an artist statement?

An artist statement is where the artist writes out the intent or meaning behind a piece of their artwork. Many artists like to forego ascribing any meaning to their work. However, an artist statement is often necessary, particularly for those who want to make a living creating artwork.

An artist statement allows the person viewing the work an added level of accessibility. It helps the viewer understand and appreciate the work more to get to know the artist and their style.

An artist's statement typically displays the work that corresponds to the statement. In a succinct manner, the artist will supply a statement about the piece that gives insight into its creation. Here, the artist can talk about key ideas of the piece, thematic focus, inspiration, how it was created, or any information that they feel would be useful or interesting to the person who is viewing or interacting with the work.

Where is an artist statement used?

An artist statement is used anywhere that the artist displays their artwork. The artist must create the statement and use it whenever they submit their work to a gallery, a competition, or even when you have placed your artwork on your website or social media.

Alt text: contemporary art business

An artist statement does not have to be one size fits all for every location. If you anticipate having a particular audience for a different venue, creating a unique statement for that venue is a good idea. This makes your work accessible to as many viewers as possible.

Types of artist statements

While an artist statement usually has a word requirement of around 100-200 words, with longer artist statements approaching 500 words, there are a few different artist statement types to follow. 

Full page statement 

A full-page statement is just what it sounds like. It is an entire page for a longer artist statement that features a full rundown of who you are, what your current work is, and any information that you deem pertinent.

Short statement

A short statement boils down the information on your artwork into the bare essentials. It is not flashy and has no frills, but it does the job.

Short project statement

This is merely a statement designed to quickly and succinctly introduce the viewer to your work.

Bio statement

This statement is less about any singular piece of your artistic work and more about who you are as an artist. This is where you give the information about who you are as an artist and facts about your personal life that you feel tied into your work or how you would like your work to be perceived. This is often used if you exhibit numerous pieces of your art rather than a singular work.

Tips for writing a compelling artist statement

Keep it short

Creating an artist statement is a bit of a tightrope walk because, on the one hand, you want it to be as informative as possible, but on the other hand, you need not write a statement that reads like a resume or a textbook. Succinctly supply pertinent information and you will have exactly what you need.

Grab the reader's interest 

With the very first sentence, you need to make sure that your artist statement is captivating for the viewer. You can be provocative, informative, or humorous. Just ensure that the first line will make them want to keep reading and looking.

Reflect your personality

An artist statement is there to help give the viewer a sense of who you are as an artist. Allow that to happen by interjecting some of your personality into the statement.

Talk about the “why” of the artwork

One of the worst things artists can do for their work is to over-explain what it means. However, that does not mean that you should not give proverbial breadcrumbs for the viewer to come to their own conclusion about what your artwork could mean. You do not have to spell things out; give them something to go on.

Speak in the first person

Speaking in the first person helps connect the viewer to your work by making it feel like you are talking to them directly.

Proofread your work

If your artist statement is full of typos, viewers and readers of your work may be less interested. You should not only reread and edit your work to make sure all grammatical errors are fixed, but you should use tools like Grammarly to ensure your statement is error-free because it will find mistakes that your eyes, and mind, gloss over as you read your own work.

Write using an active voice

With an active voice in your artist statement, your artwork is more present, making it feel more important, along with a conversational tone that is more inviting. Tools like Hemingway (which is free), Grammarly, and ProWritingAid (both offer free and paid versions) will all check for passive voice, as well as finding grammatical errors to fix, as mentioned above.

How to write an artist statement

Writing your artist statement can be somewhat daunting if you have never done it before. There are so many parameters that need to be met, while the form requires you to keep it somewhat brief at the same time. It also requires you to present your artwork without the benefit of actually being there in person to present your artwork. 

Here are some basics that you need to craft a compelling artist statement.

Writing a good artist statement

Interview yourself

One of the best ways to develop material for your artist statement is to interview yourself. That may sound somewhat ridiculous, but this creative process is an effective method. 

Think about an artwork that you admire from other artists. Now imagine what you would ask the creator of that artwork if you were given the chance. The questions you would ask them are the kind of questions you should ask yourself.

If you feel that interviewing yourself is too daunting of a task, you can have a friend interview you with their own questions. The point of the interview process is to find information about your work that is compelling and fascinating. That will ensure that your artistic statement is more engaging.

Do your research

If you feel somewhat intimidated about having to create an artist statement, then one of the best things you can do is to do some research and find artist statements from other artists. This will not only give you the feel of the format, but it may also give you an idea of how you would like to create your statement.

Explain the what, how, and why

When you construct a good artist statement, you need to zero in on what your work is, how it was created, and why you created it. These are general questions that viewers will likely have about your work. As you will not be there in person all the time to present your work, the artist statement is a stand-in for you.

Many artists dislike answering such questions because they feel that it inhibits the viewer's ability to form their own interpretation of the work. However, supplying these answers can also prevent a serious misinterpreting of your work. How much information you choose to give in your statement is ultimately up to you, so long as what you give is of value.

