The Art of the Artists Statement

THE ART OF THE ARTISTS STATEMENT


the art of writing an artists statement the Definitive Guide

Sometimes it’s not creative block that stops you moving on with a piece of art, its writing that artist statement and selecting the right keywords when you post it online. The art is easy but choosing the right words is often the difference between a piece of work being passed by and a piece of work selling. 

An artist’s statement is a written description of the work, a brief verbal presentation for and in support of the artist’s work and which gives the viewer a greater understanding. Well that’s what Wikipedia says, but I say that an artist’s statement is actually much more than this. It is an opportunity to represent you when you cannot be face to face with a potential art buyer.

Artist statements are also useful for those times when you apply for arts funding or grants, and when entering competitions. When exhibiting your work the statement is necessary because it will provide information to the viewer, and if the work is for sale, it is that information that will help to convince the buyer that they want to own the work.

For curators, reviewers, and those who critique your work, the statement is important because it can explain so much and provide a wider context, in press releases it becomes important because this is another opportunity to get the work exposed, but the statement is not the press release, it is only a part of it.

There is one other thing too, in that it is especially important when it comes to selling work online. It acts as the descriptor which search engines can decide the pages ranking with, along with other forms of search engine optimisation. 

I wrote about the importance of great search engine optimisation (SEO) last year and you can read it here.  So today I won’t dwell too much on the SEO, except to say that combining today’s post and last year’s post will provide a start towards getting your work seen by search engines and art buyers.

I think at one time or another we have all probably been through what I call statement stress. Usually right at the time when the art is completed and there is a self-inflicted and totally unrealistic target to get the work uploaded on to an e-commerce platform and start making money.  Regular readers will know that one of my biggest pet-hates is when a beautiful piece of art is uploaded on social-media or on an e-commerce site and the descriptor reads “24x30 Oil, Canvas, $300”, which translates to I haven’t really thought about this but just buy it. 

Artists are the harshest critics of their own work but what really matters is when someone else with an understanding of art critiques the work. Whether that critique is good or bad, we as artists can take something away from it because as artists we should never stop learning. If we learn something about our work that we didn’t pick up on before, all the better.

Art is so much more accessible in the modern age. At one time your options for viewing art were either galleries or through books. Today you only have to log in to social-media and your senses will be tingled with literally millions of images right on your own timeline, and of course in the modern age, everyone can express a critique. 

Most people aren’t art critics, people do know what they like, but how if you are not an art critic do you understand the nuances of each piece, or perhaps it doesn’t really matter as long as you like the art. 

So a statement, description or whatever you wish to call it needs to reach out to everyone. What the artist statement shouldn’t be about is you. That purpose is served by the artist biography, and neither should it be overly technical, unless you absolutely know your market. Essentially a statement has to be able to hook the viewer, provide a context, and it doesn’t have to be overly long.

We have all read artist statements which actually go on for pages and pages and are actually not that different to the statements which read “24x30 Oil, Canvas, $300”, despite the now overuse of words, the statement says very little.

Here’s an example:

My work explores the relationship between Bauhausian sensibilities and urban spaces.

With influences as diverse as Machiavelli and John Lennon, new variations are crafted from both explicit and implicit layers.

Ever since I was a student I have been fascinated by the traditional understanding of the mind. What starts out as yearning soon becomes manipulated into a dialectic of power, leaving only a sense of nihilism and the prospect of a new beginning.

As intermittent phenomena become distorted through boundaried and critical practice, the viewer is left with a hymn to the inaccuracies of our world.

This is the kind of artist statement which would be handy on a first date at an art gallery. It sounds great and I am sure it would impress your new love (unless they really know about art), but it has very little in the way of substance. 

Equally you should never use the artist statement to provide an instruction on how the viewer should interpret your art. Often art buyers and art lovers will find their own meanings to any given piece, what you should do is only offer a guiding lead rather than an out and out forced interpretation.

In summary your artist statement should include:

Short statements –

  • Provide a general introduction to the work
  • Open the viewer to the basic ideas and principles about your work
  • Explain in a little more detail how ideas, concepts, and thoughts, are presented within the work
  • Finally remember to look at a statement in the way one would when delivering a speech – Tell them what you will tell them, tell them, and then tell them what you just told them.

