The ability to write an effective artist statement is a mandatory skill for any student interested in pursuing the fine arts or an MFA. Put simply, artist statements provide a personal explanation of your influences, inspiration, and body of work, especially the elements that make your work unique. These statements are an opportunity for you to promote yourself as an artist. Any time you want to put on a show, enter an exhibition, apply for a graduate fine arts program, or get a job, an artist statement will most likely be a required document; thus, it is crucial that all art and graphic design students know how to create one.
However, this document shouldn’t be viewed as a simple resume. Like the artwork it describes, an artist statement communicates crucial information about your individual artistic product and process. Creating this statement can be as deeply personal as the process of creating any visual artwork, and it deserves as much care and time as you invested in the pieces this statement is describing.
- Write in essay form, with fully developed paragraphs and clear transitions. (Most undergraduate artist statements are about one page in length, single-spaced.)
- Explain the inspiration(s) for your work: Why have you chosen the medium you used? What is unique about the process you used to go from initial concept to finished piece?
- Link your work to historically significant artists/styles, and give specific examples of how these artists influenced your work.
- Describe how/why you used specific visual elements and principles of design in your compositions.
- Explore any moral/ethical issues addressed in your work.
- Proofread your document for grammatical and organizational errors. This document represents you as a professional in your field; make sure it represents you well.
- Don’t focus entirely on personal inspirations for your work; although this is a crucial part of any artist statement, make sure you choose no more than two or three examples.
- Include multiple artistic influences. This demonstrates your knowledge of art history and shows that you are aware of more than your own personal artwork.
- Don’t overlook those visual elements; you should have several different elements to discuss in your body of work. If you think that you don’t, look again–they’re there.
- Remember the purpose of this statement: to explain who you are as an artist. By the time people have read this document, they should know why you create these specific pieces in the way that you did. Don’t get lost in vague statements that don’t really say anything about you as an artist.
- Let your creativity show through in your language, but stay professional. An artist statement should be personal and polished.
NOTE: An artist statement about one piece will be different than a statement that covers a range of work or a series. In the latter case, the format will remain the same, but you will use broader examples and statements to cover the range of ideas presented in your various pieces (which will likely increase the length of the statement to over one page).
For more information on writing artist statements, the Art Department recommends you consult the following sources: