If you're looking to make a name for yourself as an artist then at some point in time you may need to sit down and write who you are and what your art is all about - the artist statement.
Even if you are not trying to make a name for yourself, it may be a worthwhile exercise for you to write an artist statement for the purpose of self discovery.
However writing about yourself is hard and writing about your art is even harder. But it should not feel like a challenge!
This post is all about writing the perfect artist statement which describes you as an artist, but also does not sound like a sales pitch.
What Is An Artist Statement
An artist statement is essentially what you would write if you needed to describe yourself as an artist to someone who is not aware of you. The artist statement needs to be concise and should not be confused with a biography or resume.
You should write your artist statement as if it were your first impression to a new viewer.
It should explain in few words what you are all about as an artist, without being confusing, cliche or dishonest.
We will go through some examples of famous artist statements later in this post to give you an idea of what you could include in yours.
Do You Need An Artist Statement?
In short, no. Expecially if you are just a student of the arts.
There are many famous artists who do not have artist statements (David Hockney, Peter Doig and Anish Kapoor for example). Though these artists are in a unique position where they do not really need to talk about themselves anymore (the media do that for them).
However regardless of your situation, there is no harm in writing an artist statement as it can be a great exercise in discovering who you are as an artist and what your values are.
If you are trying to promote yourself in any way as an artist, then having a clear and concise artist statement will be to your benefit. It can be used on your website, press releases, competition entries and so on.
Your artist statement is often the first thing people will read about you so it is important that you get it right.
What Should You Include In Your Artist Statement?
Your artist statement should be concise but meaningful. I cannot provide you with a step-by-step blueprint for writing your own artist statement as it does not exist. Everyone will have a different and very personal artist statement.
What I suggest you do is write down answers to the following:
- What kind of artist are you?
- What are you trying to achieve with your artworks?
- What do you want to tell your viewers through your artworks?
- Are there any particular methods you use to create your artworks?
You can then use some of this information to create your perfect artist statement (remember you need to be concise, so do not try and cram everything in). There may be other information you want to include depending on who you are as an artist.
But remember, your artist statement should be concise but meaningful.
Famous Artist Statements
I think the best way to demonstrate what an artist statement is and should look like is to review some famous artist statements.
“I let myself go. I thought little of the houses and trees, but applied colour stripes and spots to the canvas… Within me sounded the memory of early evening in Moscow – before my eyes was the strong, colour-saturated scale of the Munich light and atmosphere, which thundered deeply in the shadows.”
Read more about Wassily Kandinsky: Concerning the Spiritual in Art.
“When you take a flower in your hand and really look at it, it’s your world for the moment. I want to give that world to someone else… Nobody really sees a flower – really – it is so small – we haven’t time – and to see takes time… So I said to myself – I’ll paint what I see – what the flower is to me but I’ll paint it big and they will be surprised into taking time to look at it.”
“I don’t paint things; I paint only the differences between things… I do not literally paint that table, but the emotion it produces upon me. What I dream of is an art of balance, of purity and serenity devoid of troubling or depressing subject matter – a soothing, calming influence on the mind, rather like a good armchair which provides relaxation from physical fatigue.”
Read more on Henri Matisse: Matisse the Master: A Life of Henri Matisse: The Conquest of Colour, 1909-1954.
“I paint from the top down. From the sky, then the mountains, then the hills, then the houses, then the cattle, and then the people. I look out the window sometimes to seek the color of the shadows and the different greens in the trees, but when I get ready to paint I just close my eyes and imagine a scene. I’ll get an inspiration and start painting; then I’ll forget everything, everything except how things used to be and how to paint it so people will know how we used to live.”
Read more about Grandma Moses: Grandma Moses.
“I want to express my feelings rather than illustrate them. It doesn’t matter how the paint is put on, as long as something is said. 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.”
Read more about Jackson Pollock: Jackson Pollock.
“An implied quasi-theatrical sublimity in my work creates a tension between modes of engagement with internal and external realities. While attempting to bridge a rift in the continuum between metaphysics and narrativity I investigate a lexicon of parafictional erotic proclivities.”
“It’s to paint directly on the canvas without any funny business, as it were, and I use almost pure turpentine to start with, adding oil as I go along until the medium becomes pure oil. I use as little oil as I can possibly help, and that’s my method.”
“If I could say it in words there would be no reason to paint.”
Read more about Edward Hopper: Edward Hopper.
“It is important to express oneself… provided the feelings are real and are taken from your own experience… My ambition is limited to capturing something transient and yet, this ambition is excessive.”
Read more about Berthe Morisot: Berthe Morisot.
Leonardo da Vinci
“The beginnings and ends of shadow lie between the light and darkness and may be infinitely diminished and infinitely increased. Shadow is the means by which bodies display their form. The forms of bodies could not be understood in detail but for shadow.”
“Where the spirit does not work with the hand, there is no art.”
Read more about Leonardo da Vinci: Leonardo da Vinci: Complete Paintings and Drawings.
Notice how much these small paragraphs tell you about each of the artists and what they tried to achieve with their artworks.
Some particular extracts I enjoyed were:
“If I could say it in words there would be no reason to paint.” Edward Hopper
“It is important to express oneself… provided the feelings are real and are taken from your own experience." Berthe Morisot
Self Promotion Doesn't Need To Be Painful
One of the main reaons people struggle with writing an artist statement is a fear of self promotion. It can be surprisingly difficult to actually write about yourself, expecially in a positive light.
We seem to be much better at talking down on ourselves.
But self promotion doesn't need to be difficult. You do not need to write your artist statement as if it were a sales pitch. You do not need to try and sell your art to people. You are just trying to communicate with them and make a connection.
Don't think of it like you are promoting yourself. Just think of it like you are describing yourself to people who do not know you.
If you manage to build a connection with your viewers using your artist statement, then the purpose of your artist statement is fulfilled.
If you need some help writing about your art, then you should check out this book Art-Write: The Writing Guide for Visual Artists.
I hope you enjoyed this post on writing the perfect artist statement. Even if you don't need one, it can be a great exercise to sit down and try and write your own artist statement.
It will make you ponder why you are painting and what your values are.
If you have any tips for writing an artist statement please share them in the comment section below (or better yet, if you have your own artist statement and you are not afraid to post it, we would love to hear it).