Longer statements – 

  • All of the above but with the inclusion of:
  • Why
  • History
  • How this work relates to your previous works
  • How the work fits in current art 
  • What or who inspired the work
  • Who or what influences were used in the creation of the work
  • How the work fits in with exhibitions or competitions if that is relevant
  • How the work may form a series of works
  • Why a certain style is important to the work
  • Then tell them again

What you should avoid in the artist statement – 

  • You and your role in the world
  • Technical writing 
  • Acronyms
  • Poems 
  • Anecdotes 
  • Family and childhood
  • Remember that the statement is not a press release, although it can be used within a press release.
  • Complex design – the statement should be easy to read and should flow

There are a myriad of ways to write a statement. Sometimes it can be six or seven lines, sometimes it can be six or seven paragraphs, and occasionally you might need even more. When you need a longer artist statement this is the time when you are able to describe the processes behind creating the work. 

There are various styles of writing and again it depends on your target audience. You could use an emotional or theoretical tone, or your tone may be political or humorous depending on the subject matter. One thing I have found out more so over the past few years is that the statements do much better when written in the first rather than third-person and this is why I will be revisiting some of the statements from my earlier works. 

Before you write anything though it is essential that you are aware of how art is observed, and in art theory books such as John Berger’s ‘About Looking’, he explores our role as observers to reveal new layers of meaning in what we see. How do the animals we look at in zoos remind us of a relationship between man and beast all but lost in the present day?

What is it about looking at war photographs that doubles their already potent violence? How do the nudes of Rodin betray the threats to his authority and potency posed by clay and flesh? And how does solitude inform the art of Giacometti? In asking these and other questions, Berger alters the vision of anyone who reads his work. You can purchase the book from The National Gallery here

Understanding your art before you write the artist statement is vital if you want to create something that will offer insight into your thinking and provide a context. Understanding the terminology will help tremendously too. So let’s firstly take a look at the art of analysing our work. 

Analysis

Analysing art means studying the elements which make up an artwork, and doing this will also give you a little more understanding of the process the artist used when creating the piece.

First off we should probably introduce you to some of the basic concepts before we move on to a few words which you might not use in your everyday vocabulary, but which will help you to be more descriptive when it comes to critiquing or understanding a particular piece of art.

Let’s start with the basics!

Imagine art as a series of atoms with each atom making up the artwork. Sometimes the atoms combine and introduce other atoms to make more complex things, in short, art in its purest sense is a series of building blocks with which an artwork is created, and so before we learn to understand a little more about art, understanding those building blocks will provide a more solid foundation.

So what are the atoms or building blocks? Essentially art can be broken down into multiple principles and elements. Line, shape, form, balance, space, texture, value, and colour but we also need to consider, variety, rhythm, harmony, emphasis, and movement. Although some of the first elements can be combined to create the latter elements. 

Artists will use each of those building blocks and will mix them together to create something different. What elements are mixed or not mixed together dictate how the finished piece will look. Knowing what those building blocks are helps us to analyse each piece of art and form an understanding of not just the art, but its composition, and they also help us to convey our thoughts using a common language.

“Remembering those elements and principles will make everything else fall into place”

Shape and Form: Shape and form look at the formal elements of the artwork. Shapes have two dimensions which are height and width, and are usually but not always defined by lines and we will move on to lines in a little while. 

Form on the other hand exists in three dimensions, height, width and depth meaning that the representation can be seen from more than one side. 

We can also have geometric shapes and forms which could include shapes such as circles, rectangles, spheres, cones, and squares amongst many others. Geometric forms are usually man made but not always. 

Then we have organic shapes and forms which are typically irregular or asymmetrical. Organic forms are usually found in nature but organic shapes can also be created which imitate organic forms by the artist.

Patterns are also used to create uniform repetition of any of the elements within a piece of art and almost anything can be turned into a pattern through repetition. Zentangle’s are perhaps one of the best examples of repetitive patterns and are used in combination with lines.

