Your artist biography is a paragraph of many talents.
It weaves the story of your art career - instilling trust as it goes - allowing you to share your credentials and achievements without speaking a word. The importance and utility of this emissary cannot be stressed enough.
Armed with this knowledge, all that’s left is to write and perfect your artist biography. Easy, right? Unfortunately, staring at a blank page trying to condense your art career into a paragraph or two is anything but. That’s why we’ve put together the five steps to writing an appealing artist biography, from start to strong finish, to get your creative juices flowing.
“The Artist’s Biography serves to provide the reader with a story about you as an artist and learn about your career credentials.” - Renee Phillips
Step 1: Understand Your Audience
Before you dive into the nitty-gritty of writing your artist biography, make sure you have a firm understanding of your audience. Will they be more interested in your past exhibitions and awards or excited about an upcoming residency or project? Sometimes it can be beneficial to adjust your biography for different readers and objectives.
For instance, if a biography is going to a gallery that frequently holds exhibitions, you’ll want to focus more heavily on your exhibition history and less on a residency.
Step 2: Choose the Right Information
Your artist biography should be a summary of significant facts about your art career written in third person. Begin by introducing yourself with your name, medium, and some background information. This can include where you were born, where you work, and when you first became interested in art. Next, discuss any art training or schooling you had and degrees earned. If none, state you’re self-taught.
Then move on to discuss your exhibitions, awards, and any other professional achievements. You can also mention if you’re featured in any important collections or prominent art publications. But, be sure not to overwhelm the reader with too much self-promotion - choose the best nuggets.
Then segue into any recent shows or important projects you’re working on such as a public art installation. End strong with any upcoming exhibitions, residencies, or projects.
Step 3: Write Multiple Drafts
Lucky are the writers who can craft masterpieces without ever moving past the first draft. If you’re not one of these gifted few (if you are, spread your wisdom), we recommend writing two to three drafts. You can try different tones and play around with language in each one. And don’t be afraid to inject a bit of personality into your biography.
While some of the components seem a bit dry, the tone and voice behind them can be anything but. You can weave in a few of your art-related interests and passions among the facts. Just remember to make sure it resonates with your audience. And save the full discussion of your purpose and the inspiration behind your art for your artist statement.
Step 4: Edit and Edit Some More
Make sure you keep your artist biography short and concise with a focused structure. It’s very easy to wax lyrical about your career and lose your readers in the process. Simple and readable will always trump jargon and flowery language when it comes to your biography. Each short paragraph - two to three max - should be succinct and flow easily into the next.
We suggest taking your drafts to a friend with an excellent grasp of grammar and blessed with writing brilliance. Your friend can help you pull the best parts together into one outstanding piece of writing. And check for spelling, grammar, word choice, and sentence structure errors.
Step 5: Show It to Another Artist
Have an artist you trust and admire read your final draft. A fresh set of practiced eyes can do wonders for your biography and help you polish it to perfection. Another reader with a trained eye will be able to tell you if your biography correctly reflects you and your art.
Bonus Step: Continue to Enhance Your Biography as You Evolve
When you write your artist biography you want it to be the best expression of your career, but don’t forget that your career is continually developing. Make sure your artist biography progresses with you. Add in and switch out professional achievements as your success and knowledge grows. You might even need to rewrite it one or more times. This means you are evolving and maturing as an artist.
Need Inspiration and a Sample? Renee Phillips has graciously included a sample artist biography on her blog. You can find it here.