YOUR ARTIST STATEMENT: It’s About Y*O*U!!

Warning: Snark zone ahead!!!!

I’m offering a service for artists and craftspeople…heck, for anyone who needs a ‘mission statement’. I’ll rewrite your current artist statement for a small fee $100.

I’m not putting the dollar amount in stone yet. That’s because I charged my first paying customer $25. And then spent five hours arguing back and forth in dozens of emails, until I finally called them and snarled for 15 minutes, (which I hardly ever, ever do) laying out all the reasons why mine might work better than theirs, that they could add whatever they wanted to it, just don’t tell me to do it, and if they didn’t like what I’d written, then throw it away and write their own.

So I made $4/hour AND had to listen to a lot of complaining and what I’d ‘left out’. So, setting boundaries. Lesson learned.

In my defense, I contacted a friend of mine who works in the same medium, and read them what I’d written. “Holy crap!!” they yelled, “If THEY don’t use it, I want it!!! That’s terrific!” (Thank you, thank you.)

I actually learned two things from this experience. I need to be charging more than $25 I need to make it clear I am not a work-for-hire. I am a consultant. I will rewrite or suggest a different way to present yourself as an artist. You are then free to use this information–or not.

I also learned I must be crystal-clear on what I’m offering. Or rather, what I’m not offering.

What I write will have very little to do with how long/how many years you’ve been doing….whatever it is you do.

I do not particularly care who you studied with, nor where you went to art school. (That’s for your bio/resume/cv, though why we brag about who we’ve paid to teach us something counts as a credential is beyond me.)

I’m not interested in the galleries you’re in, the awards you’ve won, or the shows you’ve been in. (See above.)

I don’t want to read your single-spaced two-page artist statement in a 10 point font. (Come on!)

I don’t especially care how you do what you do. (And this is where I ran into conflict with my first paying client. For them, it was all about process–the how. Yeah, I might want to know down the road, but honestly, I can probably Google it just as quickly.)

I want to know the WHY.

I want to know why you chose this medium.
I want to know why you use it the way you do.
I want to know why it gives you joy.

Why it resonates with you, why it ‘fits’ you, why it provides you your voice in the world.

I don’t want to hear that you ” just love color”. Or texture. Or anything else that literally everyone in the world likes.

I don’t want to hear that your prefered medium is “alive”. It sounds like you might segue to other living things as your medium of choice down the road. Like…people. After all, that wood is not “alive” after you cut it, slice it, carve it, paint it, is it? (Wood people–please take note.)

And if I hear, “Because I want to make people happy” one more time, I am kicking you to the curb. (Just kidding.) (NO I’M NOT.) People will be happy if you drive around in a car and throw money at them as they’re walking down the sidewalk. That is not an artist statement.

If you’ve read anything I’ve written for the past twenty years, if you’ve ever taken a class from me, if you’ve ever seen my artwork/visited my booth/talked to me in person, you will understand.

And even though I break some of my own rules in my own artist statement, I still believe it has power and it says enough.

How do I know?

Because after people read it, they do exactly what I want them to do.

They go back and look at my art, again. They look deeply and reverently. And then they turn to me and ask a question.

Former art marketing and display consultant Bruce Baker taught me the wisdom of this first question from our exhibition/booth/gallery/studio visitors. It is a sign from your visitor that it’s okay to talk to them about your work. The question may seem silly, or mundane. It may be profound and thoughtful. Whatever.

They have connected with your work, and they want to know more about it–and you.

You have said something in your writing that speaks to them, that resonates with them. And they look at your work again, seeing something deeper, something powerful, something they might otherwise have missed.

Believe me, please….. If your artist statement is all about your credentials, about your schooling, about your techniques, then you will have to start at the bottom to connect this person with you and your work.

Come on, folks. Thousands and thousands of artists have graduated from the Rhode Island School of Design. Tens of thousands have taken workshops with a well-known painter or ceramist. Tens of thousands have worked in the same medium you do. Hundreds of thousands of hours have been spent by people perfecting their craft. Millions of people wanted to be an artist when they were little. And billions of people (aka “everybody on planet Earth”) “just love color.”

