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The Artist's Statement vs Biography

by Keith Bond on 5/16/2011 9:26:46 AM

This article is by Keith Bond, Regular contributing writer for FineArtViews.  You should submit an article and share your views as a guest author by clicking here.

 

 

Recently, I have felt the need to rewrite my artist statement and biography.  With this on my mind, I felt that I would share some of my thoughts.  Most of these thoughts are not mine, but ideas that I have gathered over the past couple years from a number of different sources.  I cannot take the credit. 

 

Don’t confuse an artist’s statement with a biography.  Many artists often combine the two into one document that lacks the intended focus.  I’ve probably been guilty of this.  They should be two separate documents with different purposes.

 

Artist’s Statement

 

1.    Should be brief – only a couple paragraphs. 

2.    Should be written in first person.

3.    Should be about your current art – not past periods.

4.    Should evolve and grow along with your art.

5.    Should compel the viewer to want to look at your work.

6.    Don’t include bio info here.

7.    Don’t include teachers or other’s whose work has influenced yours.  This is a statement about YOUR art, not theirs.

8.    I want to repeat #5.  This is the most important thing to remember – your artist’s statement should compel the viewer to want to look again at your work.

 

Biography:  Many shows and exhibits will request a bio from you.  This is an important document to have.

 

1.    Most bios are extremely boring.  Mine included.  Most artists’ bios read almost identical to each other.  Again, mine included.  That is why I am working on rewriting mine.  I want mine to stand out and be different.  I want it to be read and not tossed aside after the first few words of the first sentence.

2.    In a nutshell, your bio is basically your resume written out in paragraphs.  It includes the highlights from your resume, not necessarily everything.  But remember, spice it up a bit (see #1).

3.    Should be written in third person.

4.    Include a description of your current work.

5.    Here it is okay to include your past – including art instruction, influences, and what events or upbringing have shaped your artistic direction, etc.

6.    Include important exhibits or venues.

7.    Include important collections or commissions, accolades, awards, etc. 

8.    Include where you were born and where you currently live.

9.    This document should also evolve and change along with your career.  More important items will be added as your career grows and less important or less relevant things will be removed.  (Where you were born should remain the same, though ;-) ).

10.  It will likely be longer than your statement, but don’t make it too lengthy.  Most people won’t read it if it’s too long (unless you have a very compelling or entertaining story). 

 

What have I missed?  What do you think makes a good statement or resume? 

 

Best Wishes,

Keith Bond

 

 



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Related Posts:

Artist Statement: Know your Audience

Tell Me A Story: Focus on the WHY

Are You Guilty of this Originality Sin?

Artist Statement as GPS

Written Statements

Tell Me a Story: Writing About Your Art


Topics: art marketing | FineArtViews | Keith Bond 

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 40 Comments

mimi torchia boothby watercolors
via faso.com
I will be honest. I never read an artist's statement until someone told me I needed one. I have read Artist's Biographies, several, in fact, of artists that I love. And many of artists that I am getting to know. But always the art came first.

I cannot imagine scanning through artist's statements to help me decide whether or not I should look at an artist's work..

I guess it's different if you're a gallery owner.

Virginia Giordano
via faso.com
Thanks Keith - Straightforward, excellent suggestions to follow. I checked mine immediately and see how both my artist statement and bio can be improved. I have felt at a loss on the bio especially, and from your outline it will be fairly simple to rewrite.

Betty Pieper
via faso.com
I don't think I ever read this in one place before! When asked for an artist statement as part of a juried show I often comment on the painting itself or whatever comes to mind. How does one properly write in the third person?
Just include what has been written or told or overheard? I certainly am guilty of the "combination" bio and statement. I don't seem to be able to grasp or accept marketing aspects...despite a stack of books our daughter gave me as a gift. This is short and to the point.

Sandy Askey-Adams, PSA
via faso.com
Hello Keith...
This is very well done.

I just did a very recent Blog about writing Artists Statements in two parts as to whether or not we really need one. Of course, I feel we do.

In comparing the difference between an artists statement and a bio is great information. So simplified and to the point. Thank you.

jack white
via faso.com
I can think of nothing you left out. I like to say make your bio sizzle. This is your opportunity to tell folks why they should want to get to know you and your art. We only get one shot at a strong first impression and for many the bio is it.
jack

Brennen McElhaney
via faso.com
Keith,

Thank you for this post!

