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how to write an artist bio or statement

Artist biography exampleI 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 you can find 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 – short artist bio but with long statement (see link)
angelafreiberger.com – long (conceptual+historical)
arianedelacampagne.com – long (story)
bethdonahueabstractart (short with exhibition history below)
catherinemamola.com – conceptual+historical
deborahgladstein.com – poetic + pdf
deborahrhodesartist.com – short bio + statement
dianetanchak.com – several short texts (review/statement/bio/exhibition)
donlewallen.com – a review (actual bio page is his c.v.)
frhoghollow.com – outsider artist unusual bio
harrietyoung.com – long bio of deceased artist
harrisongoldbergarts.com – casual tone in 3rd-person
heidineff.com – bio (3rd person) + statement (1st person)
judithstahlschidlowsky.com – factual bio w. link to statement
laurelhausler.com – very succinct
marjoriabramson.com – brief bio; statement on another page
markrosenthal.com – longish bio + link to medium statement
maureenmaki.com – short narrative bio + link to brief statement
priscillakanady.com – brief bio (statement on other page)
suecarlson.com – brief bio + exhibition history
susankatzstudios.com – long chatty bio
susannaplotnick.com – short narrative bio then c.v-like details
tomcleveland.com – dreamy narrative bio of “unknown” artist
wendywidellwolff.com – long statement (bio link opens pdf)

I will update this list in the future but you might also find good inspiration on these artist websites.

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Rohesia Hamilton Metcalfe - designer & developer of custom websites

Author: Rohesia Hamilton Metcalfe
I design websites and help artists and businesses with all aspects of their digital presence and outreach. Please have a look at some of our beautiful websites in the PORTFOLIOS and follow us for web tips and news on FACEBOOK.

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