How to Write an Artists’ Statement

openbookYour artist’s statement is the basis by which your work is perceived by the viewing public. It is important that you understand the impact your words have upon these viewers and potential buyers.

Ask yourself whether you want to be seen as a political artist, a craftsperson, a landscape photographer, a photojournalist, a portraitist, or even a “petraitist” (a photographer of pets). By considering the answer to this important question, you are making a conscious decision about the way in which you represent yourself.

It is important to note that viewers are going to make up their own minds about your work. As the artist, your statement provides the storyline by which other narratives will be formed. If written properly, your statement should provide valuable information in a way that provides several possible conclusions. Again, these conclusions represent the idea of closure. Just as you do when creating your images, writing your statement requires leaving a bit of mystery in your work, allowing the viewers to ask some questions of their own while also providing their own possible answers to those questions. This will go a long way in engaging your viewers as active participants in completing the work you have presented them.

Artist’s statements will naturally evolve over time as your work changes and you move on to new projects, new locations and altered perspectives. Your statement doesn’t have to be epic in length or contain super artsy, grandiose phrases such as “this rendering of plentitude harkens back to a time of disastrous consequences.” Your statement should be more about the why of your work rather than the how. Tedious details describing the technical merit of the prints or the obvious subject matter (“These are desert prints,” for example) are boring and need not accompany your statement. Viewers would rather know what it is about your work that draws you to it. Why you do what you do?

This is a very personal endeavor and should be treated as such. Working through this process will challenge you to ask yourself questions about your own work. As a result, you are going to learn a great deal about why you make the images you make. It will also help you talk intelligently about your work when asked about it later on.

Realize that artists’ statements take a lot of time to develop and hone. Devote several blocks of time over the course of a week that are specifically for this task. Be sure to set a deadline for yourself so that you finish the task. Rather than trying to write your statement the night before you submit work to a show, you will be better positioned to learn from this experience by setting aside shorter periods of time, like 30-minute chunks, with short breaks. I find it helpful to simply start writing. It takes a few sentences or paragraphs to get into a rhythm, but once you start, the words will begin to flow and a more natural progression of thought will arise.

When you are ready, start at a time of day when you’re at your freshest, and begin to write. Lay your work out before you as you write, refer to it often, and remember why you created it. You may choose to write about your body of work or a particular genre. The choice is up to you.

Included with this article are several sample statements. These statements serve as stylistic examples meant to assist you in writing of your own. Feel free to read through these examples prior to writing your own. You may find the information provided here as a valuable starting point.

Above all, have fun with the process and remember, your statement will never be complete, it will always be a work in process, evolving with you as your work changes.

What are some considerations you make when writing your statement. I would love to hear them as would other readers of this article. Share your thoughts as posts to this topic.

Sample Statements

Don Gregorio Anton
Lewis deSoto
Molly Gordon
John Trefethen
John Trefethen – Work Statement

Related Topics

Hyper Critical of Your Work
How Photographs Inform
How to Be Creative
We Are All a Critic


2 Responses to “How to Write an Artists’ Statement”

  1. This was extremely helpful to me! I wish I read this first before searching the whole world wide web when I could have just read this! Very easy to understand than other sites where they are bashing other’s artists statements. Thank you!

  2. Sammantha, you are very welcome. The aim is to support through shared learning. Let me know how I can help you in your search for greater knowledge.