Keep Your Artist Statement Short and Clear

Related article: How to Write Your Artist Statement

Q: When anyone asks about my art, I refer them to my artist's statement, my resume, and some representative images of my current work. Several people have told me that my statement is a little hard to understand and that maybe I should simplify it a bit. My response is that it accurately represents what I do and, although I never say this, the ones who make these kinds of comments don't usually know that much about art. Any suggestions?

A: Make your statement easier to understand (and while you're at it, lighten up on the attitude). You have to consider anyone who asks about your art as a potential buyer, and when they ask, you should do everything in your power to answer their questions. The fact that some people have difficulty understanding you or your statement could very well mean that a lot more have similar experiences as well, but just don't say anything. After all, most people keep sensitive questions or contrary opinions to themselves in order to avoid any type of controversy.

Think of those who comment on the complexity of your statement as trying to help you rather than as not knowing enough about art. Many artists spend so much time around other artists and art people that they're often out of touch with what average buyers do or do not know. In addition, most people who buy art do not have formal art educations. Artist statements that are peppered with art jargon or artspeak may sound great to you and your friends, and make perfect sense to insiders, but mean little or nothing to everyone else. And what happens when you get too complicated for average individuals who like and sometimes buy art to understand what you're up to? You lose potential sales.

So keep your statement and other introductory materials clear and to the point. Your goal should be to hold readers' attention without being confusing or intimidating. You want to give them a chance to understand and enjoy your art, to at least have enough basic information to establish some sort of connection with it, to draw their own conclusions, and to learn about it at their own speed. The better people understand your statement, the closer and more involved they'll feel with your art, the longer they'll spend looking it, and the best part? The greater your chances of making sales.

If you decide to rework or simplify your current statement, ask people outside of informed art circles where they get confused and how they think you might explain yourself better. Pay special attention those few brave folks who come forward and voluntarily share their feelings with you. They probably have the most well-thought-out suggestions of anyone. You don't have to do every single thing everyone says, but if you ask enough people, the types of changes you need to make will become clear.

Several additional pointers:

* Be brief. A good length for an introductory statement is two to four paragraphs of no more than three sentences each (about 350-400 words).

* Tell what your art is about, what it signifies, what inspired it, or what you intend for it to communicate.

* Appeal to viewers; get them involved with what you're doing. Give them reasons to care. You know what's in it for you; what's in it for them?

* Avoid complex explanations, obscure references and artspeak.

* Try not to catagorize your work or compare yourself to other artists or art movements. Leave that task for the critics.

* Use language that everyone can understand.

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