Create multiple versions

Think about the venues in which your artwork will be displayed. Not every venue will necessarily attract the same crowd. 

For example, if your artwork is being displayed online, then you are opening it up to being seen by everyone. If your work is in a museum, it may appeal to a more academic crowd. If your work is up for sale in a market, you may attract a different type of shopper. This means you may need to create multiple versions of your artist statement.

Use simple, accessible language

When you create an artist statement for an audience that is not tuned into the art world, it becomes important to use language that is both simple and accessible. This does not mean that you talk down to the viewer. It simply means that you are avoiding jargon that only those who regularly participate in the art world would know.

Ask the opinion of someone you trust

One of the best ways to create an artist statement that is insightful and informative is to turn to someone you trust and have them read over the statement you have created thus far. With a bit of feedback, you can fine-tune your statement.

Maybe they feel that your statement is a little dry to read? Or they think you can inject more of your personality into it? Maybe your statement is a little too technical? Whatever the feedback that they offer, be receptive. After all, their perspective is divorced from your own and can give you just the insight you need to create a truly great artist statement.

If you continue to have trouble developing your artist statement, then there are services such as the tools found at Copy.ai. Their tools can generate entire social media bios and content suggestions that can help give you your first step towards creating the perfect artist statement for you.

Famous artist statement examples

If you are really hung up on what you can do with your artist statement, then here are a few examples of statements used by famous artists to get the creative juices flowing.

Andy Yoder: Sculptor

“Many individuals find it reassuring that their bathroom towels are the same color as their soaps, toilet tissue, and tiling. It implies that there is a link between them and an orderly environment. Homes are a place of not just comfort, but also power. This feeling of order, in whatever shape it takes, serves as a barrier between the unpredictable and looming anarchy of the outside world.”

Jackson Pollock:Painter “Convergence”

“I want to express my feelings rather than illustrate them. As long as something is said, it doesn’t matter how the paint is put on. On the floor, I am more at ease. I feel nearer, more part of the painting, since this way I can walk around it, work from the four sides and literally be in the painting. When I’m painting, I’m not aware of what I’m doing. It’s only after a get-acquainted period that I see what I’ve been about. I’ve no fears about making changes for the painting has a life of its own.”

Judy Chicago: “The Dinner Party”

“Because we are denied knowledge of our history, we are deprived of standing upon each other’s shoulders and building upon each other’s hard-earned accomplishments. Instead, we are condemned to repeat what others have done before us and thus we continually reinvent the wheel. The Dinner Party’s goal is to break this cycle.”

Making your artist statement work for you

One interesting facet of the artist statement is that it has further use beyond the realm of the showroom or exhibit. The artist statement can also serve as a powerful marketing tool in both the physical and digital worlds. Your artist statement can be a major building block for establishing not only your identity as an artist, but your personal brand as well.

SEO opportunities

One of the hardest things for artists, especially on the internet, is being seen. There is an ever-growing amount of artistic content being uploaded to the internet, which means that plenty of art is not being seen. With your artist statement, you can harness the power of SEO and get your work seen.

What is SEO? SEO stands for search engine optimization, and it means taking the content you put on the internet and ensuring that it meets certain parameters that will get it to show up in desirable positions on search engine platforms, such as Google. It works by utilizing certain keywords that people are looking for.

Keywords and hashtags

You want to choose popular keywords that people are actively searching for, but they need to be specific enough that people will be able to find your work. If you are attempting to structure your statement around keywords rather than finding the keywords that best work with your statement, then you will not get good quality results.

Remember that high-volume hashtags mean they will be used more often, and your post will drop quickly out of traffic because of the sheer volume of use. Use no more than one or two high volume hashtags, keep the rest of them in the medium to low traffic range. Your post will get more views and likely be more relevant to your real target market.

Using hashtags and social media for an effective artist statement

When you post your artwork on social media, you want to use hashtags for your work to appear in the search results for image-based social media sites, such as Instagram hashtags. If you are unfamiliar with hashtags, they are merely keywords with the “#” symbol placed in front. For example, if you were posting a painting of a frog, you would use the hashtag “#frog” or “#frogpainting” to make it appear in the search results.

Final thoughts on writing an artist statement

An artist statement is a powerful tool. If you use it correctly, you can build a dedicated viewership for your work. This is essential if you truly wish to take your art from hobby to career.

By having an effective artist statement, you are not only portraying your artwork properly, but you are showcasing yourself as a professional expert that can communicate effectively while bringing attention and appreciation to your work.

This tutorial on how to write effective artist statements is part of a “how to write” series that includes tutorials on writing for different formats and purposes. Topics include, but are not limited to the following:

How to write a movie review
A guide to writing taglines
How to write a white paper
How to write great blog posts
Student recommendation letter formats

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