April 21, 2015
I recently saw a play called Floydada for which the music was composed by an artist whose bio begins like this:
“Composer Seth Bedford likes wandering the West Village in search of coffee and is passionately committed to daydreaming. He is entirely too enthusiastic about Mid-Century Modern design and architecture, 1930’s Weimar Kabarett, 1960’s French Pop, attempting to paint, and pretending to learn new languages. When he is not doing those things, he composes silly music and teaches elementary aged children to do the same.”
The rest of it (which was here: here ) gives more conventional details of his background but never completely loses the personality with which it begins.
A whimsical beginning may not be the right tone for everybody. But you probably don’t want to go to the other extreme and bore people with nothing but a long list of details of your life?
The difficulty of finding the right balance
Shortly after I saw that play, a client (an artist), was struggling to write her bio. She told me she’d written six pages and didn’t know what to leave in and what to take out. I have another client (also an artist) whose site has been ready to publish for over six months except that he’s not quite ready with the artist statement. Trying to write a biography or an artist’s statement can freeze your brain; no two ways around it.
Some base guidelines:
- be utterly truthful; leave out anything that won’t help you but find your core truth.
- tell enough to give a sense of who you are, so that your readers can feel they’ve “met” you.
- include a link to a c.v with the all the detail in case anyone wants to read that too, but make it secondary.
Examples to Use as Guides
It helps to study how other artists have written their bios and statements, so I compiled a list for my stuck bio-writing client—of links to relevant pages from artists with whom I’ve worked previously.
They range from the briefest imaginable texts to some that are extremely long; some emphasize achievements, others emphasize inspiration; there are first-person bios and third-person bios; casual style and formal.
She found it helpful, so I am sharing the links here and will add to them from time to time. If you are trying to write an artist’s bio or statement, have a look through them; they will help you sort out what kind of text will suit you.
Pay attention to which ones engage you, which ones satisfy your wish to know something about each artist, which ones add to your appreciation of the art. Above all, keep in mind the purpose of your own bio or artist’s statement: who will be reading it and what do you most want to communicate to them?
rurikov-simes.com – long statement followed by professional bio and c.v.
angelafreiberger.com – long (conceptual+historical)
arianedelacampagne.com – long (story)
conniejosefs.com – bio of a writer organized with headers; clear, client-oriented focus
donlewallen.com – a review (the actual bio page is his c.v.)
frhoghollow.com – outsider artist unusual bio
harrietyoung.com – long bio of deceased artist
harrisongoldbergarts.com – bio in casual tone in 3rd-person, followed by artist statement(s) and testimonials
heyyeunjang.com – 3rd person bio + brief statement/summary and c.v. details following
judithstahlschidlowsky.com – factual bio w. link to statement
julianhsiung.com – no narrative bio; just c.v.
laurelhausler.com – very succinct
marjoriabramson.com – brief bio; statement on another page
marksteffenkleine.com – three paragraphs: background, artist statement, exhibitions
morganlennon.com – a bio summary plus excerpts and links to news and Facebook page for current work
suecarlson.com – brief bio + exhibition history
susankatzstudios.com – long chatty bio
susannaplotnick.com – short narrative bio then c.v-like details
tomclevelandprojects.com – bio giving very personal context to the current work
windychien.com – short professional description, statement, plus chatty personal note
wendywidellwolff.com – long statement (bio link opens pdf)
I update this list from time to time but you can also find good inspiration on these artist websites.