By Barbara Bowen | Updated June 14, 2018
"If you aim for a market you'll miss the mark." Whoever said that, I'm a believer. It's no good looking over the shoulder at what strangers prefer before creating. True inspiration is the optimal motivator. Quality issues from there, and its purity taps the nerves of audience attraction.
That said, there are far too many masterpieces tucked on shelves behind the light of day. Strong promotional tools may be secondary to our motivation, but they're essential. Like the apex of an iceberg, they show first. They introduce our work, foster credibility, and mirror how far we've traveled along the arc of our goals. Those we know may direct us to new connections. But even then, we must support those connections with an effective "portrait" of who we are. Selling is a part of every career. Never underestimate the power of presentation. Why not enter the new season prepared with an updated, incisive, authentic, and powerful one? Start now and stay ahead of the pack.
So, what is so important about these essential marketing tools?
Shaping your essential bond with viewers and sales
An artist statement communicates what motivates you as an artist.
It's the most personal part of your presentation; an opportunity to bring your viewers and potential buyers closer. It offers a glimpse of the person behind the work. While keeping it informative, let your personality show. Share your ideas and concerns, and how they are revealed in your work. Explain to viewers what your work means to you, not what it's supposed to mean to them. They will arrive at their own conclusions. It's okay to mention influences, but mostly keep prominent names associated with your career for your resume, where they will serve as testimonial and avoid the appearance of boasting. Give some details about your techniques and how they help you achieve your vision. Then, you might add a segment about how your approach is unique.
Most general artist statements are around one page or less. Brevity sustains attention, so I lean toward three or four concise paragraphs. In some situations, a statement about a particular artwork may be requested. A statement can act as a marketing piece in certain commercial situations, which may be appropriate. So be sure to tailor your artist statement to its purpose.
Creating a memorable snapshot of your career life
An artist bio contains similar information to the artist resume but is presented in paragraph form, is less formal, and is most often written in the third person. It serves to highlight the information presented on your resume. It's a great way to convey a "snapshot" of your career experience.
Detailing your career with clarity and professionalism
Artist resumes detail the accomplishments, endeavors, and knowledge. They offer a full picture of your career, and the categories featured on the resume will depend upon your artistic discipline. It's important to update your resume on a regular basis, adding and deleting the listed activities, as appropriate.
An artist resume can be one to four pages in length. Most artists have two versions prepared: a longer and shorter version. It's often best to use a professional paper stock, in white or ivory. The style of type varies, and can add to the resume's professionalism.
Standing out from the crowd with dynamic writing / shaping / editing
Artists also use their portfolio to apply for specific projects, funding programs, residencies, or other competitive opportunities. These applications may ask you to submit a project description, details on your approach to the project, and a cover letter. These written materials should be tightly edited and tailored to the particular opportunity. Be passionate and sincere in the presentation of your work, and always conclude with thanking the panel, juror, and/or organization for their time and consideration.
Typical questions for you to answer will be: Why are you an ideal applicant? How will you benefit the program or project? What technical qualifications, abilities, or personal assets can you contribute? How will you benefit from the opportunity? How would the project advance your career as an artist? How would you use the money awarded?
Keeping the heart and soul of your work evolving
Your portfolio is the most valuable tool in your overall presentation. Your visuals are worth a thousand words, and an arresting portfolio can help close the gap, should your written materials be less developed, as in young artist on the career path. There are many approaches to a portfolio, depending upon the discipline. One universal ingredient to a successful portfolio is a sense of continuity. The transitions between and within subject matter must cohere. Color, tone, shape, scale, all must be considered when choosing what images to include and how to position them. This process involves subjectivity as well as objectivity. Most artists benefit greatly from feedback from a trained eye, and reactions from untrained eyes can also be helpful. A portfolio is most successful when modified and tailored, with acumen, for its particular audience.
Many artists now supplement their physical portfolio with a digital version either on the Web or presented on CD-ROM or DVD. Stay current on new formats and choose the method(s) that feature your work most powerfully and support your marketing goals.
©2009 Barbara Bowen. All rights reserved.
Barbara Bowen is a New York based professional writer and photographer, and founder of Gateways Coaching. She coaches artists and other art career professionals in transition worldwide. ...
Creativity: Discipline or Willingness?
Creativity and Spirituality
Tempering the Inner Critic
Carl Jung and Gateways Themes
Dreams for Change
Creative Process: The Legacy
Enhancement through Repetition
Art Careers in Transition
The Need to Create
Creativity and Relationships
Tribute to Paul Newman
How the Fall Season Benefits Creativity
Creating and Fear