We’ve all been there. Friday night art opening. Dressed to kill. Cheap wine in one hand, other hand gesticulating wildly as you chat with your partner about the art.
You stand before a group of paintings, and you’re intrigued. You haven’t encountered this artist before and you simply must know more. After absorbing the paintings for a little bit longer, your eyes shift to the artist statement tacked to the wall.
5 minutes later you’ve read and re-read the artist statement 4 times, and you have no clue wtf the artist has been smoking.
Why Are so Many Artist Statements Horrible?
Here’s a huge secret: Most artists enjoy expressing themselves in a visual manner. While writing can be quite creative, visual artists chose to present their work to the world in a way that it would be consumed via the eyeballs. Wait. So is writing. But you get the idea.
We do not typically ask writers to draw pictures explaining their work, do we? Do we force dancers to sing songs about their dancing style? Nope. All the other artists get to work in their chosen creative endeavor. Artists are forced to write artist statements to explain their work. It blows, yes. But it’s still a thing. And lots of artists both hate it and suck at it.
So, without further blathering, here is how you can write an artist statement that not only doesn’t suck, it might also give the world (and you) a little insight into your art.
Answer These Questions
Here is what you can include in your artist statement:
- The basic materials and techniques you use to make your work
- Inspiration and influences for your pieces
- If your pieces stand on their own or are part of a body of work
- What are you intending the viewers get from your work? Or is it purely a form of self expression?
These are some basic ideas for what to include in an artist statement, but you ultimately get to choose what is in yours. If you have no idea why you are making your art, for instance, leave that part out!
Techniques For Writing Your Artist Statement
Here are the steps to writing your best artist statement. It’s a thoughtful process, so take your time and don’t rush it. If you do happen to be in a hurry, feel free to skip down to the printable artist statement template.
But then come back here later and do the work to dig in and get to the heart of your work. I promise you, it will be a journey of discovery!
Journal your heart out. Do a meditation, drink a large glass of kombucha, go for a swim, whatever you have to do to loosen yourself up a bit and allow yourself to think honestly about your artwork. Do it, and then grab a pen and paper.
You need to write for 3 straight pages only about your artwork. Yes, I chose 3 pages as a little nod to Julia Cameron (hey, girl!)
Write about any or all of these:
- Why you like your art material(s)
- How you feel when you are working
- How you feel when you aren’t working
- What you are excited to work on next
- Your favorite pieces you’ve ever made, ever
- Who you ideally want to see your work
- Whose artwork you LOVE
- What inspires you: physically, mentally, emotionally, spiritually
- Does your work fit into a larger body of artwork
- Why you started making art in the first place
But the clincher is, you have to write all this madly, quickly, emotionally, stupidly (please don’t edit or think about what you’re writing). This is all just for YOUR EYES. And obviously your roommate’s eyes when they sneak in and read your journal when you’re on a date.
Ask Your Buddies
Ha! Don’t even think about skipping this step. You cannot see your artwork like other people can. But you already know this. Ask as many people as you can, but at least 2, to explain what they see in your artwork. Ask them to describe what they think your subject matter is, your influences, the style – really anything that comes to mind. Record them, or get it in writing.
Look at Other Artist Statements
Once you have compiled a whole bunch of juicy words about your art, turn your attention to other peoples’ art. Or at least their artist statements.
You will be gathering ideas and inspiration from these artist statements, and maybe stealing a little bit of how they are structured.
Write the First Draft
Here are the rules for writing the first draft of your artist statement. Do not break these rules.
- Write clearly and simply. Ain’t nobody wants to call up a dictionary when trying to understand the intention and inspiration behind the art. Seriously, you’ll just end up sounding like a pretentious windbag if you use a lot of giant words.
- Be honest. Don’t feel the need to attribute a higher meaning to your work if you’re all about exploring colors. But on the other hand, people love to know if there is a greater message going on. If there is something obviously bigger you are trying to convey with your art, don’t be all mysterious.
Oh, look! Here are some artist statements for you to
steal be inspired by. *Do not steal words. Stealing words is plagiarism, and is not only completely uncool and ridiculously lame, it’s a federal offense. Not really, but come on, bro.
Artist Statement Examples
Here are some artist statements that run the gamut in terms of length, art materials, intentions, etc. It’s up to you to decide what will fit the intention of your artist statement and tailor it thusly.
Darla Jackson Artist Statement
My sculpture is an exploration of human emotions. In order to express these ideas, I use feelings that are turned into recognizable visual objects, or symbols, and combine them with other elements to create a duality. Through the anthropomorphism of animals, use of strong body language and symbolism, I can convey these emotions and ideas in a way that is more approachable for viewers. The end result is familiarity with an oddness that makes it compelling. -Darla Jackson
Daniel Martin Diaz Artist Statement
Over the past few years, I have become immersed in scientific and philosophical concepts, such as Anatomy, Computer Science, Math, Cosmology, Biology, Quantum Physics, and Consciousness. I have been particularly fascinated with scientific diagrams, which explain theories and properties through imagery. Although these rudimentary images are without any leanings towards aesthetics, I find them to be beautiful, though that is not the intention. All of the projects I have created begin as drawings, which I feel has a beauty and intimacy that painting cannot capture. The subtle lines that graphite creates, and the quickness in which one can capture an idea makes this medium alluring. – Daniel Martin Diaz
Giselle Hicks Ceramicist Artist Statement
This series of coiled-and-pinched vessels came from a self-imposed assignment to make something using only a few tools. My hope is that the finished piece reflects my skill and control of the material while acknowledging the limitations and idiosyncrasies of my hands and body.
I begin a day in the studio by making a few sketches, wedging clay and rolling a pile of coils. I work on eight to ten forms at a time, rotating from one to another as they stiffen enough to continue building up the thin walls. It takes about two days to finish a group of vessels. Typically, I work in this rhythm for two weeks before I have enough work to fire. Once the vessels are dry, they are loaded and fired in a bisque kiln, allowed to cool for a day, then sanded and washed in preparation for the glaze application. I dip the pots into a large bucket of glaze to get a thick and even coating. All the work is then fired in an electric kiln to 2230 degrees (cone 6). – Giselle Hicks
If all else fails, head to an artist statement generator. Here’s what I got, and I’m sticking with it:
Quick Synopsis of How to Write an Artist Statement
- Ask People
- Look at Other Artist Statements
- Answer these Questions
- Write First Draft and Let it Sit For a Day
- Have 2 People Proofread it
Want a cute little printable to help brainstorm your artist statement? I made one for you. Download it right here: