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What to Consider when Critiquing Art

Formal strengths and weaknesses

    • Are the proportion, shape, and scale relationships distracting or supportive?
    • Is there correct or unintentionally incorrect foreshortening or linear perspective?
    • Is the medium application supportive?
    • Do the details or specifics support the general forms or schemes?
    • What effect does the value structure offer?
    • Is the composition considered?
    • Is there quality craftsmanship and a supportive presentation?
    • Is the work resolved?


    • Is there an emotion or mood portrayed?
    • Does the color scheme support a mood?

Conceptual elements

    • Is there a narrative?
    • Is social commentary or political criticism expressed?
    • Does the medium used support a dialogue?
    • Are there elements of space, light, time, or movement?
    • Are there references to literature/language, history, music, or science?

Your critical evaluation

    • Are the artist’s intentions understood?
    • What weaknesses could be addressed and what strengths could be pushed?
    • Is the work successful and why?

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The Art World Explained

Critical roles in how artwork is made, understood, remembered, and shown are played by many people in the art world. The art market differs as it is the realm of the art-interested community involving artists, buyers, curators, and sellers interacting with one another through collecting, investing, and other financial purposes. The art world encompasses the art market, as well as those producing, criticizing, commissioning, presenting, preserving, and promoting fine art.  

There are those who help artists develop the their practice, ideas, and goals, which may include other artists, professors, and the support from residencies and foundations. Artists receive help finishing their work from printers, fabricators, framers, and other production help.

Art advisors and art consultants help private collectors, institutions, and corporations buy artwork. Most art advisors charge an hourly fee and don’t sell their own inventory, while art consultants work with galleries and artists associated with galleries.

Primary art market dealers show artwork sold for the first time, represent artists and manage their careers. Secondary art market dealers help resell artwork and usually only work with collectors and other dealers. Dealers may also refer to themselves as gallerists to highlight their duties as curators and managers.

Galleries may have help from staff to help cover gallery duties. Those in charge of sales connect with collectors, preview and describe work to visitors, and handle sales transactions. Curators collect artworks for exhibitions they organize. Registrar duties may include tracking the location, price, condition, and other details of all the work in the gallery, overseeing consignments and shipping. An art handler may prepare work for shipping and exhibition installation. Gallerinas may have administrative tasks while greeting visitors. Archivists are responsible for cataloging all artists’ work images, written materials, and press. Other gallery staff may include gallery managers and bookkeepers.

Conservators restore and preserve work. Appraisers determine the market value of work and authentication boards determine the authenticity. Art critics write about exhibitions while bloggers and reporters inform readers of art news and personal interpretations.

The complex network of people that makeup the art world simply revolve around art. Therefore, as the key contributors, artists nourish the art world if they decide to interact with rest of it.

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Talking About Your Art

It’s necessary for artists to be able to talk about their work. In clutch situations, it’s critical to be able to explain what you’re doing quickly, with the audience in mind.

Even if people have seen your work, you still need to know how to talk. Usually, if viewers are interested in your work, they want to dig deeper.

Where to start

People such as curators and gallerists want to understand your work, not judging the book by only the cover. They want to know your influences, motivations, interpretations, and processes.

Distancing yourself from your work can be challenging. Art can be difficult to explain, especially your own work. Refer to your artist statement and dig even deeper to get to know every aspect about what you do.

Obtain an elevator pitch

Own it

When explaining what you do, avoid starting a sentence with “I’m interested in…”. For example, you explain that you’re interested in the way color and pattern creates optical illusions. Instead, explain that you use color and pattern to create optical illusions. This gives off an essence of confidence that you’re technique is successful, rather than experimental.

Short and sweet

Your elevator pitch should be less than two minutes or much shorter, depending on the situation. Avoid going off on a tangent, and only cover what the audience needs and wants to know. They don’t need to know what your day job is; only be defined as an artist. Use the most important features from your artist statement and the current or recent highlights of your career. Your content may vary depending on who you pitching to and what your trying to achieve.

