Pointers on Writing an Artist Statement, Biography and CV
There are three tools that an artist can use to convey on paper their art practice: the artist statement, the biography (bio) and their curriculum vitae (CV). Each covers their own area but there may be overlap, especially if you are only using one or two out of the three.
Note: Try to make these articles as visually appealing as possible keeping in mind their purpose.
Note: The web is useful in researching each of these documents to suit you and the application you need. Look for sites that offer advice on writing them or look at what other artists have written.
An Artist Statement
- Before you start, think about why you are writing this artist statement. Is it a marketing tool? Is it a way to connect with your audience? Are you interested in “branding”? Is it about one artwork, a body of work or a retrospective of your work? Is it for a curator or the jury of an exhibition in either a public gallery or commercial gallery? Artist statements, even of the same body of work, are tailored specifically for each audience. Many elements of your artist statement will cross over from one application to another but there will also be distinct differences.
- Think of your audience. Will people well versed in art history and contemporary art read your artist statement or will your audience be the general public? If the latter, it is best to edit out jargon and esoteric concepts. Unless mystery is an integral element of your work, it is best to avoid it in your artist statement. If you make your statement difficult for the public to follow, you will run the danger of losing your audience.
- Topics an artist statement might cover are the ideas and concepts behind your work, what type of work you do, how you have developed it, any unusual techniques you might use, your style, and master artists who have influenced you. As well, you might talk about a pivotal piece in this body of work or offer quotes by yourself or others about your work. You may find it helpful to keep notepad in your studio or workspace to jot down ideas as they come to you while you working. Artist statements are flexible on the issue of topic as long as it pertains to the work. Anything that is not specific to your artwork is not included in your artist statement.
- Artist statements are usually written in the first person.
- The tone of the writing reflects the work. For example, if the body of work is playful then the artist statement can be more informal. If it is of a serious topic or nature, then the tone is usually more formal.
- The length of an artist statement is usually a maximum of one-page 12-font double spaced unless otherwise specified. But, many people will only read the first 250 words so have the most important points you wish to convey to your readers in the first part of your statement. Or edit it down to between 150 to 250 words. Again, this is audience dependent.
- Once you are finished, read your artist statement out loud until if flows properly. Leave it for a few days and come back with fresh eyes to edit it again. Then have a few people edit your statement and give you helpful insights.
- A biography is always written in the third person – otherwise it is an autobiography.
- An artist’s biography is about the biographical events in the artist’s life that pertains to their art practice. Think of it as being written for artistic business contacts or patrons you wish to engage and impress with your expertise.
- Think about your audience and tailor your bio specifically for them. For instance, a bio for a gallery package might be more in depth compared to a bio for a group show or a media release. Whatever the case, your bio should be concise.
- Topics of a biography might include who you are, places where you have lived. Your education - workshops you have taken that pertain to this work, mentors, and college or university degrees if you are not submitting a CV. Collections that your work is in. You might include your important exhibitions or talk a little about your previous work that lead to this moment, especially if you are not including your CV.
- Often the length of the bio is specified by the organization you are sending it to. Again, a concise and clear biography is the best. Keep in mind that your most important points should be within the first 250 words. It is a good idea to follow the standard essay template.
- Edit! Read your biography out loud until if flows properly. Leave it for a few days and come back with fresh eyes to edit it again. Then have someone else or better yet a few people proof your writing.
- An artist’s CV or curriculum vitae is customarily set up in a list form similar to a resume.
- Categories include your exhibitions (most people separate out exhibitions into solo shows, juried shows and group show), your university or college art degrees or diplomas, arts related experiences, curatorial experience, juror experience, honours, awards and grants, current affiliations, gallery representation, and articles or essays about your work. In other words, anything to do with your art practice.
- A CV format includes the year; the event, exhibition or award, etc.; name of the organization; and its location.