As I have said many times in my book Secrets of the Art World and on my blogs: All working artists are entrepreneurs. And that means you’re running a business. And all businesses have a mission statement that defines who they are, what they do, who they serve, and their ultimate purpose. Artists don’t typically write “mission statements” or have them on their website, however, what they do have is an “Artist Statement,” which basically serves the same purpose. If you’re an artist, you absolutely need to have an artist statement on hand wherever you go. It should also be featured prominently on your website, accompany every portfolio submission and query, and be readily available upon request from gallery owners, clients, the media, and jurors of award competitions, like our upcoming Art Comes Alive Awards.
If done correctly, your artist statement has the potential to be one of your most valuable and powerful promotional tools. By crafting a well-written, succinct, and clearly thought-out statement, you have the power to define yourself, your art, and your signature style before anyone else does it for you. Like I have said in previous blogs, your first impression as an artist/entrepreneur is everything. You simply don’t get a second chance to make a great first and lasting impression. And your artist statement is just that: Your first message to the buyer, client, gallery owner, or juror. Don’t let them pass you by!
So how do you write a memorable and impactful artist statement? I can help you with that.
5 steps to writing an artist statement that will generate interest in your art from buyers:
1. Keep your artist statement short and to the point.
Your artist statement should be no longer than a page. You don’t want to overshare or get too personal. Remember this is your message to the world. How do you want to be seen, remembered, and perceived? You are stating who you are, what type of art you do, and what people can expect to discover or experience in your work. Ultimately, the artist statement should compel others to want to view (or purchase) your work.
2. Avoid jargon in your artist statement, but clearly describe and define your work and style.
Do not try to be something you’re not. Write your statement to the “everyman”—someone who may not have a lot of experience with art. Would a stranger on the street know what you are talking about? If your sentences are convoluted, filled with pretentious industry jargon, you will immediately lose interest—yes, even from people like me, who have been in the industry for 25 years. Nothing turns me off more than someone pretending to be someone they’re not. People want to hear from “the real you.” Write your first draft as if you’re speaking to a friend. Your artist statement should sound like you, not a scholarly journal article.
3. Your artist statement should describe your CURRENT work, and in particular what methods and materials you use to create your pieces.
An artist statement is not a CV. You don’t need to list all the various types of work you did in the past or all of your achievements. (In fact, “award-winning” and “best-selling” are great descriptions, and sum up achievements, succinctly and effectively. Your CV will show the specifics.) Your artist statement should ultimately reflect who you are today and what you want your customers, clients, jurors, or viewers to experience when they see your art. It also clearly defines you, and answers this question: What sets my work apart from other artists doing similar work?
4. Be as specific as possible in your artist statement, using clear and sensory language.
Answer questions like:
- What specific type of work do you do?
- What is this work inspired by or based on?
- What process or technique, especially if unusual, does a consumer need to understand about your work?
Remember you want to be a specific as possible—so use words that call on the five senses. Describe the color, texture, sights, smells, and sounds that the artwork is trying to evoke. Also, don’t underestimate the power of using a brief story or anecdote to create a powerful and memorable moment that helps you and your work stand out.
5. Carefully edit and review your artist statement.
Nothing makes a bad impression like sloppy copy. Have a friend or colleague review and edit your statement before sending or posting. Through the editing process, be sure you have:
- Not repeated yourself (Is a descriptive word used more than once on the page? Are you saying the same thing over and over and not developing your statement?)
- Eliminated spelling or grammatical errors
- Included sensory words and descriptions
- Have a clearly-defined statement of purpose as an artist
- Included a compelling reason that people should view or consider your work
Also, remember you are an evolving human being, artist, and entrepreneur. As you evolve, so too should your statement. Make a practice of looking at your statement periodically. Make sure it’s fresh, current, and relevant—like you and your artwork!