A secondary benefit of a well-thought-out an artist's statement is that it may give you (the artist) clarity and focus on what your art is all about.

I found that by refining my artist's statement, I am more "sold" on the direction of my art.

http://www.brennenmcelhaney.com/artist/statement.html




mimi torchia boothby watercolors
via faso.com
Betty; 3rd person: "She graduated from MIT" "During her third art show, she was discovered by.. "



Sandy Askey-Adams, PSA
via faso.com
Went to your site....Love it Brennen!! thank you for sharing it. :)

Cooper
via faso.com
Excellent article Keith.
Betty commented "don't think I ever read this in one place before!" She's right--you really pulled it all together.
We probably all need to print and laminate a copy that can be glued to the wall by the computer screen :)

KC

Brennen McElhaney
via faso.com
An artist's statement makes more sense when accompanied by examples of your artwork. A reader becomes more engaged, considering what you have written in comparison to the art you've created.

Enda Bardell
via faso.com
Thank you, Keith.
Just last week, I participated in a 4 artist submission where I mentioned to one artist that the artist's statement needed to be short and to the point, after receiving a long one. The artist insisted on a long artist's statement and bio because having proudly produced art for 40 years, his artist statement and bio needed to be long. I did not argue.
Enda


Carol Schmauder
via faso.com
Thank you for this valuable information, Keith. I need to redo both my artist statement and my bio. It will be great to have these points to follow when I do.

Donald Fox
via faso.com
Pretty good advice here, Keith. What might also be good for some would be examples of good statements and/or good bios. Not everyone is able to craft one of these from scratch even with the steps you suggest.

Donald Fox
via faso.com
Pretty good advice here, Keith. What might also be good for some would be examples of good statements and/or good bios. Not everyone is able to craft one of these from scratch even with the steps you suggest.

Mary Ann Pals
via faso.com
Thank you, Keith, for your concise and thoughtful article. I teach art business classes and I plan to use your guidelines in the future with my students, AND GIVE YOU THE CREDIT FOR THEM!

Many years ago, an art mentor of mine layed out for me exactly how to write both documents and your guidelines are exactly how she told me to do them. Tried and true.

There have been a few times when I've been told to combine the two for a particular show. Kind of tricky. When I've had to do that, I keep it in the third person and include my first person artist statement stuff in a direct quote at the end. This way the reader is left with my personal touch and will hopefully remember the (short) quote long after they've forgotten the accolades and achievements.

Changing and evolving both documents over time is VERY important. It's a pain to rework writing, but I feel that both statements should always reflect the artist and their work (and achievements) AT THAT POINT IN TIME.

Question: Do any of you, like myself, sometimes 'tweak' an artist statement to better serve the theme of an art show? I can think of one instance where I was invited to participate in a show that was all about the Indiana Dunes. I live within 3 miles of Lake Michigan and the Dunes, and although I didn't already have anything about the Dunes in my original website artist statement, I included something about the inspiration I find from the Dunes in my artist statement for that show. I DO find inspiration from the Dunes, but that wasn't included in my more permanent artist statement on my website. Anybody else do that on occasion?

Thanks again, Keith.
Mary Ann Pals

Barb Stachow
via faso.com
Thanks for the article Keith, it will come in handy I'm sure. I had to write one up last year and didn't know where to start. This is a keeper!

Brian Sherwin
via faso.com
Concerning the biography-- I'd suggest to stay away from including trivial information. For example, that you started drawing at the age of 3 does not really matter. I see information like that in bios, as well as artist statements, all the time-- most children draw when very young. Honestly, what does your first experiences with Crayons have to do with your art today?

For both the artist statement and biography try to stay away from what I like to call the 'magic factor'. You may honestly feel that your artwork has the ability to change opinions-- but please, please, please don't try to push yourself off as being some kind of visual mystic. It often just comes off tacky.

Be wary of writing about how you are a revolutionary as well. Your art may change the world-- but most likely it won't. I don't mean to sound negative... but when I read a statement or bio that involves such wording I walk away tongue in cheek. If you have a HUGE following and have made a clear cultural impact said wording might be acceptable-- but in most cases it is not.

