When applying for an artist residency, grant, or an academic program, most require artists to submit an artist statement. Contests, exhibitions, press releases, and any other type of proposal may also require a statement. Although it doesn’t seem like a necessity, it’s an important element for artists. People in the art world, such as curators and jurors, will read it and take it seriously. It explains an artist’s work and how it’s approached when the artist isn’t there to speak about their work.

It takes most artists a long time to write a statement and even once it’s done, they continue to rework it and tailor it for certain occasions. Writing a statement is a process and usually isn’t done in a day. Keeping its function in mind may help in the process. Readers will look to a statement to understand what the artist is trying to do and for what reason. It gives artists the opportunity to fill in the gaps for viewers and connects the work to the artist.

It can be combined with a bio and written in first person or third person, but when it’s alone, it should be written in first person. As for length, there is no guideline as long as the statement’s purpose is fully addressed. It should be simple without any unnecessary fillers–brief but comprehensive. It is a written, more concise version of a studio conversation an artist has about his or her work.

There are many ways to write an artist statement, so this advice can be adjusted according to the artist’s style. For artists, here are some steps to follow to ease the writing process:

1. Check out statements of artists that create work similar to yours.

You can usually find an artist’s statement on his or her website and if not, you can try emailing them for it. Their contact information should be on their website.

Analyze the artist’s work in relation to their statement. Are there any elements that relate to the function of your statement?

2. Step back and look at your work.

Gather your relevant work that your statement will represent. Physically line them up, side by side, or digitally view images of them side by side. Look for relationships each piece has with one another. The use of color, technique, concepts, subject matter, mood, and even the creation process are all elements to consider.

Move them around and group them with pieces that share similar elements. Jot down every aspect that comes to mind that’s important or related. It’s highly recommended to have others give their opinions, especially fellow artists. You may be surprised about what others discover in your work.

Here are some questions to consider:

In your work, how you begin your process?

For example: with the human form because of its narrative potential; transforming a two-dimensional form into a three-dimensional form

What medium do you use and what is it used for?

For example: paints figures; draws abstractions; sculpts organic forms

How is your work accomplished using the medium?

For example: low-fire clay body with multiple color slips and glazes; combining What are you investigating in your process?

For example: mutating ordinary forms; modernizing ancient Roman styles;

What moods or situations are portrayed in your resulting work?

For example: combinations of dream and reality, captures memories, explores movement, investigates illumination

What is provided to viewers?

For example: social commentary on gender restriction; illogical ambiguity; uncanny mysteries

Be specific when answering so you can start editing out ideas that are too general. Examples of specifics may include saltwater with acrylic paint, manipulating found objects, or varying line quality.

3. Create an outline and start drafting.

Look at the list of words and ideas you’ve created and start testing them out in sentences. Rather than putting them in a paragraph, make a list of the variations of sentences. This is so they can be moved around, revised, or edited out.

Keep the sentences short and sweet, but make your point. Also, eliminate anything unnecessary and any generalized statements. You don’t want to bore the readers.

Begin placing your sentences in an order or structure that flows together, tying them together into paragraphs. Don’t worry about how it sounds; just draft them together as naturally as you can and modify it when you do the final edit.

4. Edit and proofread.

Read your statement out loud and listen as if you’re in the reader’s shoes. Eliminate any jargon, check for grammatical errors, make sure the readers can understand the vocabulary, and the concepts are explained clearly. Read it others so they can pick out anything you’ve missed or should add.

Remember, it can be combined with a bio and written in first person or third person, but when it’s alone, it should be written in first person. As for length, there is no guideline, as long as the statement’s purpose is fully addressed.

4. Edit again!

As your work evolves, so should your artist statement! Your statement is true to what you do now, but may be different in a few months. Build on your existing statement and edit out what’s expired, so it currently reflects what you do.