Don’t Write — Talk Instead: 3 Steps to Revamp Your Artist Statement for 2017

Conversation by Berthe Morisot, 1891. Oil on canvas, private collection. Public domain.

Does your current artist statement reflect the artist you’re becoming this year? Write a statement for that artist — not the one you already are. A new year is a great time to re-invigorate your statement.

As an artist coach, I read many artist statements and most of them are too meek. I often write in the margins: Can you say more? What do you mean by that?

These statements are full of interesting ideas and intriguing one-liners, but they aren’t fully developed. So, how do you take that interesting sentence and “unpack” it? These three steps may help you discover a deeper truth so you can articulate your vision to your audience.

And that’s what the viewer wants: a doorway into understanding why you do what you do. Here are three ways to help you deepen your answers:

1. Don’t write; talk instead. You can talk to yourself and record it, talk it out with your cat, or best case, get a friend to interview you. You will say things in spoken language that you might never write.

2. Lie. Just for fun, write the most outrageous and bold statement. Make big leaps and “exaggerate” every aspect of your project. Then put this writing away and look at it the next day. You might find something that actually rings true. This step can also be accompanied by a small glass of Chianti.

3. Interview your audience. You can send an email questionnaire or better yet, sit with a group of both artists and non-artists and ask them what they experience when they see your work. How does the work speak to them? What do they come away with? Write down everything you hear. You may find language you like. You may disagree or agree. Don’t argue with them. Remain open and curious and record what they say. Some phrases and ideas may be useful.

Take these words, phrases and sentences back to your writing desk and let them inspire your new statement. Remember, your statement is a living document. Infuse it with new life in 2017.

Gigi Rosenberg is an author, artist coach and editor of Professional Artist. She wrote The Artist’s Guide to Grant Writing (Watson-Guptill) and coaches artists to help them find funding, blast through creative blocks and launch vibrant marketing plans. To sign up for her smart, art-filled news, visit gigirosenberg.com/blog.

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