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asmonet's avatar

Do you have any advice for writing an artist's statement?

Asked by asmonet (21335points) May 8th, 2009

For my final I must write an artist’s statement, something I have never done and I’m finding rather difficult to do without coming off as pompous. I mean, is pompous okay? It seems easy but I don’t know where to start. Any thoughts? Ideas? Tips?

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25 Answers

casheroo's avatar

I think pompous would be just fine.

I want to see the final product of your painting of me!

chyna's avatar

You painted casheroo? I want painted.

arnbev959's avatar

oooh, paint me asmo.

asmonet's avatar

You unhelpful bastards.
Fine! I will, jerks. But that means I need pictures. And chyna, that’s shouldn’t be a problem, but pete has never shown his face. :P

arnbev959's avatar

a painting based on your mental image of me could be interesting…

Jeruba's avatar

@asmonet, can you tell us what an artist’s statement is? Just tell us what it is, and then, of course, we will unhesitatingly tell you how to write one.

asmonet's avatar

It’s a statement that speaks about your art, who you are as an artist, what you work in, your art’s purpose, etc.

chyna's avatar

@asmonet <hangs head> Didn’t mean to make it all about me. But yes, paint me!

Jeruba's avatar

First just write it. Write your draft, saying whatever you feel you have to say, and don’t worry about how it sounds. Only once you have got it all down in its essence do you need to think about what kind of tone and attitude it exhibits. Then you can look for signs of pomposity if you’re worried about that.

If you write as honestly and genuinely as you can about what you are doing and why, it isn’t going to be pompous and it isn’t going to be full of self-praise. Instead it will be a crystallization of your artistic values and how you are working to fulfill them. If it sounds ambitious, that is perfectly all right. If you want to change the face of modern art, go right ahead and say so.

casheroo's avatar

she painted me for school, it was a mother & child thing I believe. don’t be hatin’!

asmonet's avatar

@Jeruba: I lurve you. Just what I needed to hear. ;)

The_Compassionate_Heretic's avatar

Artist statements! Awesome.

You want to cover the basics:
-Describe what you do.
-Talk about what inspires you in your work.
-Cite some influences.
-Try to keep it short. The average art viewer traditionally doesn’t have a lot of patience for long artist’s statements.

chyna's avatar

@asmonet You are never at a loss for words. I think you will say exactly the right thing. Brag on yourself, for who else is there to do this?

FGS's avatar

There is a fine line between confidence and arrogance. The confident-almost-to-the-point-of-arrogance people tend to be the most successful. Have no fear in writing your statement, be you. Your skills will speak for themselves.

shrubbery's avatar

I wanna see your work! We’ve always had to write statements for our work in school. How long does it have to be?

augustlan's avatar

@shrubbery Take a peek at her avatar. It’s her final project for art.

@asmonet Be your usual charming, brilliant self girly. And listen to Jeruba!

TheRocketPig's avatar

@The_Compassionate_Heretic has it right, if you stick to those topics you are doing good. Here’s my artist statement as an example.

By focusing on character, humor, and loose narrative, I create a world full of quirky, pitiful creatures that blur the lines between illustration and “Fine Art”. Inspired by golden age cartoons, Pop-Surrealism, and late 50’s commercial art, I make work that speaks of the awkwardness of human emotion while keeping a “tongue in cheek” attitude about everyday life. This work is expressed through illustration, animation, sculpture, and a lot of sarcasm.

Presumably, your artist statement is always written by you, so I would make sure it reflects the tone and message of your work. The first thing people do when writing their artist statement is to make it sound like some pompous art historian wrote it. If the work is simple, keep it simple, if the work is complex and philosophical, mirror that in your statement.

ShaunArt.Com <——- shameless plug here.

asmonet's avatar

Thanks, rocketpig. :)

TitsMcGhee's avatar

I have to do this too, thanks for reminding me! My artist statements usually revolve around my intentions, so people can decide if that comes across or not.

madcapper's avatar

Be so fucking abstract they think your the next Christo… ?

dynamicduo's avatar

Oh, artist’s statements. I remember my first one! I was so confused as to what to say. I ended up simply sitting down looking at the piece and started writing anything about it – describing what inspired me to create it, what materials I used, what emotions I felt while creating it, what mood I wanted the viewer to have. Then I put it down and had a sandwich. A day later I looked back on it, cut it up, eliminated the pointless and rearranged it, to produce the final statement. As @Jeruba says, just do it from your heart and it won’t sound full of it. And if your artwork is your avatar, then I must say indeed it is a great piece :)

wundayatta's avatar

There seems to be a style of artist statements that I’ve read that makes it very hard for me to get anything out of it. Perhaps it is all the references to esoteric lit crit terms that I know nothing about. I’m thinking of my brother’s statement, which seemed to me to be a parody of itself, until I saw a lot of others that felt the same.