Another thing-- don't tell white lies or make your accomplishments appear more ground-breaking than they actually were. Trust me on this-- writers, collectors, curators-- and others who tend to research an artist WILL find out if you are making things up or pumping up a situation or event that really was not that big of a deal.

I've seen everything-- artists who have lied about academic background, artists who have made up gallery names for exhibits that never took place, artists who have won prizes in specific years-- and it turns out someone else did and that the artist who claims to have won was never involved with the mentioned competition... and so on.

ALSO -- don't think you can get away with 'borrowing' from another artists statement or bio. Once exposed it can take years to move beyond that disgrace. Trust me on this folks. Don't place yourself in a bad situation.

Brian Sherwin
via faso.com
I'll add this-- having a an artist statement and bio is more important than you might realize. There are reasons beyond pitching yourself to gallery owners and curators to have one. You never know who may end up reading the information-- or how it will be shared with others.

For example, I know an artist who ended up being written about by a college student. The professor asked the class to write about a local artist-- and the artist in question was one of only a few who offered a detailed statement and bio. One thing lead to another and the artist, and a few others, ended up being invited to exhibit at the school.

It was an exhibit that worked wonders for regional fame just because the artist made sure to have a detailed statement and bio on her artist website. The professor also included those selected in future lessons about the local art scene. Thus, with each semester fresh faced students-- some who may become collectors someday, you never know-- are introduced to her artwork.

Brian Sherwin
via faso.com
Mary, you might want to read the Related Post, Artist Statement: Know your Audience. It taps into what you are suggesting-- having different versions of your artist statement for different situations.

Nicole Hyde
via faso.com
Thanks Keith, good info. I've been rewriting mine for what seems like forever with dismal results. Your guidelines will come in handy.

Joanne Benson
via faso.com
Keith,
Thanks for the concise list of what to include where. I have often combined bio and statement. I too need to rework these items and make them less boring.....

Brian,
Thanks for your additional pointers. It amazes me that people would lie about their artistic accomplishments. I guess some people will do anything to get ahead! I know an artist who kind of tweaked the truth a bit about having work in a prominent art museum. I read about it in a local paper that did a write up about the artist. I actually researched it online and emailed the museum to see if it were true and was told that the artist had work in an associated sales venue but not the museum itself. So I know that artist stretched the truth (or possibly the interviewer got the info wrong).

Carol McIntyre
via faso.com
Here are some suggestions for those who do not have an artist statement: 1) make a hanging file of artist statements that you collect at fairs or shows; this collection will give you lots of ideas; 2) several websites about artist statements are out there or get Alyson Stanfield's book "I'd Rather Be in The Studio;" 3) start out by asking a friend/relative or someone who can write to write about you. I did this and it gave me a good place to start.

Mary Ann - yes I tweak my statement to go with a show. Why not? I have my statement and bio hanging in a current show and saw several people read my info. It can provide people with questions they may want to ask you....hence more engagement.

Brian, thanks for your comment "I have been drawing since I was 4!" Yawn.

Brian Sherwin
via faso.com
Another one that bothers me-- how some artists mention being raised in in poverty-- or wealth for that matter-- when it has nothing to do with the context of their artwork. For the bio I suppose that info can be interesting-- but the statement we really don't need to know your social/economic background unless it is an important part of your work based on subject/theme.

I also get annoyed when artists mention that they are related-- most often distantly-- to a famous artist. Does it really matter that you are related in some way to Picasso? OR are you just trying to use name recognition to push paintings on buyers? That is what I take from it.

Now-- if the artist related to Picasso actually interacted with Picasso-- received lessons, advice, or what have you-- that is different. Aside from that I really don't see why that distant connection should be mentioned other than as a form of hype-- which falls flat when read by snarky bastards like me. ;p

Bonnie Samuel
via faso.com
Over the years, I've agonized over my statement and bio, rewritten several times. So I read this article last fall on writing your artist statement...made sense...tell it as if someone was standing in front of you asking why you make art, what does it mean to you. I scraped what I had before and within a few minutes had written what I think is me.

As for bio, hmmm. All seem to say about the same thing. Does anyone read those? I have one just the same.

