Ways to Improve Your Artist’s Statement

Detail of Similar Features (11). Colored pencil on illustration board, 38″ x 29″. Copyright © Laura Fantini. Used by permission of artist.

Your artist’s statement serves many valuable purposes including: content for your website, blog, cover letter to galleries, your profiles in social media, juried competition entries, press releases, exhibition catalogues, grant proposals, promotional brochures, your verbal introduction or “elevator speech”, interviews, videos, sales pitches, public speaking events and much more.

Your aim, for this important document, should be to write it naturally, clear and informative as you describe your inspiration, ideas, materials and working methods.

As an artist consultant and curator for Manhattan Arts International, I view dozens of artist statements every day. In this article, I point to three of the most common blunders I find:

1. Vague Generalities

Poor Example: What I paint is what and who I am. My art reveals my inner self; it’s my life. I use color, form and composition to express myself. My experiences are transformed into visual expression so the viewer can also experience them. As an artist, I just go with the flow.

Advice: Avoid superficial statements that could easily apply to many different artists. Instead, focus on precisely what sets you apart from all the others. Be concise and specific.

Good Example: “I look out the window, sometimes, to seek the color of the shadows and the different greens in the trees, but when I get ready to paint I just close my eyes and imagine a scene. I’ll get an inspiration and start painting; then I’ll forget everything, everything except how things used to be and how to paint it so people will know how we used to live.” ~ Grandma Moses

2. A Lack of Focus

Poor Example: Although I prefer the style of abstraction, I am drawn to the impressionists and surrealists and occasionally I will choose realism to capture exactly what I see. My approaches range from traditional to cutting edge modernism.

Advice: It is wonderful to broaden your artistic abilities; however, avoid being inconsistent and unsure of your own stylistic direction. Buyers, galleries and art writers will be attracted to artists who have a laser sharp awareness of their creative direction and stay on the path.

Good Example: “I am a hyper-realistic minimalist artist who specializes in life-size colored pencil still life. In my ‘still lives’, pencils are my paint and paper is my canvas. My art is defined by strong contrast values and highly theatrical compositions with dramatic lighting and abstract symbolic backgrounds.” ~ Laura Fantini

3. Complex Verbiage

Poor Example: My art is meant to provide a message of dichotomy and introspection. With a juxtaposition of unrelated factors, contrasting divergent lines and opposing aesthetic sensibilities I exploit the transformative qualities of color with several integral points of reference.

Advice: Keep it simple. Speak to your followers in a language they can understand and relate to. The majority of your readers will not be scholars, artists or art historians. Your statement should be understood by the avid collector as well as the person who may not have ever visited a museum or opened an art book.

Good Example: “I don’t paint things; I paint only the differences between things… I do not literally paint that table, but the emotion it produces upon me. What I dream of is an art of balance, of purity and serenity devoid of troubling or depressing subject matter – a soothing, calming influence on the mind, rather like a good armchair which provides relaxation from physical fatigue.” ~ Henri Matisse

Keep in mind you are unique and your art is a reflection of what makes you different than any other artist on this planet. When writing your artist statement, invite your readers into your world; share your artistic vision and methods in a clear and authentic manner.

This article contains excerpts from my article: Blunders to Avoid When Writing Your Artist’s Statement and my comprehensive e-Book “How to Write Your Artist’s Statement.”

Renée Phillips, The Artrepreneur Coach, helps artists attain their highest potential in private consultations, coaching sessions, articles and e-Books on Renee-Phillips.com. As founder/director of Manhattan Arts International, www.manhattanarts.com, she promotes artists through curated art programs. Her Healing Power of ART & ARTISTS website, www.healing-power-of-art.org, promotes the many benefits art provides for individuals and our society.