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Fine Art Photography

Lesson 34 of 38

Beginning Your Artist Statement

Brooke Shaden

Fine Art Photography

Brooke Shaden

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Lesson Info

34. Beginning Your Artist Statement
An artists statement should describe your photography thematically, visually, and technically. Writing an artist statement feels daunting -- in this lesson, Brooke simplifies it by sharing the process she used to write her own artist statement.

Lesson Info

Beginning Your Artist Statement

describe your photography thematically visually and technically that's how you start an artist statement being ableto work within those three things what are the themes of your work what does it look like visually and how do you do it technically so think about things like lighting color location your process your themes et cetera and then he used keywords so if you know your key words the words that you would use to describe your photography the words that you would use to describe yourself then you can much more easily write an artist's statement so these are my words my words that I used to describe what I d'oh dark rich color surreal feminine storytelling motion timeless fairy tale natural and square these are all words that I want to mimic in my artist statement because the more you tell people what you're photography looks like the more they'll believe it so if I say to you before you ever see anything my work is timeless whimsical surreal and fairy tale inspired then you're goin...

g to go into that and be thinking about that oh I see how it's fairy tale inspired I see how it's whimsical instead of perhaps looking at this picture and saying well I don't like it cause it's just creepy so if I prep you first when I say here read my artist statement and then look at what I d'oh you're telling other people what to think so when sharing your works you should understand why they were created and that's why we've been talking so much about the why why do you do what you do why is that important it's important because if you don't know why then you can't expect anybody else to know why the artist statement puts your intentions in the words so whatever it is that you're trying to dio your artist statement is going to allow others to read that so you're going to be able to say this is what I'm trying to dio whether that is coming across or not in the imagery is another thing but you're letting people know your intent it's your chance to communicate what your art is about to an audience so you're able to tell people on a massive level whoever wants to read it this is what I do this is why I do it this is how I do it now you know everything about my process not everything but some things and your words have power so you have the power to influence people into thinking what you want them to think might not work every time but especially for a gallery something like that that's really important to be able to put your words out there to say I know why I create and now you can understand why as well so a lot of galleries will have you do a short right up about what the show is about or something like that and that's just essentially an artist statement it's being able to put into words exactly what it is you're trying to dio so then if you could imagine going into a museum you walk into the museum you're walking around the first thing that you usually see is a big write up of whoever the artist is it's being shown because they want to tell you first what this exhibit is and then you go see the exhibit with that in mind okay so excuse me an artist statement is usually one paragraph toe one page long the shorter the better with the artist statement I find so if you can keep that really concise but super helped form so how do I build this artist statement I write a full page I write three different paragraphs and I write those different paragraphs out because then I understand fully what I'm trying to say about each topic and by each topic I mean who you are as an artist the inspiration behind what you dio and how you create what you d'oh so those are my three paragraphs to start with who you are as an artist thie inspiration behind what you dio and how you create what you d'oh so if you can break it down into those very simple things it becomes much easier to write about okay who am I as an artist I am somebody who's passionate somebody who's inspired somebody who wants to bring beauty to dark things that's who I am as an artist moving on to the inspiration behind what ideo I'm inspired by dark yet beautiful things by fairy tales I'm inspired by decay I'm inspired by nature all of those things those keywords that inspire me and then how do I do it so maybe I'll talk about my square format maybe I'll talk about my painterly textures something like that to let people know this is what it looks like and this is what it takes to do what I do so let's say that you have a process is very specific maybe you finish your work with encaustic you put wax on your prince that's a very specific toe what you d'oh so in that how do you create what you d'oh you say that you say I put wax on top of my prince to finish them when I'm you know done creating a print or whatever it isthe so who are you in one paragraph who you are is an artist but not your biography so I'm not talking about okay I was born in lancaster pennsylvania and blah blah blah and I'm not going to give you my biography but I'm going to give you who I am the core of who you are as a person and how are you connected to the art so what is it that makes you the perfect person to create that art think about that and then put that into that paragraph so who are you segment one I'm going to read this to you exactly what my artist statement would look like so in many ways thes works are a manifestation of imagination from the inside out enamored with the creative storytelling process surreal and whimsical images seemed the perfect fit with the dreams that pushed life forward I create the world that I want to live in an often use self portraiture as a mode of transportation to another time and place entirely while the images do not depict personal experiences they showcase the imagination in purest form the innocence of a child mixed with attention in conflict of an adult there is a brooding melancholy of darkness and light which I cannot find in my own life and so I create it that's my first paragraph that's me putting into words who I am and why I'm creating the art that I am creating so moving on what inspires you this is your second paragraph this is what you want to focus on in that second bit of information that you're going to give people so what are your motivations for creating um you do deal with recurring themes or goals for your art and then mentioned outside inspiration or anything that's had a big influence on how you create so that's ok to do in your artist statement it's okay to say you know I grew up looking