Donna Robillard
via faso.com
It is really great to have these guidelines. I, too, need to rewrite both my statement and bio. Thanks.

Keith Bond
via faso.com
Mary,

Yes, it is sometimes necessary to tweak your statement for a show. Your bio, too. If a bio is akin to a resume, Job Hunting 101 suggests that you customize your resume for the job you are applying for. Highlight the important relevant items. Why not for an art exhibit, too?



Keith Bond
via faso.com
Brian,

Thanks for all your added advise and wisdom.

Keith Bond
via faso.com
A few of you question the need for these. Does anyone really read them? YES - if they are written well. They wont be read if they sound like every other artist's statement or bio.

I read somewhere that the most frequently visited page on an artist's website is the bio page.

This is true for me. When I visit an artist's website for the first time, the first place I go is the bio page. 9 times out of 10, I quit reading after the first few sentences, though, because they are all the same. They are boring. Once in a while, the bio or statement is so engaging and interesting that I read it all.

Find a way to be interesting. Take advantage of the page that is most frequently visited. Compel the viewer/reader to want to visit your works pages.



Nicole Hyde
via faso.com
Brennen, I really like your example. Clean, clear, succinct.

Esther J. Williams
via faso.com
I need to rework my bio for a show this weekend. Thanks for the tips everyone!

Marsha Hamby Savage
via faso.com
This is a wonderful article full of useful information ... along with the comments made. I tend to let my artist statement stay the same a little bit too long. I have just recently tweaked it a little for a show.

I clicked on Brennen's link and thoroughly enjoyed looking at his site and the information he shared.

Brian, your words of wisdom are right on! I need to copy some of this with your permission to a document I can share with my students. Just let me know it is okay. Credit will be given to you. I enjoy posting great information to my blog with credits given and also discussions with my students and art organizations!

Thanks for this wonderful discussion!

samthor
via faso.com
not nearly as important as it is to have a photo of you holding your brushes (or other artist's tools) casually under your chin.

Seriously, its important to have both because if you actually have an impact on the audience they will want to know more about you and/or the art you make.
At some point you should be able to verbalize who you are, what you do, and why anyone should care.
Having written down will enable a gallery or venue to answer such questions on your behalf.

Brennen McElhaney
via faso.com
RE: The Artist's Statement vs Biography

The artist's statement and the artist's biography work together to sell your artwork and you as an artist. - But they're distinctly different (hence the "vs." in the title).

The statement is all about why you do the work that you do - and so a few exemplary images of your artwork makes sense to go with it.

The biography is all about you (as an artist) - and so may be accompanied by a picture of you the artist (preferably engaged doing your art.)

Do art collectors buy a work of art or the work of an artist? Yes, they do.



Dick Wayne
via faso.com
There's no reason why a bio has to be dry and read like a resume. I think it should be a narrative, almost as though one is telling an interesting story about themselves. Make it sound personal as though you are writing a personal letter to someone. After all, your art is VERY personal and unique. Let the reader get to know you and LIKE you. Then they will view your art on that basis.

Brian Sherwin
via faso.com
I suppose you may want to be careful what you include in a bio. After all, if you mention that you are a hardcore supporter of a specific political party, for example, you may turn people who oppose that political party off. The same thing goes for hotly debated societal and cultural issues.

Perfect example-- though extreme-- read, http://faso.com/fineartviews/25584/artists-personal-lives-does-it-play-a-role-in-how-you-view-their-art

Matthew
via faso.com
Great lists! Thank you for this.

Kra
via faso.com
Thanks so much! Your post was well explained. Looking to check out more of your post into the future. Krasavoy.blogspot.com

Taylor Das
via faso.com
An artist biography is important for any artist to have, as it showcases who they are and what their art is all about.See more artist biographies.


Taylor
via faso.com
Well, I personally haven't written an artist statement yet but I did wrote lots of versions of my professional bio and it somehow seems to remind me of an artist statement (check details on professional biography at biographytemplate.org). I'm not sure whether these are the same things but they do look similar.

BiographyTemplate
via faso.com
Well, I personally haven't written an artist statement yet but I did wrote lots of versions of my professional bio and it somehow seems to remind me of an artist statement (check details on professional biography at biographytemplate.org). I'm not sure whether these are the same things but they do look similar.










 

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