10 tips for writing your artist statement

10 tips for writing your artist statement

Are you a textile artist? Do you promote what you make online? With art sales on the internet growing by 19% per year, relying purely on the visual could be a huge mistake. An image of your work is a great starting point but, because textiles are a tactile medium, that image won’t fully encompass the “feel” of your art. And that’s where words come in!

It has never been more important to have a compelling artist statement that builds a connection with your intended audience. It will most likely be the first thing people jump to when they are intrigued and want to know more. It’s essential to make a great first impression.

Don’t panic – there’s no need to spend hours and hours becoming an expert writer! But the story of your work could be the key to engaging collectors.

Let’s look at a few ways to overcome the challenge of writing a truly engaging artist statement.


1, Become a salesperson

Often creators don’t think of themselves as sales-people and forget that the best pitch always comes from the source. And let’s be honest; without concepts and goals, it is nearly impossible to become a professional artist. Hobbyists don’t need to sell, but if it’s a livelihood, a creator must promote his or her ‘product’. But beware! The sleazy hard-sell doesn’t work very well anywhere nowadays and it’s even less effective in the art world. People hate to feel they are being pushed into something. The more advantages and benefits you can highlight, the better.

2, The meek don’t inherit

Another situation that can lead to problems in the initial creation of an artist statement is a lack of bravado. There are many shy individuals in the creative world, but this must be suppressed in the discussion of an artist’s work. If you don’t seem confident in your work, it will be much harder for a potential buyer to get excited about it.

3, You do NEED an artist statement

A third type of artist simply doesn’t see the need for the statement; they feel that their work speaks for itself. This can only be the case if you are solely a decorative creator, without a vision or cohesion to these pieces. Otherwise, it always helps to better inform your viewer of your intent. More engagement can only lead to a personal connection, which always produces better sales (and more esteem).

4, Answer questions

When you see others interacting with your work, they have a significant advantage, as you are there to answer questions in a free environment. But most of the time, viewers do not get this opportunity. The artist statement serves as a de facto answer to common questions about your body of work, as a whole or in a series, and it allows for more in-depth conversation about your concepts. It can be useful to brainstorm the types of questions you might be asked about your work as a way to start writing your statement.

5, Don’t baffle your audience with jargon

A common misconception about the artist statement is that it must be written in International Art English, that jumbled mess of lofty jargon used in press releases and criticism books. This is not the case, and an overly ostentatious statement can lead the viewer to be more confused at your work than before. Leave that language to critics and academics. You don’t want to limit your audience.

6, Don’t bore your audience with drawn out copy

An artist statement doesn’t need to be very long. If you lose the reader’s concentration, the writing is of little use. Optimally, the piece should be no more than 20 total sentences, broken up into 3 or four paragraphs. Be clear and concise. This is an essential introduction to your work.

7, Be yourself

Be sure to write from your point of view. There is a reason it is called an artist statement. It is from you to new viewers. There’s no need to give them your whole life story; think of this as a movie trailer to your entire body of work. Draw viewers in.

8, Consider getting help

If you aren’t the most confident writer, don’t worry. You can hone this over time, or if you wish to outsource, there are many resources online (Like Elance) in order to reach out to hungry art writers. They should be able to handle your project with ease, in a timely manner. This could save an uninitiated writer some time and worry, and could also serve as a foundation for a future statement. As your goals and concepts develop, simply adjust those aspects of the piece.

9, Don’t show off

It is also best to avoid using any self-congratulatory language in your piece. This is like a movie trailer, not a movie poster. If Roger Ebert gave you two thumbs up, it is of no importance. You are laying the groundwork for interest, and testimonials can turn viewers off. Also, artists want their work to speak for itself, so why would you want to give up your space so someone else can talk about your art?

10, Join the dots and tailor-make your statement

The most important aspect in describing your work is to show the connection between the concept (what you’re saying) to the physical structure. In the textile world, as with many others, this can be the most difficult aspect of the statement. Try to pick out a few examples to engage the viewer. If the fabric or weave evokes certain cultural topics, state them. Even for the most experienced viewer, these nuances can easily be lost without explanation. It isn’t a fault of the artist; those details are what created your individuality. To lose those is to lose it all.

Galleries may ask for specifically tailored statements to engage for their shows. Depending on the show, especially in group shows, this may be written by the gallery itself. Their job is to show correlation between all of the involved artists, and might focus on only one aspect of your work.

If you are asked to craft and artist statement yourself for a solo show, you need to show the relation between your works to each other, the show, and the space itself. Describe how these pieces fit together, with no more than one sentence relating to work outside the show. Optimally, only the work in the show should be referenced; write about outside work only if it differs from that in the show significantly.

The title of the show is so essential, yet rarely truly accurate. Critics and viewers respond to a title, so if you can relate your works to the show in an understandable way, the show will be heads above others. In that vein, it helps to expound a bit on the reason you chose that space for your show. Viewers can decipher if you simply picked the gallery because they had space, so make sure they know it was a merger that made sense for both parties.


A well-written artist statement can help cultivate an informed audience and one that is intrigued by your work. It’s a good idea to constantly revisit yours to ensure it appropriately represents you as you now!


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FREE E-BOOK: How my journey into textile art began, a fascinating insight into the work of textile artist Sue Stone
Friday 18th, August 2017 / 07:01
Joe

About the author

Joseph Pitcher is the son of textile artist Sue Stone. He is an actor and voice-over artist and has worked at the RSC, the National Theatre, West End theatres and several other leading regional venues across the UK. Find Joe on Google

View all articles by Joe

7 Comments on “10 tips for writing your artist statement

  • I’m curious about others’ opinions regarding a statement. At different times (primarily for different shows), I’ll write a different statement – basically tailor it to the show. Is this an amateur move or common practice? Thanks for your input — and your brutal honesty! (I’d rather hear something honest that I don’t like rather than have someone blow smoke at me!)

    Reply
  • I found this really helpful but point number 3 stopped me in my tracks. I feel that my work Is decorative, but I hope it does have vision and cohesion. Does that mean I am not an artist? But solely a decorative creator? If that is the case then where does this put many textile ‘artists’? Many are drawn into it by the pure joy of the stitched surface, and colour, texture , and pattern. I want to create beautiful pieces, which excite me and ,I hope, those who view them.

    Reply
    • Of course you’re an artist! I think you have more to say than you believe you do. You’re talking about the pure joy of the stitch, the pattern, the surface… go deeper. WHY does that appeal to you? WHY were you drawn to textile instead of, say, oils or watercolors? What does it remind you of? What kind of beauty are you trying to create? Just start writing as if trying to explain to a lover about how your art transcends a hobby because of these things. Because it speaks to you.

      Reply
      • Maria Claudia Manrique

        Thank you for the article. It had enlightened me about this important subject. I’ll be aware of your periodic publications.I’m a textile designer since 1982. I’m taking up my work now due to an illness process. That’s why I’m little bit lag behind.

        Reply
  • I never know how to talk about my work. I really am not “saying” anything in my work. I’m interested in the principals of design and design elements. I like working with color, values and balance. This works if I’m talking to another artist but when I talk to a person who knows nothing about art I have an awful time and end up sounding like an idiot. I don’t even go to openings when I have a piece in a show because I don’t know how to talk about the piece. Help!

    Reply

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