But there is only one ‘you’ in the entire universe.

And yet, that is the one credential most people are afraid to talk about in their artist statement.

Oh, most people talk about themselves in some way, shape, or form. (See above.)

But in my humble experience, most of us are truly hesitant about sharing what really matters to us, in our art, in our lives, in our hearts.

What happened to that person’s artist statement? About a year later, a magazine ran an article about them.

And what I’d written for them was center stage. I think it was the best part!

P.S. And if you’re still not convinced, if you are a true fan of art-speak, fancy-schmancy words, and something vaguely art-acadamese-sounding, help yourself to this amazing website: ArtyBollocks, the best artist statement generator. Check it out! Or this “art-speak generator“.  I haven’t tried it yet, but it sure looks promising!

P.P.S Apologies, I’ve just finished my volunteer assignment for a local art event that entailed reading about 140 artist statements, and I am totally fried.

Author: Luann Udell

I find it just as important to write about my art as to make it. I am fascinated by stories. You can tell when people are speaking their truth--their eyes light up, their voices become strong, their entire body posture becomes powerful and upright. I love it when people get to this place in their work, their relationships, their art. As I work from this powerful place in MY heart, I share this process with others--so they have a strong place to stand, too. Because the world needs our beautiful art. All of it we can make, as fast as we can! Whether it's a bowl, a painting, a song, a garden, a story, if it makes our world a better place, we need to do everything in our power to get it out there.

20 thoughts on “YOUR ARTIST STATEMENT: It’s About Y*O*U!!”

  1. Oh, I can so relate! I’ve done a lot of freelance work and promotional writing for other writers, as well as tried to talk them through how to promote themselves and their writing within the brief they’ve been given. And hey, they’re writers who think they’re skilled enough to submit their work to a publisher, who wants a good cover letter. how hard should it be?

    Most are very happy. But some don’t get it, and it is because of those some, that I reserve the right to refuse a job, no questions asked.

    Oh, the tales I could tell…

    Keep doing the fabulous job you do, Luann.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Whew! I lay awake last night wondering if I’d gone too far. Good to know I went just far enough! And when you get stuck, send me your question(s), it might make a great article and I’m sure others will welcome the insights, too. 🙂

      Liked by 1 person

      1. Pleased to report that your essays about helping artists write an artist statement have got me going. It’s something I knew would need to be very different from my other discussions of this or that artwork of mine. Your suggestions made that clear. The result is that I wrote about why and how I became an artist. And why it had to be figure painting. –And it is well with my soul. . .How deeply grateful I feel to you for offering the right “prompt”! When I posted it as a page on my art blog, it got a meaningful response right away. And some encouraging comments about my art in relation to that personal story. Mostly I just feel a new peace now the story is out there in the world! Following your posts have meant a lot to me over the years. And even more so now! With gratitude immeasurable, Carol Lois Haywood

        Liked by 2 people

      2. Carol, you’ve made my day! Wait—My year! Glad you found your path and found your story. May I ask which tips helped the most? Some people are STILL stuck, I can’t meet them in person, and I’d love to know which suggestions led your through.

        Liked by 1 person

      3. Sometimes these things are hard to pin down. But what I can say is, the urging to tell my own story was a key. And trusting that my story IS by definition an artist’s statement. More implied than said, also, that my early life story showed me to be an artist already. Being an artist was not a role I had to develop into. I apologize: I am not a logical thinker. So I may have taken some of your sentences to places you would not exactly want them to go. But just the same, Many Thanks, for encouraging artists to do this process. Healing for me at least

        Liked by 1 person

      4. I get that, Carol, and I’m just so happy you found your story! You’re right, it will be different for every person, not all of them have to be “public”, just KNOWING them as our story is the point, as you said. So instead: CONGRATULATIONS!!!! ❤ ❤ ❤ (These are hearts, btw, I read somewhere that some people think they're ice cream cones!) (Hmmmm…..that actually works for me!) 😀

        Liked by 1 person

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