When you look at shape and form you might want to also look at the following elements within the shape and form too:

  • What medium the artwork is on – is it a canvas, paper, a sculpture, mixed-media?
  • Colour of the artwork – how has the artist used or indeed not used colour and why do you think the artist used particular colours?
  • How the colour is organised, are there any repetitions, are certain colours used for highlighting perhaps areas of shade and light?
  • What is the surface of the art like? Is it smooth or textured, and how does the texture alter or add to the completed work?
  • Has the artist introduced textures to an artwork? Think about the medium and if textures other than found on the canvas for example are included.
  • How big is the work? Is it small for a specific reason or is it a large piece of artwork? 
  • Think about the techniques the artist has used to convey details and textures, did the artist show any specific markings within the artwork for example? Sometimes an artist will intentionally paint something specific into many of their works a little like a signature, or they will have a specific technique throughout their works. Check out Peter Max here, and take a look at his works and you will find that there is a consistency in the way Peter has created each piece. Whether it is his distinctive signature, vibrant use of colour or defined and bold brush strokes, there is no mistaking a Peter Max.

Balance

The visual weight of the elements within the artwork form the principle of balance. A well balanced artwork moves the viewer’s eye around the artwork easily, whereas a painting without balance is more difficult to navigate with the eye. 

Achieving balance can be done in multiple ways, symmetry in which both sides of the composition have the same features in directly opposite spaces, asymmetry where the artist will use different shapes and forms to balance the work out, and radial symmetry in which elements of the art are spaced around a central point. 

Contrast

Contrasting elements are where specific parts of the work are stronger than another part of the work. When placed next to each other contrasting elements can be used to add depth or offer shade, or to make for example a specific element stand out much more. 

When looking at artwork the viewer is often drawn first to the contrasting elements and often negative and positive space is used to create contrast, although complimentary colours sitting side by side are good examples of using contrast. 

Emphasis

Emphasis is really an extension of contrast and it is where the artist has created an area of the work which is visually more dominant. 

Line

A line is not just a dot who went for a walk. A line is an identifiable path which is one dimensional and can vary in width, direction, and length. Lines are often used to define the edges of a form and lead the viewer’s eye around the composition. 

Vertical lines are often used to communicate a sense of height running perpendicular to the earth, or they could be horizontal and suggesting a feeling of rest, or a sense of space. When used in landscapes a horizontal line denoting the horizon appears to continue beyond the canvas and imply a continuation.

Lines can also be curved to give the appearance of fluidity and convey energy, or in the case of horizontal and vertical lines, can be used in combination to give the appearance of stability and solidity. Diagonal lines often convey feelings of movement, perhaps falling or other instability.

Rhythm is created by movement which can be created with the repetition of the various elements and lines in an organised non-uniform way. 

Space

In reality space is three-dimensional but in art it can refer to a feeling of depth or be used to give the impression of a third-dimension. Space can also refer to the artist’s use of the area within the painting, and negative space can be used around the subject whilst the subject area is positive space. 

You can see some excellent examples of the use of space in many of the 3d hyper-realistic drawings which you can find on YouTube. I can certainly recommend taking a look at Stefan Pabst’s works which you can find here and if you want to have a go yourself you can start with something simple such as with this video here  

Colour

Colour is made up from three principles, hue, (Red, Green, and Blue etc.). Value, how light or dark an area of the artwork is, and Intensity which is the purity or strength of the colour.

Depending where the colour sits in the colour spectrum some colours are described as warm such as reds and yellows, and others cool such as blues and greys. The value determines the brightness of the colour so an artist who wants to portray darkness will be using much darker tones and will use contrasting tones which are much lighter to highlight areas of light.

Intensity refers to the brightness of any individual colour with undiluted bright colours which are usually used to depict an energy or they can be mixed to create a more sedated tone which for example might be used to depict a serious mood.

Texture

When we touch an object we know what the texture feels like but on a painting artists will often recreate the illusion of a texture. On a two-dimensional artwork the artist will use shadows, variances of colour, and lines to portray a specific texture. Silk for example will have plenty of much lighter contrasting colours which indicate that light is reflecting from the surface, whereas something like a dull stone will have much heavier and dulled colours to highlight the surface area.

