If you’ve ever been to an art gallery where paintings are for sale, you more than likely saw an artist statement before. They’re the pieces of paper by the artwork that tell something about the artist and his or her intent.
Newbie artists may ask if they really need an artist statement. They may question its relevance. They may think it’s too much work.
That’s totally fine. But think of it this way. How well do you know yourself? Do you know why are you an artist in the first place? And if anyone asks, how will you respond?
Think of it like an elevator speech without a 30 second time limit. You can make it as long or as short as you like.
And let me put it another way.
I once walked into an art gallery and one of the artists greeted me. We started talking about art and I asked her point blank – “who is your favorite artist?”
You know what she responded?
She said that she doesn’t really know any artists and she just likes to paint.
Well, my respect for her immediately went to zero. If you’re an artist, you should be able to explain to potential customers why you do art. You should be able to list your top influences. And you should really be passionate about art in general.
You should not be just someone who slaps paint on a canvas and hopes someone will buy it.
Know yourself and your purpose
You can use your art statement to better know yourself and your purpose. You also use it to differentiate yourself from other artists when applying for a gallery.
“But my art speaks for itself.”
I’m sure it does. Remember though art gallery owners are sales people.
You want to create an air of professionalism and competence. At the very worst, a good artist statement will appeal to those art gallery owners. Being unprofessional like that lady who couldn’t name a single artist will guarantee you that people like me won’t take you seriously.
And, I not only create art. I buy other people’s art because I know some artists are worth investing in long-term.
So, keep reading.
“So what do I write in an artist statement?”
Make it reflect yourself. Are you whimsical? Make it whimsical.
Do you love painting the Scottish lochs? Well, tell me, the buyer, why your paintings of Scottish lochs are different than Sally’s over there who also paints Scottish lochs.
I’ve bought a lot of art over the years. We have so much other artists’ art that most of it is in storage. We will keep our favorite works and resell the rest.
Buyers buy art, and the hardcore ones often want to know something about the artist.
For instance, I’m huge fans of two artists who are still alive – Olivia de Berardinis and Craig Tracy. I can tell you a lot about either of them, despite meeting neither in person.
In fact, Craig Tracy came up in a conversation with one of my models. She loves Craig Tracy. So the first time she came over to our house, I showed her my Craig Tracy piece.
So yes, an artist statement is important and it should be easy to find online. I had no problem finding the artist statements for either of those two artists I just mentioned.
Make yours readable. Make yours enjoyable. Make yours ready to print out when you need to print it. And above all…
Make it memorable
Are you a good writer? If so, you already know how to make something memorable.
The problem is a lot of people, even dang good writers, have problems writing about themselves. They’ll expose their soul through particular characters in their fiction but when you ask them directly who they are, they often freeze.
Hot tip – if you’re one of those people who has trouble writing about yourself, try writing about yourself in third person. You’re totally allowed to do that!
Make it reflect yourself. If you have to, start off with a short biography. You’re divorced, remarried, and have two kids? That’s great. Put it in there. You love dogs? Well, what’s your favorite breed? Put that in there too.
You had the most romantic time of your life in Venice? That’s great. I like Venice. I even painted Allie and Melisa in Venice. You know who else loves Venice? See that old lady over there? She’s a rich lady who buys art. Hopefully she’ll read that line.
My son served in the military. A lot of art buyers have also served. You can bet your ass that’s in my artist statement.
Commonalities my friends. Become relatable.
Your process and your materials
You will find a lot of people find the art process fascinating. You don’t have to discuss your process. Some people love to keep how they did their works a secret. That’s perfectly fine.
But, I can guarantee you that someone will ask. You have the choice of discussing your process or keeping it a secret. Totally up to you.
If you do, make it interesting. Don’t just say “I paint with brushes I like.” Make it interesting.
Art geeks may ask which tools you use. Or even what kind of materials. Feel free to mention that. You can even mention why you choose certain materials over others. Some people love to hear stuff like that.
As an art buyer, I hear those conversations all the time. Totally up to you though if you want your process and your materials in your artist statement.
Now, talk about the art itself. That’s a pretty amazing painting of a lady’s nose. But why did you paint a lady’s nose?
You can talk about your muses. You can talk about your influences. So much could go here.
Maybe you paint because you have chronic pain and art is the only thing you can do to help you focus away from it. Great. Now tell me more of how art helps you focus away from your chronic pain.
Or maybe your past haunts you and you paint it for therapy. I met a UDT once. Very few people will know what a UDT is. If you don’t know, they’re the precursors to the Navy SEALS. Anyways, he painted islands from the air. They were awesome.
This was 30 years ago but had I met him today, I’d love to interview him and help him with his artist statement. I’m sure I could help him make it fascinating.
Memorable and relatable. You’re human. So is that guy with the big wallet who wants to buy a painting or two. Sure you have a 20 year old beat up car and he drove here in a Ferrari. But did you know his grandma was the biggest influence on his life? What does your grandma and his grandma have in common?
You have commonalities with everyone, even if it looks like on the outside you come from different worlds.
Be yourself. I’m sure the art buyer and you have overlap. And you even have overlap with that art gallery owner who asked to look at your artist statement, and is wondering whether to include you in her upcoming exhibit.