For our art gallery’s monthly art competitions, artists are required to provide the gallery with an Artist’s Biography and an Artist’s Statement as part of their submission.
During a normal year, we see and review more than 7,600 biographies. We have seen great biographies and terrible biographies with most being somewhere in the middle. Through this process, we have been able to identify common biography mistakes.
Perhaps you will see yourself in some of these examples and be able to correct or improve your existing biography. Here are what we see as common artist’s biography mistakes:
1. Writing the Biography in the First Person
Many artists write their biography in the first person (i.e., “I did this…”, “I was influenced by…”, I intended to…”). Stop! Your biography should sound like it was written by someone else about you. “She did this…”, “He was influenced by…” She intended to…”. Also use the third person when creating a press release. It sounds more authoritative and professional.
2. Being Boring – Tell a Story
Tell the reader of your biography your story as an artist from the beginning of your pursuit of art until now. Your creative journey has been interesting. Your biography should be too.
A well-written artist’s biography should include the following:
A. Anyone or anything that has influenced your artwork.
B. Your education or training in the field of art.
C. Any related experience in the field of art.
D. A short description of what you would like to achieve with your art.
3. Confusing an Artist’s Statement with an Artist’s Biography
Many times an artist will substitute an artist’s statement for their artist’s biography. Or, midway through their biography, it will become an artist’s statement. I believe the reason for this is that most people find it easier to talk and write about their art than to talk or write about themselves. For artists, writing in general is difficult enough, but writing about themselves is twice as difficult.
4. Providing a CV (Curriculum Vitae) Instead
A CV is a chronological resume of an artist’s experience within the art field. A CV provides the reader with a list of the artist’s education, experience, solo and group exhibitions, teaching experience, texts and awards etc. It is not a biography, it is a resume. This is not what someone wants from you when they request an artist’s biography.
5. Other Common Errors
A. Writing a biography that is too short or does not contain enough details about the artist.
B. Having a biography that is too long. In today’s fast paced world, a reader will not spend a lot of time reading an artist’s biography. Make the biography concise and easy to read.
C. A biography that contains spelling errors is really bad. Be sure to spell check yours before you send it in or add it to your artist’s portfolio.
D. There is no excuse for a biography to have poor sentence structure or poor grammar. Have someone edit it for you.
E. Forgetting to provide contact information. Name, address, telephone number, email address and a website should all be included.
F. If you lack experience in the art field (See Number 2 above), no problem. Go back and tell that story about yourself and explain how you have gotten to the point of calling yourself an artist.
Experience, no matter how little or how much, may be important in some areas of the arts, but for artists who want to create, show and sell their art, it is overrated. Its all about the art!
There is a whole generation of “Baby Boomer’s” who started out wanting to be in the arts but life came along an interrupted their dreams. They have 40 or 50 year gaps in their biography. Embrace that gap and tell us how your artistic dream was derailed but not forgotten. Be open and be honest as all of this is part of your artistic journey.
As artists, we all had to start somewhere in our artistic quest. Some artists are just setting out. Other artists may have a great deal of education and experience in the art field.
In life, we all have different paths. This is as true in the arts as in any other endeavor. Your biography should be personal and portray the enthusiasm that has brought you to this point.