Context

There are other elements too which might not be as obvious within the actual work but are key in determining the artworks significance and/or meaning. Context is the set of circumstances or facts which surround a particular event or situation and could include things such as when the work was created, how it was created, and for what purpose the work was created.  

There might be historical references within the artwork but historical information about the artist is also important when looking at the context within any given piece of art. Whether economic, philosophical, social, or cultural, the context with which the art was created and the complicity within that context is intrinsic to the artworks meaning. 

Looking at how the art relates to other art from the same period, what you know about the artist, whether or not the art relates to any social or political history of the time, who was the work created for, all will help to form the context of the piece.

I truly believe that context is one of the most important aspects of any art. The context can decide where and when a particular piece is displayed and art teachings rely on historical and contextual narratives to convey the meanings with art movements and then those narratives often decide how art museums are structured. 

Content

Content is the emotional or intellectual message of the artwork, its meaning, and aesthetic value, content is not just a description of the subject used within the art. What is the art about, what genre is the art, portrait, landscape, abstract, and what the art represents.

Content is more than merely the subject matter. Just as important is the title of the work which can give the piece a completely different meaning and which can provide a message as to what the work is portraying. 

Words

These are the words I came up with when my daughter had to start critiquing other artists work as part of her exam preparation, and as she received good grades they seem to be as good as any!

I have broken words into sections such as elements of the artwork, adjectives, nouns, verbs, and of course genres which you might want to use. Having an understanding of what each means will give you a head start. 


never use more words than needed


Never use a big word when a singularly unloquacious and diminutive linguistic expression will satisfactorily accomplish the contemporary necessity. Sounds like many of the artists’ statements I have either prepared or read within a gallery doesn’t it? In short, why use one word when a dozen will do. This does seem to be a ‘thing’ in the art industry, we all seem to love using words, but actually there is a good reason for doing this.

Describing artwork isn’t quite that easy sometimes. Here’s something you can try out though. Grab a willing partner and ask them to describe a piece of art of their choosing whilst you draw it. Two thirds of the time you can bet that what is being described bears no relation to what you have drawn. But, if the art is described more specifically using terminology which exactly describes the nuances of the art, the results are going to be much closer to the original artwork the describer picked.


In order to describe your own art, critique the work of others, and to be able to more usefully talk about art and write those descriptions, being able to call on a specific vocabulary of words will help you enormously. 

I literally keep lists of words and phrases for the times when I stumble across a creative block as a writer and artist. I do this because sometimes I know what I want to express, I just can’t quite put my tongue on the actual word. Keeping these lists has helped me create better descriptions for my art, and it has also helped when it comes to critiquing art from other artists.  

Many of the words have come from reading many artist descriptions over the years, others have come from words that spring to mind when viewing certain pieces of art. 