at such and such painter and those works have influenced me to create my own style of art and things like that segment two of my personal artist statement what inspires you finding beauty and darkness drives each image forward constantly searching for a bridge to connect the two seeking fear and understanding fear our motivators as well as inspiration for a constantly evolving dark fairy tale where a dark location lies such as the dead forest or abandoned building there I will build a beautiful scene filled with rich color and a flowing female form the exploration of femininity and power are recurring themes throughout as well as many juxtapositions like life and death in beauty and decay this is my second paragraph telling you what my inspirations are where I'm going to be shooting things like that how do you create so revealing your process what is it that makes your personal process special and what makes it unique so are there any significant steps that you take to create your art what is it that you're doing specifically to create what you d'oh and then think about each step so how do you play in your chutes how do you shoot them how do you edit how do you print how do you present that to the world all of those things go into that technical aspect so color lighting different things like that that somebody would latch onto visually so my third segment how do you create by taking away the traditional two to three photographic ratios and favoring a square frame I aim to create images that transport the viewer to another world inexpensive props and fabrics create rich images with natural backdrops and subjects who appear to be lost in a new world each image is carefully planned and crafted through imagination pen and paper before a camera has ever lifted creating images full of intent the process of creation becomes a thing inside the mind of the creator and the camera and computer become accessories to turn reality into fantasy understanding the world's inside ourselves often remain in our dreams and I aim to explore those worlds intangible form so I'm saying exactly why I do what I do and how I do it that's the whole point of these three paragraphs but this is a little bit long so I would break this down further into single paragraphs so condensing all of my thoughts picking out the most important parts and putting those into my one single paragraph artist's statement so in segment one I'm not going to read the whole thing again but going back to that first segment that I read to you these are my key words so I'm just writing stream of consciousness whatever I think needs to be in my artist statement and I'm pulling out the specific words these are my descriptive words that go into what I do as an artist imagination storytelling surreal whimsical dreams world's self portraiture innocence tension conflict melancholy darkness and light so these are all of the words that I pull out is being descriptive words that if you could do this if you can write a paragraph and then pull those words the words that people gravitate towards the ones that have a lot more meaning than the others so I'm not picking out and and but an eye and stuff like that and picking out the important words from segment to my important words were beauty and darkness fear inspiration fairytale forest abandoned rich color flowing female form exploration femininity power juxtaposition life and death and beauty and decay by writing these things out I find my themes I find difference very specific elements about how impose my models who my models are locations that I might be using and so on then we have the third segment in those keywords so square frame inexpensive props and fabrics that's kind of a lot of words but it's still sums up exactly what I want to say um rich natural planned intent the big one cameron computer so technically have to say what I use um reality fantasy and dreams so some of these words over laugh some of these words as I have here these are all the words that I just pulled out of that entire thing imagination storytelling surreal whimsical I'm not going to say them all again because there are a ton but those are all of the words so by highlighting those words you can see your style taking shape you understand why you create how you create and how you can use specific words to tell other people what you d'oh so I have to some re versions of my artist's statement and I'm going to read them to you and you can tell me which one's better and that's what we're going to do here because I am seeking help so in summary version one there is a brooding melancholy of darkness and light which I do not find in my own life and so I created through surreal worlds in a square frame dark locations yield too whimsical femininity as the characters flow or float through the scenes with fairy tale beauty by always pairing magic and despair be it visually or thematically one must identify with one side of the story or another the images air filled with rich colors and natural backdrops that are rooted in reality yet fulfill the dreams in my imagination each image is crafted wholly in the mind with pen and paper before a camera is lifted and when the image is captured the editing process takes it from a world scene to a world created so that's my version one of how I would write my artist statement what I want you to know and then putting that out there and saying hey take it or leave it but this is what I hope you believe about my art then we have another version so my version number two I create images that are dark yet beautiful by using surreal and whimsical visuals each image tells the story and each story is part of a larger play running constantly in my imagination these works are constructed before a camera has ever used through pre conceptualization and on lee when an image is planned will it be created heavily edited yet fully photographic thes square images depict a wild imagination filled with dark scenes and whimsical subjects often the subject's feature the artist as self portraiture has become a way of placing myself in the worlds I wish I lived in each story brings light to the brooding melancholy that we all have inside us that's version number two oh wow we okay number two number one okay raise your hands number one four five number to wait you guys a no vote okay whatever way we can pull the internet of and then maybe I'll get a little bit more help because my students aren't helping me ok okay number two josh's number two therefore whatever he says this fact okay okay yeah I thought you thought you would like that so okay all right so the artist statement does your writing match your images you have to make sure that you are writing in a style that actually matches how you are visually so I'm not going to write something that's like hello my name is brooke and I create pictures that was not how I create I create pictures that are whimsical and flowery in fairy tail so I want my language to be the same I want to be able to write