Show me an artist who enjoys writing an artist statement, and I’ll show you an …. Academic. Lots of you have told me you struggle with this, so I’ve put together some tips based on my experience as a professional writer.
- First, decide what you are trying to communicate with your art. What is it about? How do you use your materials and skills to produce your work? Why did you make it? If possible, find a small child to explain it to until they understand and then use that simple language to write it down.
- Work out who you are writing for: a general audience, competition judges, or art administrators. You will need to craft your words to suit the purpose but remember, as an artist, you can write in your own voice.
- It’s only 50-150 words. Make each one count. Write it in Grammarly (the online writing assistant) to ensure there are no typos and it makes sense. Use first person, but rewrite each sentence so they don’t all start with “I”. PS: I disagree with Grammarly often and it’s okay if you do too.
- It is not up to you to praise or value your art. Avoid adjectives such as “beautiful” and “powerful” when describing your work. But you are free to use them when describing the actual subjects of your paintings. “I paint industrial objects that are beautiful in form and powerful in action”.
- Avoid jargon. These are weasel words that are designed to make outsiders feel inadequate. Art should be egalitarian - for everybody. If the statement will be read by the public, explain terms that the uninitiated may not understand.
- You can write with style, but this is not meant to be creative writing. This is a short piece to explain a piece of work, or your work in general. You don’t have room to wax lyrical.
- Recognise cliches and either replace them, or find a new way to describe them. “My work is all about my obsession with colour “or “light” are cliches. We all love light and colour. What are you doing with that colour? Why is it important to you? How are you using it differently? What are you hoping to stimulate in the audience with it? How do you mix it? Are there colours you avoid? Are the colours what you see, or do you change them?
- This is not a biography, so you can leave out your personal history. If that detail is required, that will go in an accompanying bio (I can give hints in a subsequent post)
- If all else fails … start with AI, such as ChatGPT. But don’t finish with it - it is still awful and easy to identify. You can use an AI program to try out your ideas and get a format you can edit. Then, put it to one side and rewrite it in your own words. Rewrite and reword every single sentence because AI is full of cliches, formulaic and awkward structure, and it makes stuff up.