Subject Specific Terminology

Describing Lines

Flowing

Simple

Broken

Dashed

Curved

Curvature

Arc

Bold

Thin

Fine

Thick

Linear

Diagonal

Oblique

Parallel

Ridged

Serpentine

Solid

Straight

Tangential

Wavy

Describing Tone & Colour

Ablaze

Subtle

Contrasting

Muted

Dramatic

Bleached

Bold

Brash

Bright

Clean

Cool

Warm

Delicate

Harmonious

Harsh

Glowing

Iridescent

Opaque

Light

Monotone

Neutral

Opalescent

Restrained

Sombre

Translucent

Vibrant

Rich

Watery

Washed-Out

Faded

Describing Texture

Rough

Fine

Smooth

Coarse

Uneven

Flat

Raised

Finish

Feel

To the touch

Velvety

Glazed

Glassy

Rustic

Rusty

Metallic

Flexible

Glossy

Pearlescent

Slick

Oily

Wet

Sharp

Bumpy

Pitched

Convex

Concave

Abrasive

Calcified

Cottony

Cracked

Aged

Cobbled

Depressed

Distorted

Embossed

Engraved

Dull

Gauzy

Impenetrable

Porous

Irregular

Woven

Pebbled

Paved

Protuberant

Silken

Unblemished

Describing Shape

Organic

Aerodynamic

Curvaceous

Geometric

Angular

Asymmetrical

Rugged

Closed

Concave

Convex

Spherical

Cylindrical

Concentric

Congruent

Convoluted

Fitted

Malformed

Misshapen

Proportioned

Round

Circular

Tapered

Well-turned

Two-dimensional

Three-dimensional

Wraparound

Describing Movement

Swirling

Flowing

Dynamic

Dramatic

Fast

Swift

Brisk

Nimble

Deft

Slow

Unhurried

Measured

Stately

Leisurely

Sedate

Deliberate

Lazy

Languid

Glacial

Sluggish

Leisured

Balletic

Dainty

Lithe

Fluent

Feline

Graceful

Describing Scale

Large

Small

Intimate

Miniature

Monumental

Disproportionate

Isometric

Life-size

Scale

Giant

Microscopic

Immense

Petite

Vast

Great

Tiny

Colossal

Short

Tall

Small

Gigantic

Huge

Describing Contrast

Dramatic

Subtle

Strong

Heavy

Light

Pale

Harmony

Likeness

Uniformity

Divergence

Dissimilarity

Oppositeness

Opposition

Adverse

Contraposition

Differentiation

Distinction

Comparison

Contrariety

Dissimilitude

Unity

Conformity

Sameness


Quite a list isn’t it! Those are words which can be used within descriptions and statements, and for critiquing artworks, but there are also some more general words we can use which cover various artistic styles.

The following list cover many of the artistic styles and movements and I am sure that there are some which I haven’t remembered to include!


Describing Art Styles & Movements

Abstract

Abstraction

Abstract Expressionism

Art Brut

Art Deco

Art Nouveau

Baroque

Bauhaus

Ceramics

Classical

Constructivism

Contemporary

Cubism

Dada

Digital Art

Expressionism

Fauvism

Fine Art Photography

Folk Art

Found Art

Futurism

Glass Art

Gothic

Graphic Design

Harlem Renaissance

Impressionism

Installation Art

Linear Expressionism

Medieval

Minimalism

Modern Art

Modernism

Neo-Classical Art

Neo-Expressionism

Op-Art

Orientalism

Outsider Art

Painting

Photography

Photorealism

Pop Art

Post Modernism

Pottery

Pre-Raphaelite

Prints

Realism

Representational

Rococo

Romanticism

Surrealism 

Symbolic

Traditional

Virtual Art

Wood Working

OTHERS not in any order

Futurism

Vorticism

Suprematism

De Stijil

ASCII Art

Abstract Illusionism

Academic Art

American Impressionism

American Realism

Aestheticism

Analytical Art

Auto-Destructive Art

Les Automatistes

Assemblage

Blobitecture

Contextual Art

Daul-al-Set

Excessivism

Feminist Art

Figurative Art

Folk Art

Harlem Renaissance

Hyper modernism

Humanistic Aestheticism

Typographic

Kinetic Art

Land Art

Landscape Art

Letterism

Lyco Art

Massurrealism

Maximalism

Neoclassism

Naïve Art

Objective Expressionism

Pixel Art

Plasticien

Post Minimalism

Primitivism

Procedural Art

Purism

Shock Art

Street Art

Synchronism

Toyism

Transgressive Art

Tonalism

Video Art


So if I have missed your particular artistic style off the list, forgive me, it is currently 3:18am on a Sunday morning as I write this and the alarm is set for 6am… snooze button is going to get pressed a fair bit. 

I also know that some people will suggest that digital art or other art forms are not true art, I beg to differ and remember that art is subjective. If a visual form, picture, photograph, or representation evokes an emotional response at the point of being seen, surely it is art? I am a digital artist who for 30-years has had this debate yet I still sell my work, in fact I sell more digital work than I do my acrylics, oils, and watercolours combined.

Often you will need a vocabulary which also provides some context to your descriptions, so now we will cover a few ideas that you might want to refer to when writing statements or critiquing art. 

I was going to split up the adjectives from the nouns and verbs, but for brevity I decided not to. I apologise but I am conscious that by the time I finish this post it will be time to write next week’s post! If someone wants to pull a list together with the words separated out, feel free!

