Writing about yourself is almost as stomach-churning as public speaking. As a professional writer, I have some tips for artists on perfecting the website bio.
1. Audience. Always start by assessing the reader and what they are looking for. People want to know who you are and reassurance that buying your art is a decision they won’t regret. Your bio should be front and centre on your website. If you don’t have a website, or haven’t linked it to your Instagram account, you aren’t taking this seriously.
2. Self-focus. Your audience is asking “What’s in this for me?” in the nicest possible way. They want to know where you live, how long you’ve been doing this, what your professional standing is, what you do, how you do it and whether they should learn more about you and your art.
3. Beginning at the beginning. Start with what is important now. Nobody cares where you went to school, or even where you grew up. Those things, if relevant to your art, can be described later. Are you trying something new with your art? Are you developing a theme? What is your point of difference?
4. Self-taught. This is rarely a strength or a weakness. It just is. You can mention that you taught yourself, if that is true and you received no instruction anywhere – books, online workshops or mentors. Unless it is significant to your art (i.e., you create in a naïve style or have absorbed artmaking as part of your culture), I wouldn’t make a big deal of it.
5. Emerging. What are you telling your audience? This is an industry descriptor for artists who do not have gallery representation. “Unrepresented” would be more accurate. It is also a poor choice when you consider that it is understood differently by regular punters, who may perceive an “emerging artist” as one with skills not yet developed to a professional standard. Keep this term for competitions where it is a requirement for entry – such as the National Emerging Artist Award.
6. Personality. You can be more informal in a website bio. It is you, talking directly to your visitor. Haughty is offputting. Approachable and professional is perfect. Be yourself and write in the first person (we all know you wrote it yourself). If you run the bio through Grammarly, it may pick up an overly pushy, aggressive, passive, or negative tone. No jargon or “art speak” on a website, please.
7. Clone. Think about what makes you stand out. Any time someone shows an interest in your art, ask them what they find interesting. That will help you identify strengths that you can highlight.
8. Clutter. The prizes you have won (or finalist status) and academic achievements should be kept to a list at the bottom of your bio or in a separate CV – unless they are relevant now. If you have won or become a finalist in a major prize (Archibald, Sulman, Wynne, Mosman, etc), yes, highlight it to the moon and back. If you have just finished your thesis, be my guest. Otherwise, it is not really going to interest your website visitor.