Artist 2 Artist
Today I got to sit in on a social group for artists that we call Artist 2 Artist. Each month, our artist members are invited to join us for a conversation on some topic on the arts and how to thrive as an artist. This month's theme was CVs, Bios, and Artist Statements.
We had a pretty good turnout this month, so I was able to get different perspectives from a lot of different artists. Without further adieu, here's what they had to say about this month's topic:
The history of titles and artist statements according to some random artists:
Apparently, there was a time when art went untitled and unexplained by artist statements. Then, the 60s and 70s brought about conceptual art. Viewers had a hard time understanding concepts on their own, so artists started giving their work informative titles and writing Artist Statements to explain themselves.
*I don't know if these are facts, but hey, it makes sense to me.
Tips for Writing an Artist Statement:
1. Understand your reader.
Artist statements are about your work, bios are about your life, and CVs show off what you've accomplished and when. When submitting a piece of writing to a gallery, understand what they are asking for and why they are using it. If your viewers will be reading the material, elect for an artist statement or bio over a CV because those are better for contextualizing your work. Even better if you can cater your artist statement to the show or piece you're presenting.
Sometimes photos can make your document seem unprofessional, but in a context like the Blue Line where artist statements are available to viewers in a binder, adding a picture of your work can make your statement stand out from the rest. It can also help someone reading your statement locate your work in the gallery.
2. Keep it short and simple.
Your artist statement or bio should be 80 to 140 words (120 words being the sweet spot). Your first paragraph should act like a thesis statement - it should include all of the most important points you want to make. Use the following paragraphs to elaborate on the points you made in your thesis.
One of the artists recommended that a CV should be 2 to 3 pages, but I've heard that one page is your best bet if you want someone to read the whole thing. Galleries may also have different requirements for the documents they request, so make sure you know what they want.
Don't go overboard with the art jargon. The point of art writing is for normal people to be able to understand your work, so they shouldn't need a degree in contemporary art theory to understand your statement.
5. If you're having a hard time, get help.
One of the artists recommended this book, Art-Write: The Writing Guide for Visual Artists by Vicki Krohn Amorose, for help with writing artist statements.
If you don't like reading, The Blue Line hosts professional development classes for artists (and of course, the Artist 2 Artist series). There, you can learn and practice business skills or get help with the skills you're currently struggling with.
If all else fails, many artists hire writers to help them put their ideas into words. Ask a friend to help you or pay someone to work with you on what to say.
Some tips that were helpful, but unrelated to Artist Statements, CVs, and Bios:
1. Apparently somebody's coming out with a new oil paint that's water based. I'm pretty sure that's a contradiction, but hey, I'm here for it.
2. You don't have to be an attorney to send a cease and desist. Many artists struggle to with defending their work from theft, especially without the funds to pay for a lawyer. The good news is, you can find a cease and desist template online and send it to someone on your own and for free.
3. If you're willing to pay for it, Facebook and Instagram ads can be a really effective way to gain a following or get the word out about an event.
4. You don't have to be a REAL artist to have an artist statement. Having an artist statement is what makes you a real artist. We all have to start somewhere, so don't be afraid to jump into professionalism.
So anyways, I always have fun at Artist 2 Artist. Joining artist community groups can be a great way to network and find local support. Being an artist can be rough, but you don't have to do it alone.