By Nicole Tinkham
For most artists, writing an artist statement is their least favorite part about completing a piece of artwork. It’s like that annoying friend that always tries to one-up you every time you tell a really great story; a sometimes frustrating part of the process. Many artists believe that the whole artist statement thing is pointless. They express themselves through the art itself, so why do they need to write about it too? They have a point. Art is (for the most part) visual, but most people are familiar with communicating through words. An artist statement helps viewers understand the work and in turn, they are able to gain more insight into the piece. That’s your main goal as an artist, isn’t it? If you’re going to put forth effort to write an artist statement it might as well be a GOOD artist statement. Here’s how to get it done in 4 easy steps.
But first! Let’s talk about what an artist statement is and what it’s not.
Artist statement defined: An artist statement is a basic introduction to your artwork. It doesn’t tell the viewer what to get out of the experience and it also doesn’t tell them how to think or feel about the piece. It in no way takes away from the artwork, only adds to it. The whole point of an artist statement is to answer any questions the viewer may have when you aren’t present. Here are four steps to writing your own.
Step #1: Be unique
You’ll typically see artist statements start off with “In my work…” or “My work is…” but there’s not any kind of rule book saying this is how all artist statements must start. Be unique with your opener to catch the viewer’s attention so they read the entire statement and get the full experience of your piece.
Step #2: Don’t think, just write
Don’t worry about it being perfect on your first draft. The important thing is that you turn your thoughts into words and get them down on paper. Think about your emotions when starting the piece, what it means to you, what your personal artistic style is, and your goal with that particular piece. It can be sloppy because trust us, you’ll be doing some serious editing in the next step. For now, just focus on getting your ideas down.
Step #3: Edit
Once you’re on a roll, you’ll find it easy to fill up an entire notebook page (or a few), but the goal isn’t to write a novel so you’ll have to cut it down. A good artist statement is only 6 sentences long. Did your jaw just drop? Six sentences isn’t much which means you’ll have to make the most of each and every one of them. Combine sentences, discard sentences, and make sure each one has powerful meaning. Be bold, creative, and make the viewer think. Make them examine the artwork again after reading the artist statement. Those 6 sentences need to be POWERFUL.
Go through your artist statement with a thesaurus and choose the best possible words for the piece. Your artist statement should match the artwork itself so keep that in mind when choosing the perfect words. Consider whether the piece is calming, violent, uplifting, or emotional and choose words that fall into that category.
Step #4: Ask a friend
It never hurts to have a friend look over your writing before you expose it to the world. When you’re working so closely on any type of project, you tend to overlook even the simplest mistakes. Just because your artist statement makes perfect sense to you, doesn’t mean it’s clear to others. Having a fresh pair of eyes on the work will clear up any confusion.
The dreaded artist statement doesn’t sound too bad now, does it? You don’t have to be an expert writer to get the job done. Just remember to portray your message clearly and be yourself. Artist statements are an important component to your artwork. Before dismissing them altogether, consider the value they offer. We know how difficult writing can be when you don’t naturally have a way with words so feel free to ask any questions that come up in your process in the comments below or over on our Facebook page.