Photo Essay Artist Statement Outline

Artist Statement Guidelines

Artists can send their artist statement for professional review. GYST submission policies, examples of artist statements, and writing tips are found below:

What Is an Artist’s Statement?

  1. A general introduction to your work, a body of work, or a specific project.
  2. It should open with the work’s basic ideas in an overview of two or three sentences or a short paragraph.
  3. The second paragraph should go into detail about how these issues or ideas are presented in the work.
  4. If writing a full-page statement, you can include some of the following points:
    • Why you have created the work and its history.
    • Your overall vision.
    • What you expect from your audience and how they will react.
    • How your current work relates to your previous work.
    • Where your work fits in with current contemporary art.
    • How your work fits in with the history of art practice.
    • How your work fits into a group exhibition, or a series of projects you have done.
    • Sources and inspiration for your images.
    • Artists you have been influenced by or how your work relates to other artists’ work. Other influences.
    • How this work fits into a series or longer body of work.
    • How a certain technique is important to the work.
    • Your philosophy of art making or of the work’s origin.
  5. The final paragraph should recapitulate the most important points in the statement.

What an Artist’s Statement is NOT:

  1. Pomposity, writing a statement about your role in the world.
  2. Grandiose and empty expressions and clichés about your work and views.
  3. Technical and full of jargon.
  4. Long dissertations or explanations.
  5. Discourses on the materials and techniques you have employed.
  6. Poems or prosy writing.
  7. Folksy anecdotes about some important event in your life.
  8. Nothing about your childhood or family unless it is very relevant to your work.
  9. Not a brag fest or a press release.

Why Write an Artist’s Statement?

  1. Writing an artist’s statement can be a good way to clarify your own ideas about your work.
  2. A gallery dealer, curator, docent, or the public can have access to your description of your work, in your own words. This can be good for a reviewer as well.
  3. Useful in writing a proposal for an exhibition or project.
  4. It is often required when applying for funding.
  5. It is often required when applying to graduate school.
  6. It can be a good idea to include an artist’s statement when your slides are requested for review or your work is included in the slide library of a college or university.
  7. Good to refer to when you are preparing a visiting artist lecture, or someone else is lecturing or writing about your work.
  8. Useful when you are applying for a teaching position.
  9. Good idea when a press release is being written.
  10. Useful when someone is writing about your work in a catalog or magazine.
  11. Useful when someone else is writing a bio for a program brochure.
  12. It is a good way to introduce your work to a buying public. Often the more a buyer knows about your work the more they become interested in what you do, and in purchasing a work.

Types of Artist’s Statements You Might Need.

  1. Full-Page Statement: This statement you will use most often; it speaks generally about your work, the methods you may have used, the history of your work, etc. It may also include specific examples of your current work or project.
  2. Short Statement: A shorter statement that includes the above in an abbreviated way, or is specific to the project at hand.
  3. Short Project Statement: A very short statement about the specific project you are presenting.
  4. Bio: Often a short description of your career as an artist and your major accomplishments.

How Should I Write It?

  1. This most often depends on the context where it will appear. Who is your reader? What assumptions can you make about their knowledge?
    • Emotional tone
    • Theoretical (but not over-the-top)
    • Academic (but not dry)
    • Analytic
    • Humorous
    • Antagonistic
    • Political
    • Professional
  2. Ask yourself “What are you trying to say in the work?” “What influences my work?” “How do my methods of working (techniques, style, formal decisions) support the content of my work?” “What are specific examples of this in my work” “Does this statement conjure up any images?”
  3. Use a word processor so that you can make changes and update it often. You should keep older copies so that you can refer to them if you should need to write or talk about your older work or if you have a retrospective.
  4. Refer to yourself in the first person, not as “the artist”.  Make it come from you. Make it singular, not general, and reflective of yourself and your work.
  5. Make it clear and direct, concise and to the point.
  6. It should not be longer than one page.
  7. Use no smaller than 10 – 12 point type. Some people have trouble reading very small type.
  8. Artist’s statements are usually single-spaced.
  9. Do not use fancy fonts or tricky formatting. The information should wow them, not the graphic design.

Considerations:

  1. Who is your audience? What level are you writing for?
  2. What will your statement be used for?
  3. What does your statement say about you as an artist and a professional?

Style:

  1. Be honest.
  2. Try to capture your own speaking voice.
  3. Avoid repetition of phrases and words. Look for sentences that say the same thing you said before, but in a different way. Choose the better of the two.
  4. Vary sentence structure and length. The length of a sentence should relate to the complexity of the idea.
  5. Organization of detail is important. Significant ideas should be at the end of each sentence for emphasis.

Where Should It Go?