General Descriptive Words

Absorbing

Abstraction

Acclaimed

Accomplished

Aesthetic

Aggressive

Appealing

Atmospheric

Authentic

Avant-garde

Balanced

Banal

Abundance

Boundless

Balance

Beauty

Body

Brushwork

Brush strokes

Candid 

Characteristic

Collectable

Complimentary

Contemplative

Controversial

Conversational

Conviction

Concept

Character

Complexity

Composition

Contrasting

Creativity

Daring

Decorative

Daring

Dazzling

Dense

Detailed

Disciplined

Dimensional

Delicate

Dreamy

Dreamlike

Divine

Distinguished

Disruptive

Dense

Dynamic

Design

Detail

Diptych

Duality

Decorative

Depict

Develop

Display

Distort

Distortion

Drawn

Depth

Drab

Dull

Disturbing

Eclectic

Elevated

Embellished

Embody

Emerge

Emphasise

Enchanted

Envision

Etched

Evoke

Exhibit

Explore

Experience

Explore

Exploration

Expressive

Expressed

Elevating

Emerging

Emergent

Emotion

Emotional

Emotionally charged

Energetic

Engaging

Engrossing

Enigmatic

Epochal

Ethereal

Evocative

Exceptional

Extreme

Explosive

Erotic

Figure

Figurative

Form

Figure

Format

Fascinate

Feel

Feeling

Focussed

Focus

Fusion

Fused

Forced

Forced Perspective

Flat

Frantic

Frigid

Fascinating

Figural

Figurative

Fluidity

Fluid

Freelance

Fresh

Famed

Fluidity

Gorgeous

Graceful

Granular

Gallery

Gravitas

Gothic

Geometric

Geometry

Honest

Hyper-Realistic

Hyper-Creative

Hanging

Hung

Hue

Hollow

Hotel Art

Incompetent

Inconsistent

Inexperienced

Insincere

Irrelevant

Iconic

Icon

Iconic Value

Ideal

Illustrated

Illustration

Images

Imagery

Impact

Innovative 

Innovation

Innovate

Inspired

Inspiration

Intricacies

Interlace

Interpret

Interwoven

Interweave

Intriguing

Intrigue

Inverted

Invert

Intensive

Insensitive

Interesting

Infusion

Infused

Intuitive

Inventive

Journey

Journal

Juxtaposition

Japonism

Judaica

Junk Art

Justified Type

Juvenilia

Jaggies

Jali

Jalee

Jamb

Juxtapose

Kagle

Kakemono

Kamakura

Kelvin

Kerf

Kerning

Keystone

Kiln

Kinesiology

Kinetic

Kneaded

Labyrinthine

Layered

Lifelike

Literal

Lateral

Luminous

Lyrical

Lacking 

Loose

Lost

Lacklustre

Lifeless

Mature

Meandering

Mosaic

Mosaic-like

Moving

Mysterious

Mystical

Mediocre

Manipulation

Masterpiece

Mastery

Maturity

Meaning

Medium

Methodology

Method

Mixed-Media

Mood

Motif

Movement

Museum

Mystique

Moving

Motion

Motionless

Narrative

Nuance

Numb

Naïve

Namban

Naming

Naples Yellow

Nera

Narthex

Nave

Negative Space

Neo

Neolithic

Netsuke

New

New Wave

Niche

Niello

Nimbus

Non-representational

Nuance

Nostalgia

Numbered

Organic

Obelisk

Objectify

Objectification

Objectivity

Oblique

Oblong

Obtuse

Occlude

Ochre

Octagonal

Oculus

Offset

Oil Gilding

Oilstone

Old 

Old Master

Opalescence

Opaque

Opaqueness

Oppression

Original

Ormolu

Orpiment

Outsider

Outsider Art

Overpainting

Ovoid

Over glazed

Pedestrian

Passion

Passionate

Plain

Paradoxical

Peaceful

Predictable

Pretentious

Paisley

Pale

Palaeolithic

Palette

Palladian

Panache

Pantheon

Pantograph

Papier Collé

Papyrus

Parabola

Parallel

Parchment

Parergon

Parquetry

Passé

Passe-partout

Pastiche

Patron

Patronage

Pedagogy

Penumbra

Perpetual

Perpetual Abstraction

Period

Periodicity

Peristyle

Permanence

Persistence

Personification

Perspective

Photogram

Photogravure

Photo screen

Pictograph

Picturesque

Pigment

Printing

Printed

Pitch

Pixel

Pixilation

Pixel-Shim

Planography

Plasticity

Plinth

Pointillism

Polyptych

Philosophy

Photo-realistic

Photograph

Positive Space

Post-Minimalism

Primitive

Prism

Positively

Perceived

Perception

Quatrefoil

Quart

Quarto

Quill

Quin

Rabbet

Radial

Radius

Raising

Rarity

Realgar

Recto

Reflective

Reflection

Reformation

Reflexivity