Like in @TheRocketPig‘s statement, I don’t know what “loose narrative” means. It must mean something to artists who understand the technical elements of painting, but I have little clue. I could invent something, and it might be right (a narrative that kind of wanders all over the place, but never seems to go anywhere), but it might be wrong, and anyway, it takes too much guesswork to think about it.

The influences there—well, obviously you have to be some kind of art historian to get the references. A few pictures would help me, as a complete novice to art history. But I have no idea how to fix this problem, short of putting me through a mandatory art history class. Then there’s “awkwardness of human emotion” which again, I can’t imagine, although I suppose I shall pick that up out of the show.

My brother’s was even more esoteric that this. It probably referred to Derrida, since every critic seems to refer to Derrida, so I guess that means the artist’s have to, too.

I guess I want a clue about what the artist is trying to do. If it’s a loose narrative, what is that loose narrative? If it’s sarcasm, then fine, tell me the subject is sarcasm. If it’s about young lovers, or high school (that’s what awkward emotions sound like to me), please tell me. If it’s a sort of visual soliloquy about how weird it is to have any emotions at all, then tell me that.

My brother’s paintings are generally allegorical. Sometimes they refer to literary things; sometimes to artistic traditions. They are political, so their allegorical messages are political messages. He paints about stuff that bothers him. Mostly the environment. He’ll paint on trash. He’ll paint traditional stories and throw in unexpected elements to show that it’s not just the bucolic story, but how the bucolic story has been destroyed by modern technology. He’ll do things like painting an oil refinery as if it were being painted by someone in the Hudson River school. So the unexpectedness of acting as if the oil refinery was actually a beautiful thing, like scenes of natural beauty.

So why can’t he say, “I’m an environmentalist. I think modern technology and commerce is destroying our natural world. I create these allegories to bring attention to this story. I might use artifacts that represent the dangers I see, or juxtapose current events against historical traditions (Hudson River School) that honor beauty to illustrate my political beliefs. This is the art of global warming.”

It seems to me that artists often want to obscure their aims instead of making them clear, as if it’s a game to see whether viewers can “get” them. Maybe they don’t know how to be clear (after all, they are artists, not writers). Maybe it’s a tradition. Maybe, as @madcapper says, it’s a deliberate attempt to sound so smart no one can understand you. But gosh, Asmonet, if you could make it really clear, so even an uninformed and uneducated neophyte like me could understand, I would do cartwheels for you! It might not be pro forma, but it would be blessedly understandable.

TheRocketPig's avatar

haha, thanks for the breakdown Daloon… I might have been in art school for too long… but I always though that my artist statement was as simple and to the point as I could get. Maybe I should do a revision… I mean you are pretty right about the “loose narrative” the work has a narrative… but not a strong one.

Golden age cartoons are the cartoons are cartoons around the time between 1920 and 1960 (ya know, when they were good). Pop Surrealism is a contemporary art movement that’s fairly popular. Examples could be Mark Ryden or Tim Biskup. I don’t really know what else to call it… so I just call it by name. Finally 50’s commercial art is what it is… graphic design and illustration from 50’s consumer products.

As far as the awkwardness of human emotion… that’s basically just a fancy way of saying my characters are awkward. They are awkward characters in awkward situations.

One thing I wanted to make sure I did in my artist statement was to use my own words. I didn’t sit there and think about how I can “blow people’s minds” or talk above them. I personally don’t make that complicated of work.

if anyone is interested here’s my thesis

here is an example of an artist statement from someone I had the pleasure of going to school with. It’s a perfect example of a needlessly esoteric artist statement.

“In my installations, one may witness a reflection of the contemporary pace of image perception— fragmented, complex, abundant, and disordered. Together, images and their arrangement are used to create a unified piece that satisfies a new order within apparent disorder. The resulting installations summon the sensation of thinking and processing information in a new way, allowing for re-contextualization of fragmented imagery.”

I’m not trying to say that this person’s work is good or bad… but whaa? “reflection of the contemporary pace of image perception” ????

augustlan's avatar

@TheRocketPig I just read your thesis (all 38 pages of it!), and I thoroughly enjoyed it. Both the writing and the artwork itself were very interesting, and fun. Good work, sir. :D

kruger_d's avatar

Don’t tell the viewer what to see in your work. Talk about your process, your decisions, and what ties the work together.

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