Do you have any of these common artist bio problems?
Of the elements in a typical artist packet, which also includes a CV, statement, and images of work, the artist bio is arguably the simplest.
A bio is a summary, the CliffsNotes if you will, of a resume. It’s the career highlights formatted into a digestible paragraph that leaves the reader with the basics of you: where you’re from, what you’ve done, and what is coming up next. Based on this combination of facts, a jury or gallerist might be able to decide if you’re a good fit for an opportunity or a visitor to your website will be able to figure out where they know your work from.
It isn’t your whole story the way a CV can be, it’s basically the book jacket, providing just enough so that the reader wants more.
However, there are a few problems that commonly arise in artist bios. We show you some of the frequent pitfalls when writing an artist bio, and what to do to combat these issues.
Artist Bio Problem: Your artist bio lacks clear, direct language.
How to Fix it: Above all, your bio should be readable and written in plain language.
That isn’t to say you should start every sentence the same way, ie: She has a show with XYZ Gallery. She has attended XYZ residency—that’s boring.
Instead, try to share the facts of your CV in as interesting and concise a way as possible.
Try reorganizing the same information and adding on details to create interest and specificity where you can: A graduate of Condiment University, she has been honored with a residency at Mustard. In May 2023, she will be exhibiting a new suite of landscape paintings with Ketchup Gallery. Writing this way shows progression and connects seemingly disparate bits of information about your career. It isn’t essential to include the date, year, and location of each highlight you share but generally, people focus on the most recent and most impressive achievements.
Artist Bio Problem: Your artist bio neglects to say what kind of work you make or what kinds of media you work in.
How to Fix It: Get the major details about your art practice out in the first sentence.
This information can be neatly folded into the opening of a bio: Artist XYZ is a Los Angeles-based sculptor who works in clay to discuss the growing threat of erosion to the Pacific coast.
This sentence gives where they work, the medium and the artist’s main inspiration in making art. From this opening, the writer can easily move on to talking about where this work has been exhibited and what kinds of organizations have supported it. The context the sentence offers is important because bios frequently appear on their own without the support of the full CV or artist statement.
Artist Bio Problem: Your artist bio tries to cover too much ground and is therefore unfocused.
How to Fix It: Take a highlighter to your artist's CV and make groupings of accomplishments.
When you’re getting started writing a bio, it can be helpful to print out your current CV and take a highlighter to it. If you only got 100 or 200 characters (which is sometimes the limit for online submission bios), what would you choose to share?
For an artist bio, you truly want to stick to things on your artist CV—you don’t need to include your career as a dog walker or qualifications as a bartender—so starting with that information already limited can be a good springboard. Group similar achievements, residencies with residencies, grants with grants, and don’t list more than five of anything in a single sentence. Groups of three are generally digestible for readers.
Artist Bio Problem: You don't have enough experience yet to build a full artist bio
How to Fix It: Elaborate on your current artwork and add a personal note.
When artists are just getting started in their careers, it can feel intimidating to write a bio because there isn’t as much experience to draw on or emphasize. This is perfectly normal. If you only have a couple of shows mention them, perhaps share more than one sentence about your work and finish on a more personal note such as, "She lives in New York City with her partner and two parakeets". It is okay to keep the overall bio short when you’re starting out—5 sentences is fine. As you get further along in your career, you’ll have more elements to put in the bio, but also more to edit out of it.
Don’t feel like you can’t write a biography if you are a newer artist or don’t have a lot of exhibitions to include. If you are just starting out, make sure to include the relevant information you do have and give a clear vision of your goals and intentions as an artist.
Artist Bio Problem: You have outdated information and it gives the impression of an inactive career.
How to Fix It: Consider your artist bio a living document and update it regularly.
Like other pieces of writing in your artist packet, the bio is a living document and should get frequently updated both on your website and for each submission you complete. When you receive a big grant or schedule your next residency, add it to your bio as the “coming soon” highlight you’ll end on. Leaving your reader with what you’re doing next demonstrates an active career and might even encourage them to follow you on social media so they can stay up to date.
Keep your artist bio on file in the My Docs section of Artwork Archive so that you can always come back to it and update it as you progress.
Make your artist biography accessible for viewers to learn more about you.
Include your bio on your Public Profile on Artwork Archive so that viewers can learn more about your background.
Discovery is a platform on Artwork Archive that showcases the amazing works and collections of the artists, collectors and organizations that have chosen to activate their Public Profile. Your Public Page can be discovered by art buyers and galleries across the world on a platform which lets interested parties contact you directly to purchase work.