Refraction

Regular

Regularity

Relic

Render

Repetition

Replicate

Repoussé

Resin

Retinal

Retouched

Retrospective

Reversal

Romanesque

Realistic

Reality

Removed

Rusticate

Rustic

Rusted

Senseless

Sanctuary

Santero

Scale

Schematic Stage

Screen print

Scrim

Scumble

Secession

Section

Semi-mat

Senses

Sense

Sensorial

Sensuality

Sentiment

Sepia

Serigraphy

Shadow

Shang

Shard

Shim

Simile

Sincere

Size

Slurry

Socio-Realism

Spiral

Split

Stabile

Stereoscopic

Stimulate

Simulate

Stipple

Subjectivity

Subjective

Subliminal

Suffuse

Support

Surface

Symbiotic

Synaesthesia

Synoptic

Synthetic

Synthetic-cubism

Synthesis

Tactile

Talent

Tamping

Tanka

Tapping

Torn

Teleidoscope

Teleology

Temper

Temperature

Tendentious

Terra

Tessera

Texture

Tilt

Tuluene

Tonality

Tonal

Tone

Transformed

Transparent

Truncated

Typography

Typology

Uniformity

Unidroit

Unique

Universal

Unpack

Value

Value Key

Variances

Variation

Vanishing point

Variegated

Variety

Vellum

Veneer

Vermicular

Vignette

Viridian

Virtual

Visual

Visualise

Vitreous

Vitrify

Vitrine

Void

Volatile

Volume

Vorticism

Voussoirs

Wall

Warm

Warped

Wrapped

Washed

Water-Soluble

Weaving 

Woven

Webbed

Xanthic

Yayoi

Yellowing

Zinc

Zoom

Zoomorphic

Zoopraxiscope


The lists outlined above will hopefully give your creative word block a little nudge so that you can at least add words used within the arts to create your statement or indeed to critique art, but do use them wisely. Understanding them is one of the most useful foundations you can have to start understanding the wider world of the arts. 

I purposely offer no explanations for each word, although I will expand those tables in time and will offer an explanation for each word, but conscious of publishing deadlines. So consider this as a work in progress and in the interim just copy the word over to Google which will for now act as a dictionary!

I say use the words wisely and as I mentioned earlier, it’s important not to make your statements overly technical. Art buyers are human and here’s a little secret, ‘humans like to communicate with other humans on a human level’. 

The example I gave towards the beginning of this article was actually generated using an online tool to create random sentences which I then strung together. No wonder it really made no sense, but this is exactly what artists and gallerists have been doing since someone invented the artist statement. In short, those words don’t come across as being human at all and they set a foundation for the statement to become far too technical. It really does put all but the absolute purist art lovers off. 

Think of the artist statement as being just as important as the art itself. Nowadays our art galleries are open 24-hours a day, 365-days each year. So it is ridiculous to think that every artist could meet every person who views his or her work. Instead, your statement becomes a virtual you and it will sell your work when you are not present. Now that gives the statement a little more importance doesn’t it?

In short this is when the artist needs to become an online marketer. I have written about marketing many times previously here on this blog and a quick look through the archives will provide you with some hints and tips I have picked up over the years. No one is born an internet marketer, and just as with art, the more of it you do, the better you will become. 

Another consideration within the artist statement is that you need to find a very fine balance between providing the required detail and giving it the creative touch that will convince people to buy your work. You definitely want to avoid being pushy, but by the time the statement has been read by the viewer, you want them to be convinced that they want to own the work. 