  1. In a binder at the front of the gallery with your résumé, list of artworks, and past reviews or articles about your work.
  2. You may want to hang it on the wall, regular size, or enlarged as a didactic statement.
  3. Include it in a program for performance, screening, or panel.
  4. In the application package of the grant you are applying for.
  5. Give to anyone who you feel would benefit from the information.

Calvin & Hobbes on artist statements. Cartoon by Bill Watterson, July 15, 1995

“Hey, that was a good artist statement!”

It’s a sentiment you don’t hear very often, and yet it’s what we found ourselves saying after reading the statements below. Artist statements don’t have to be a source of fear (for the writer) and boredom (for the reader)! See a few examples of strong artist statements below, and below that, a discussion of what makes them good.

Andy Yoder, sculptor: “Many people take great comfort in the bathroom towels being the same color as the soap, toilet paper, and tiles. It means there is a connection between them, and an environment of order. Home is a place not only of comfort, but of control. This sense of order, in whatever form it takes, acts as a shield against the unpredictability and lurking chaos of the outside world.

My work is an examination of the different forms this shield takes, and the thinking that lies behind it. I use domestic objects as the common denominators of our personal environment. Altering them is a way of questioning the attitudes, fears and unwritten rules which have formed that environment and our behavior within it.”

Nancy McIntyre, silk screen artist: “I like it when a place has been around long enough that there is a kind of tension between the way it was originally designed to look and the way it looks now, as well as a tension between the way it looks to whoever is caring for it and the way it looks to me. Trouble is, the kinds of places I find most appealing keep getting closed or torn down.

What do I want to say with my art?

Celebrate the human, the marks people make on the world. Treasure the local, the small-scale, the eccentric, the ordinary: whatever is made out of caring. Respect what people have built for themselves. Find the beauty in some battered old porch or cluttered, human-scale storefront, while it still stands.”

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Dawn Benedetto, jeweler: “Poppi is my fun and clever alter ego. It’s a line of jewelry that doesn’t take life too seriously. The glass and sterling rings are my invention and are unique in that they stretch to fit most everyone. Poppi adds a splash of color to jeans or an extra spark to ignite a little black dress; heck, it’ll even brighten up a trip to the grocery store.

If nothing else, it’s a statement. Poppi laughs. Poppi flirts. Poppi screams. Poppi says it all without you saying a thing.”

Diana Chamberlain, ceramicist: “I work in porcelain for its suppleness, delicacy and strength. Porcelain’s willingness to be transformed, both in form and texture, makes it a perfect medium for exploring the iconic meaning of dress and the concept of shelter.”

Margaret Cerutti, painter: “Capturing the light is everything! As a plein air painter, it is always the light that I remember most about any location. It is my inspiration.

Its elusive quality can transform a figure or a landscape in just a matter of seconds. I strive to convey that sense of place by capturing its fleeting magic.”

 

Alison Sigethy, glass artist: “Getting outside is good for the soul. Through my artwork, I try to bring the outside in. While I make no attempt to portray actual plants or animals, I do want my creations to look like they could have lived or grown somewhere. Living with beautiful objects that pay tribute to the natural world reminds us to slow down and helps us reconnect with nature.”

Charlene Fuhrman-Schulz, sumi-é artist: “My subject matter is nature, whether it is a traditional landscape or a bird and flower painting. I use traditional materials, ink and brush on rice paper, to capture movement and life — making the brush dance and the ink sing. Everything is captured in the spontaneous dance and movement of the brush as it meets the rice paper. There is no going back and correcting when painting with ink and rice paper.”

Pete McCutchen, photographer: “I decontextualize. Then, I reconstruct.

Looking past the obvious, close observation and engagement of the subject is my process. The challenge is to see beyond the distraction of the conspicuous to capture its unique self. Some of my subjects are quite beautiful, others less so. My goal is to inspire those who see my work to look more carefully at the world around them, to discover beauty in unusual places.”

So what makes these artist statements work?

What these artist statements do

  • keep it short
  • grab the reader’s interest with the first sentence
  • introduce the author’s personality and enthusiasm
  • give a hint about the why of the artwork
  • use the first person (I, me, mine — this is not a strict rule, but it does seem to help the author write a more straightforward, readable statement)

What these artist statements don’t do

  • summarize the resume found elsewhere on the website
  • give a physical description of artwork photographed elsewhere on the website
  • sound generic
  • use “art speak”

Some questions to think about when writing your statement

  • What keeps you coming back to the studio, day after day?
  • What’s the best way someone has responded to your artwork (comment in a guest book, at an exhibit, etc.)
  • What questions are you asked most frequently about your work?
  • What’s your artist story? (as opposed to your biography and CV)
  • Who is your art for?

More resources

Telling your story, and your artwork’s story, increases its value. Here are some other blog posts you might be interested in:

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