“I paint figures at contradicting conditions of dream and reality. I currently have a body of work in the ‘Disturbed Matter Exhibition’ at Arthouse Gallery. One of the paintings is featured on the cover of the scholarly journal, ‘Disturbed Politics’.”

Avoid negativity

Negative statements about what you do reveals a lack of confidence and does not convince the audience that you succeed at what you do.

Keep the audience in mind

There are different levels of art appreciation among the audience to keep in mind. Through experience, you will develop a knack at customizing your pitch accordingly.

Studio visits

During studio visits, you should prepare to present a longer, more detailed elevator pitch. Give as much information necessary, and don’t bore the audience with what they don’t need to know. Some curators don’t want to have to ask any questions and some prefer to develop their own interpretation before you spoil it. Modify your presentation according to your visitors.

Know the answers

Whether at a studio visit or an exhibition reception, it’s important to know every nook and cranny of what you do, so you can answer any questions. These are some questions to consider:

Why did you choose the subject matter?

Conceptually, what are your intentions?

Have you used symbolism?

Do the colors have any significance?

Why did you choose the title?

Why did you choose that size?

If you regularly use different mediums, why did you choose this particular medium for this piece?

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How to Write an Artist Statement

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.

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How to Write an Artist Résumé

An artist résumé should list all related art work. The formatting should be clean, concise, and consistent. Look at the résumés of well known artists and feel free to use the same formatting.

The length should be around a page if you’re at the beginning of your artist career. But before you worry about length, begin by creating a master résumé, or CV, which can be customized to specific opportunities.

Difference between a CV and an artist résumé:

A CV, or curriculum vitae, is a general, comprehensive account of one’s career. It would go on an artist’s website and also used for academic purposes and in some employment opportunities. A résumé is a smaller, customized version of a CV, that would be used for various types of submissions, which may include exhibitions, residencies, grants, public art proposals, galleries, etc.

So you could say, a CV is a record of all your professional artist activities and an artist résumé is a trimmed version of your highlights customized to an occasion.

One of the many ways to format an artist résumé:

Note: Do not email Word versions of your résumé, because the formatting may change when opened somewhere else. Convert the file to a PDF.

Dos and don’ts of artist résumé sections:

Contact Information

In this section, you’re making sure the reader knows who you are and how to find you. Therefore, your name, mailing address, phone numbers, email, and artist website should be included, just in case. Although optional, some artists list there year of birth, birthplace, and where they’re based.

You want the readers to judge you based solely on your work, so do NOT include a photo of yourself.


The section can be called “Education”, or “Education and Certification” if you want to includes art related certifications such as woodshop, metalshop, artwork documentation, etc.

Listed in reverse chronological order, it includes college degrees, graduate degrees, and certifications, but NOT high school. List the year you were certified or graduated, the degree you received (BA, BFA, MFA), the school, and the location. You may also include your specialization (studio art, digital art, graphic design, etc.) after your degree.

If you are currently enrolled, state that the degree is pending by placing “(candidate)” in parenthesis after the degree. Also, list the expected graduation date at the end in parenthesis.

If you graduated with honors list which level (cum laude, magna cum laude, or summa cum laude) in italics.

2016      MFA (candidate) in Studio Art, California Institute of Arts, Valencia,
CA (expected graduation: May 2017)
2014      BFA cum laude in Studio Art, Pennsylvania College of Art & Design
Lancaster, PA

Solo Exhibitions

If you’ve had less than four solo shows, combine the section with your group exhibitions and call it “Selected Exhibitions” or just “Exhibitions”. If you combine them, indication which shows were solo by placing “(solo)” in parenthesis at the end.

List this section in reverse chronological and begin with any confirmed future exhibitions.

For each show, include the year, title, venue, city, and state.

2017      Urban Ordinaries, Johnson Gallery, New York City, NY

group Exhibitions

For each group show, include the year, title, curator or juror, venue, city, and state. Include any curators either after the title or at the end in parenthesis. If there was a catalogue produced from or accompanied with a show, note this in parenthesis at the end.