Only if you know everything about your demographic should you really play about with the formula and make it more technical. I know that many of my collectors like me to explain in detail the process of creating the art, but others who buy my art, buy it because it resonates with them, or it is a piece they particularly like and have no desire to fully know what the process was in creating it. The goal ultimately is to provide a mechanism which bonds the viewer and the artist and appearing aloof particularly in the world of online art sales is best avoided. You need to connect with people.   


artist Statement art descriptions

OTHER PRACTICAL TIPS

  • Earlier I mentioned the length of the artist statement and I have found the best ones generally run at around 150-200 words and if you are not too sure how to even start, my best advice is to just write anything you can. Once you have started writing it becomes much easier as you progress and once you have finished writing you can then re-read it and make the edits or start over. 
  • Many people might only spend 15-20 seconds in front of a painting and if they are disrupted by having to read a lengthy description it will become disruptive to their flow.  
  • Write more than one statement for each artwork and then decide which one you should use. Get friends, family or anyone else to help you with this. Not only will you know it makes sense, but a second pair of eyes will help to eliminate any grammar or spelling mistakes.
  • If you are writing a statement for a gallery, presentation is key. Many galleries and sales platforms are now online and this is now the most popular way to submit an artist’s statement. 
  • Some platforms offer little in the way of controlling how your statement is displayed, many of them will use a word count and a generic font, and this is how it gets displayed. 
  • Others though might want a printed artist statement and this is your opportunity to excel in terms of presentation. First off, make sure that the medium your artist statement appears on is clean. There’s nothing more off-putting than reading a coffee stained sheet of A4 sized paper in 8 Point Times New Roman.
  • You don’t need any special paper in particular, but I prefer to print my own statements using a heavier paper usually off white or cream. I avoid brightly coloured papers altogether because they can distract the viewer all too easily, and avoid using anything that remotely looks like clip art. The gallery owner is not attending your five-year old’s birthday party and neither are the buyers.
  • I have seen some of the most beautiful art and next to it a statement typed in the Comic Sans font. No matter how cool you think this looks, it’s not. It was for maybe a day back in 1994 when it first offended so many of us typographic nerds, but this is 2017 and we’re all completely over Comic Sans. 
  • Make sure that the font you use is clear and that you are able to read it easily. You need the message to be conveyed as easily as possible, so consider using the basic fonts such as Arial and Times New Roman. 
  • When it comes to getting a message across, less is more. Keeping a simple and elegant design is a much better option than creating something with added flair. 
  • Think about what you want to write in your statement before you commit to writing anything. I tend to scribble down ideas but occasionally I will write down the subject of the art and come up with things that originate from that subject using a mind map. 
  • Rather than fill the statement with every word in the tables in this article consider using a few periodically. If your work was inspired by the great Masters such as Matisse, never say that Matisse was a significant reference and inspiration in my research based practice before commencing this new body of work. No, just say that the work was inspired and influenced by Matisse. 
  • Write down how you would describe the work if you were standing in front of the viewer. Would you really say that ‘this is an outstanding work produced by the artist’ or would you say, I am very proud of this work? 
  • Refine your first attempt, and your second, and your third, then you might be somewhere close to having an artist statement that will resonate with the reader. 
  • Create different statements for different purposes – you will want to add more detail in statements written for arts grants, less detail for others.
  • How long you spend on the statement is up to you, but spend at least 2-3 hours perfecting it. It's not a five minute job so plan ahead and plan well. 

Hopefully you will now have at least a few more words you can throw into the mix to write an artist’s statement, and you should now be looking at yours and others works a little differently too. A better understanding of how art is structured helps when it comes to writing the statement, and considering the who, what, where, and when, will help you to present your work to a much wider audience. 

If you have any tips that I haven’t covered today, please do leave a comment and let us all know!

ABOUT M.A

Mark A. Taylor is a UK based artist who sells his work around the world online here,  and in more than 150 retail stores across the USA and Canada including The Great Frame Up, Framing and Art Centre, and Deck the Walls.

You can also follow Mark on social media – on Facebook here,  or on Twitter @beechhouseart

Comments

Popular posts