Let’s do another artist tip this Tuesday. We’ve covered the portfolio and the artist CV, now let’s talk a little bit about the artist statement.

This is a bit of a tricky one as they look very different for every artist, so I’ll try to just come with some advice and things to consider when you’re writing one. This piece of text is supposed to describe your artistic work, like a general introduction to your work or a project. Some artists choose to very literally describe what they do while others take a bit of an abstract or poetic take on it (which according to some is not at all what an artist statement is, but hey, rules are meant for breaking, no?). Some write it in first person, others may prefer to write it in third person. I usually write mine in first person because to me it feels like it gives a more personal connection to the reader, but sometimes third person is suiting too.

When it comes to open calls and applications of any kind, the artist statements can vary a lot on size and content. Sometimes they require that it is max 400 characters, other times there is no limit. Just keep in mind that real people actually need to sit down and read this (assuming they are not reading it while driving a car or running in the park) so don’t write down every single one of your childhood memories related to art. Keep it light, but not too light! Try to think of a way that can make your statement stand out from the rest, yet really represent you and your art for what it is and who you are. There is no need to pretend to be something you’re not or to use complicated words that you’ve never even heard of before you Googled a synonym to make it sound cooler. Of course, this is my personal opinion, but I often find it hard to stay focused when I can’t really grasp what I’m even reading. If this however is related to the way you make art – hey, who am I to stop you! Statements I often tend to find more interesting are balanced with basic information about the art with a touch of poetry and personality. I’m a sucker for clever metaphors. Find whatever works for your art! Is your art very playful? Play around with your statement! If it is very straight-forward, then maybe a clean informational statement suits you better. Do you work with specific topics and themes? Use those in your writing too.

artist statement tip

A few tips and guidelines:

- Make a little list of things that are important to your art – What is necessary in your statement? How do you apply these into a reading text?

- Keep it somewhat short and sweet. As with most things (except for chocolates) quality beats quantity!

- Write a lot of statements! This gives you a grasp of what works for you and what doesn’t. Also remember you don’t have to stick with one just because you’ve decided to press the save button. I change mine all the time! Often adjusted to what I need them for.

- The first sentence is what’s supposed to catch the reader’s attention, then the ones after are what has to keep them interested. So basically, make every sentence interesting enough for someone to want to keep reading it. I’m sure we’ve all read a book where we end up reading one page about forty-seven times because we can’t remember what we were actually reading.

- Don’t be afraid to stick out – that is actually what you want as an artist.

- Also don’t be afraid to ask for second opinions. Often we know exactly what we’re writing about, obviously because it is our own art we’re writing about. How would someone not knowing your art interpret your text?

- Examples what to include in your statement: Your works basic ideas and overall visions, why you have created your work, how you go about creating it and what materials you use, what reactions you wish to achieve, if there’s an important timeline and connection in your current work and previous work, how your work fits into the given or requested concept.

- Organize! I mentioned earlier that I change my statements all the time. Depending on what I need them for, I adjust them to fit the open call or exhibitions. Obviously I don’t change them so much that they don’t resonate with me or my art anymore.
For example – an open call that I apply to is solely based on the human impact on climate change. My statement will therefor focus on this topic as a lot of my art is actually related to this. If the statement however is needed for an exhibition where the focus is hybrid animals, I might not put as much emphasis on melting glaciers and polluted oceans. So, what I do is I actually keep several statements, and often even adjust it into a new one for a new application. But make sure to save these in your files! And by these, I mean the relevant ones. Just the other week I went through a long lists of statements I wrote years ago. I kept a few interesting notes and then waved them all good bye. Now I have a very clean folder with just a couple of basic statements to start from. Both the long version and the short version.

Speaking of organizing, another thing I organize related to this, is previous applications. It can be useful for future applications to keep these in a folder too. Sometimes certain open calls are very similar to others and that might just save you a whole puzzle of creating a new one!

Whoa, that’s a whole lot of text. I hope at least some of it is useful for you! Good luck, and stay you!