In both solo and group exhibitions, it’s better to have multiple shows at several different locations, even if the locations aren’t well known. Readers of your résumé want to see that you’re involved and diverse.

Curatorial Projects

This includes any shows you have curated and are listed in the same format as solo or group shows. They can be listed in there own section or included with the other exhibitions, if indicated as a curatorial project.

Awards, Grants, Fellowships

Include the year, name, and other descriptions like location. This section can also include speaking engagements and visiting artist gigs, which can include the title of the presentation in quotes, the title of the session in italics, title of event or sponsor institution, city, and state.

2015      Dean’s List, University of Alabama
2014      “Sparking Creativity,” Artist’s Workshop, Lakeview Art Institute, Miami, FL


Include the year, name, location, and other descriptions, like duration, to explain to the reader what it is. This section can be combined with awards, but you can indicate that this is a residency so it isn’t confused with visiting artist lectures, presentations, or critiques.


Includes the author, title in quotes, publication name in italics, date, section and/or page and/or URL. The host, title of show, segment title, station name, and date are included when listing a television or radio appearance. Well known art blogs, online magazines, and websites are also bibliography.

Michael Robert, “Eye on Art,” ABC News Journal, April 10, 2015.


Includes the name, city, and state, but this section should only be included if your work is in a significant collection, such as in a museum or with a prominent collector.

Professional Experience

This includes work experience related to your practice. Teaching assistant, volunteer work, professional organizations, etc. can all be included and may be separated into sections or subsections. The list may vary depending on what you’re customizing your résumé for. If it’s specifically representing you as a working artist, include work experience specifically related to your practice.

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How to Write an Artist Bio

An artist bio is a brief, narrative version of your professional career. It is the integration of your artist résumé and artist statement.

It may be used in exhibition catalogues, promotional materials, publicity, on your artist website, etc. Usually people, including collectors, read the artist bio before they get to the résumé and the statement. Therefore the bio is your chance to establish your practice and leave them wanting more.

Many artist bios are comprised of boring biographical statements that seem like they were taken straight from a résumé and placed into a paragraph. Artists aren’t boring people, so why should their artist bios be? The bio is first impression, so it should act as the hook of your professional package.

Example of a baseline boring artist bio:

John Doe will received his BFA in Studio Art in 2016 from the University of Oklahoma with a concentration in painting. He currently resides in Gulf Breeze, Florida. His work has been exhibited in student shows within the University of Oklahoma and awarded through feminist and veteran programs.

Artists in academia are sometimes guided to write their statements in this manner. This is so they have a baseline bio to intensify and edit as their career progresses. Unfortunately, many of these baseline bios are neglected and are forever boring.

Guidelines for writing an effective and intriguing artist bio:

1. Open your your bio with a bang

Your first line should express what’s most significant about you as an artist and your work.

John Doe is instrumental in establishing an essence of movement with organic ceramic forms.

This praise is optional but if used correctly, can be very luring. It’s confident, but not cocky. Avoid wording this praise as if it comes from fans, such as the following:

Incorrect: John Doe is considered to be instrumental in establishing an essence of movement with organic ceramic forms.

Incorrect: John Doe is widely regarded for establishing an essence of movement with organic ceramic forms.

2. Continue with specifics

Continue with specifics of your artist practice, such as mediums, techniques, influences, concepts, etc. Simultaneously, throw in some career highlights, which may include an art degree, fellowship, or award.

Often working with oil on wood, he/she creates compositions by layering monochromatic pigments, engaging in ideas of Abstract Expressionism of the mid 20th century. To enhance this effect, she/he often applies matte and glossy finishes interchangeably. After receiving his/her MFA from the New York Academy of Art, a job at a glass company inspired his/her first series that involved light refractions and illusions of perspective. Justified by his/her techniques and concepts, he/she is the recipient of numerous awards and residencies, including the Rose Child Foundation Award and a Crosby Fellowship to Italy.

