The Artist Statement: How do artists share their story?

I am new to promoting art. In the past month I have been asked to critique a couple of artist statements. These things are extremely hard to write. In a couple hundred words an artist is suppose to capture what could be years of technical work, and a lifetime of experiences.

This process is not exclusive to traditional artists. We are all creative and often have to articulate our work and the journey that has lead to its creation. And; it is helpful if done in short order. At some point we all by choice or necessity will deliver an elevator pitch about our work. Why not write it out and be prepared.

Below are the thoughts that I have shared with the artists that asked for my thoughts. I will continue to share these ideas and work to refine them. The first portion is very basic to writing, but a good reminder for anyone. The second half is pertinent to writing about art. However, if you change the semantics just a little it could apply to most any transactional experience. Transaction is an exchange based on a need or a connection.

A couple of thoughts on writing:

  1. Be concise! It is better writing and easier to read. Remove ALL words that are extraneous.

  2. Write in the active tense. It is more direct writing and keeps the audience engaged. The action is right in front of them.

  3. Avoid verbosity. It is easy to speak with clichériddled philosophical terms that sound great but have no meaning, especially when talking about art. Imagine a 6thgrader reading your statement and understanding your idea.

A couple of thoughts on art:

  1. Meaningful art is art that people connect to. People connect for a variety of reasons:

  • aesthetic (they like they way it looks)

  • emotional (they like the feeling the piece exudes)

  • emotional (they like the feeling the piece gives them)

  • personal (they like the story of the work)

  • personal (they like the story of the artist)

  • perspectives (they like/(are challenged by) the new view of the world)

  • philosophical (they like the idea being presented)

  • technical (they appreciate the skill that the work required)

  1. A connection to art is what leads to a financial transaction for the art.

  2. Art should speak for itself. However; for those less trained and experienced with art, the statement should help them, not confuse them. And even for those trained and experienced in art, the statement should enrich the experience not bog them down.


I have two book recommendations that have shaped these philosophies:

The Elements of Style: By William Strunk Jr. and E.B. White

Active Sights: Art as Social Interaction: Timothy Van Laar and Leonard Diepeveen

THis post may or may not have been fueled by this.