There's no shortage of advice on what to put in your statement versus your profile versus your bio. But what I'm going to share with you here is simple – based on my experience of what people who are new to an artist want to know in that first encounter. This is about creating a short but revealing introduction to both you and your work. It should make your thinking and inspiration accessible, give a sense of what drives you as an artist, and include some key highlights from your career. It's not an adjective heavy essay, it's not a long list of everything you've ever done, and it's not for people who already know your work – it's for the many people out there that don't!
Whether you're writing it yourself, or providing someone else with your thoughts to write it for you, here are some important tips to ensure your artist profile stands out, connects with your reader, and works hard on your behalf to further engage people with your work.
1) Before you write a word, take an hour to think
No one knows more about your art than you do. Your head is full and busy – with interconnecting thoughts, the details of your journey as an artist, the complexities of what you're trying to achieve with your current work… and more. It's all useful to you, but it's too much for your artist profile. So, stand back and give yourself some space to think. Take an hour, with no distractions, and ask yourself the following key questions. Be specific and true to yourself – don't answer in grand statements that anyone could say.
Why am I an artist?
What really inspires me?
What does my art represent and say to me – my work in general, and my current work?
What's special and even unique about the tools and techniques I'm using now? How do they help my expression?
2) Say it out loud – still no writing!
It's much easier to talk than to write! And often, if we head straight to a blank sheet of paper, we can spend hours getting lost in the detail and trying to find the perfect words without really knowing what's most important about what we're saying. So here's a neat trick which never fails me. Tell your story to trusted and honest friend. This should take no more than 5 or 6 minutes. Ask them to listen, and make a mental note of the things that really resonated with them, the things they found confusing, and the things that bored them – told you they need to be honest! Now you have a better feeling for what's really important in your story, and where you're losing people.
3) Time to start writing! Make your words flow well with these simple tips
You've already done a lot of the hard work. Now, it's a matter of putting that on paper.
- Use the structure of the questions you asked yourself in step one. You should aim to write one or two or sentences for each. No more.
- Use 'I' not 'you'. This is about what you think about your work. It's not about telling other people what to think – that's personal and up to them.
- Use everyday, human language You need your artist profile to be accessible to people. You're not writing for people who've worked in the art business their whole lives – you're writing for normal, everyday people. So write like you speak.
- Avoid the adjective curse! Too many adjectives will actually detract from what you're trying to say. They make sentences complicated and hard work to read. So keep to no more than one or two in a sentence. Less is definitely more on this front.
4) Add some career highlights
People like to know about your accomplishments – it makes them feel more confident about their own perceptions. But they don't want to (and are not going to) read a list of everything you've ever done. Make it easy for them – pick a few highlights and write about them in a finishing sentence. These could include that you've exhibited across the world, won awards, or have your work on permanent display at a museum.
5) Sleep on it – then get ruthless
You're aiming for around 300 words of clear and compelling information for someone who doesn't know you. Editing is the last but oh so critical step in achieving this. So make sure you come back to what you've written the next day to do these two things:
- Speak the whole think out loud from start to finish. Does it flow well as a story? If not rearrange the pieces. If there are places that you stumble over saying it, chances are people stumble when reading it. Rewrite any sentences that are too cumbersome.
- Finally, read through slowly with your finger over the delete button. Get rid of any words that don't really add to the meaning of what you're saying. They could be unnecessary connectors like 'so' and 'therefore', or words that are just paraphrasing what you've already said. Be ruthless – it's key to making your artist profile as sharp and compelling as it can be.