Avoid a comical tone in your bio. You can slightly do so in your artist statement if comedy is a main aspect of your work.

3. Consider the length

About 120 words is ideal, as readers begin to lose interest after that. If hit all your points, but end up with less, leave it alone! Don’t lengthen it with fillers and repetition.

4. Write it in third person

Write your bio in third person so it’s easier for others to use it in publications without editing. It’s less likely to be used when work has to be done to it, so make sure it’s in third person on your artist website as well.

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Artwork Copyright Registration

In the United States, artists are not required to register copyrights for their work to be protected by copyright law. When an artist creates something original, he or she owns the copyright to it automatically. No one can copy the work without an artist’s permission; although there are exceptions, that’s the main idea.

There are advantages to registering a copyright even if it’s not required. When an artist registers a copyright, a public record of the copyright is established and an infringement lawsuit can be filed. Although artists can register a copyright after someone infringes their work, the case will be harder to prove in court.

Artists can register a copyright for $35 at the U.S. Copyright Office’s website. An entire body of work can be registered under a single copyright for the same fee.

Selling artwork, not rights

When an artist sells an artwork, the artist still reserves the copyright. Even if there’s a new owner of the work, this applies whether stated in the invoice or not. It’s not a bad idea to note in the invoice what the buyer is buying and not buying. It can state the following: The artist retains full copyright of the work.

Legal disputes are for lawyers

If an artist gets involved in a legal dispute, he or she should get a lawyer. If the resolving a disagreement before it becomes a legal problem doesn’t work, getting a lawyer is the only option. They can also help artist with other legal matters such as reviewing contracts and giving advice. Yes, lawyers are expensive, but struggling artists may qualify for free legal assistance depending on where they reside or through the bar association.

Using the copyright symbol

Since the law in the U.S. protects the copyright of an image, it’s not required to use the copyright symbol with it or on it. Although, it’s not a bad idea to include a notice as an honesty reminder. Also, if a copyright notice accompanies an image, an infringer cannot claim that infringement was innocent. There are multiple ways to format a notice, but here is an example: © John Doe. It can include the symbol, year of publication, first and last name, “all rights reserved”, “courtesy of [artist name]”.

How are artists sure they’re not infringing on copyrights of other artists? 

Check out Avoiding Copyright Infringement.

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Avoiding Copyright Infringement

How can you be sure you’re not infringing on copyrights of other artists? Sadly, there’s no way of knowing unless vindicated in court. No one wants to have to go to court, so seeking legal advice is a smart choice.

Under the copyright law in the U.S., infringement is “substantial similarity”, meaning an average viewer would notice that copyrightable authorship was taken from the original artwork.
Regarding design and pictorial elements, a copyright covers expression, not ideas or underlying concepts. Meaning that you can depict concepts used by other artists, but you must convey original artistic decisions made in expressing the concepts.

Using copyrighted images as references

To use other people’s images as references, the law requires that you transform the image. This word is interpreted differently by courts around the nation, so take it with a grain of salt.

Some courts may refer to transform as changing the purpose behind the an image’s use. Others may refer to it as physically changing the image.

Even if you’re drawing straight from an image solely for practice, it’s considered infringement because it’s a derivative work. It doesn’t matter what your intentions are, creating derivative works, copies, or distributing the copies or derivatives is the exclusive right to the artist of the original.
Get permission to use images and make sure you have proof of permission. Licenses from copyright owners, usually available for a fee, allow you to use images and provide proof to keep you out of trouble.

Using images from the public domain

Images in the public domain don’t have copyright owners and are safe to use without permission. There are multiple websites that provide public domain images including Wikimedia Commons and Unsplash.

If you’re specifically looking for images of artwork, The Metropolitan Museum of Art has hundreds of thousands public domain images of professionally documented artwork.

Using life references

The safest way to avoid infringement is using life references, rather than images. For example, use a live model to reference the human figure and go outdoors to reference nature. This is not the case if your life reference is an object, such as a painting or sculpture, with owned copyrights and you don’t have permission from the owner.

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