in the style that matches how I create my images visually word choice thinking about specific words I mean every time I write an artist statement I sit there with my thesaurus open and I'm like oh crap I've used that word twenty times how can I change it up what other word is there that might better fit the style of my photography fluidity so how is the flow of your writing do you have long sentences do you have short sentences is it very matter of fact er is it something that you leave it up to the imagination of the person reading the mood so I try to create an artist statement that has ah very moody feel that something that's a little bit gosh I'm trying to think of the right word atmospheric in a way where it's not exactly as you read it is what you get you have to think into exactly what those words mean so are you truly capturing the essence of your intent thinking about intent I talk about this all the time because if you understand why you create what the intention was behind the works then you can write about it you can pitch that to other people other things that are just important to note about writing an artist statement it's really good to go in with a good first sentence where you're not using ii so a lot of people start their artist statements by saying I do this I do that every sentence is just I do this and then I do this and then I do this and it becomes a little bit daunting to read it becomes a little bit amateurish sometimes it's not always I mean if you want to start your artist statement by saying I do this go for it but just try to see how many times you can remove the eye from your artist's statement okay making prints so let's talk a little bit about printing unless we have any specific comments about the artist's statement the internet would disagree with the crowd here they like number one I think but there was also the suggestion to blend them that the ending of version one was very powerful because it felt very story like which tied into your images that is awesome the wild like this whole class was just so valuable for me in that moment I'm so glad thank you glenda hill wow thank you okay yeah how often do you find yourself rewriting your artist about once a year I tend to take like I said when we're doing this self critique about once a year I go through my whole portfolio I choose a new set of them and just to represent what I'm doing based on the updated works and then I go in and I try to figure out civically what is it about those works that makes me drawn to them that makes me think that the style I want to embody and then I'll change it by artist statement a little and it's not necessarily a huge overhaul of the artist statement but just pulling out new keywords inserting them strategically and if you're going in a new direction in making sure that's represented you say that you go through your newest images do you ever keep one or two that you absolutely were in love with and has to be included in every year yes ideo very often there is an image and this this sort of comes with you know having images maybe that sell better than others having images that you personally feel very connected tio so I showed my three favorite images and they were all newer images on the first day but their images that I look to as being like the the representation of my photography so for example if you were to go to my my facebook page on my business page my profile picture is a picture that where I'm standing in water and there's an umbrella upside down on my head and so I have that picture because that is a very iconic picture now in my portfolio it's one that I love that I feel very connected tio it sells well as a print other people seem to be connected to that and so I use that as my branding to put that out there so yeah that's still one of my absolute favorite pictures of all time that I've done I might not use it in my top three favorite pictures but that's still going to be something that I put out there regularly okay we'll get one other question about the artist's statement on dh I apologize they can't remember who actually said it but do you where do you put it what do you do with it once you've crafted it you just put on your website and then help people find it you included when you submit to galleries yeah a statement okay so I do put it on my website it's not there right now because I just rewrote it and we're workshopping it together s o that was one that I rewrote it specifically like in the last month knowing that we'd be talking about it but I put it on my website if I submit to a gallery I'll typically say you confined my portfolio and artist statement on my website and I direct people there eso galleries super important to have that as well as other things like if somebody wants to commission me to do like a book cover shoot typically I'll say you confined my portfolio and my artist statement that way they understand how I work before they even hire me to do anything aside from that it's often printed for shows that ideo so I'll go into a gallery once I do have a show they'll print it put it on the wall and then people can read that um yeah so that's what I do with it and then it's great toe have because I use it in pitch meetings to like I'll go in maybe to work with a client or something or you know maybe I would sit down with creative live and I would use those exact keywords and phrases from my artist statement to say this is who I am and this is why you should take me or something like that so super valuable for everybody

Class Description


  • Brainstorm and plan a fine art photograph
  • Design a story with props and posing
  • Shoot an image that only exists in your imagination
  • Complete the vision in Adobe Photoshop
  • Self-critique your own work
  • Build a business from fine art photography
  • Approach galleries with confidence
  • Grow your own unique style and brand


Sometimes, creative vision is bigger than a camera can capture. In this class, learn how to turn imaginative ideas into physical fine art prints. From planning the shoot to assembling composites in post, work to turn the images in your dreams into a concrete photographic image. Go from a dreamer to a professional photographer with the help of artist Brooke Shaden.

Start with defining your style and building your creative vision in this three-day class. Then, learn tips and tricks for bringing that vision to life using posing and props. Go behind the scenes in nine live shoots ranging from self-portraiture to creating your own fairytale. Use posing, props, motion, and composition to tell a story.

While fine art photography isn't usually the first business model that comes to mind when considering a career in photography, Brooke shares how it's possible to earn a full-time living from your art. From building a brand to approaching fine art galleries, learn what you need to turn a passion for fine art photography into a career. As Brooke says, you can't stop because your best work is just ahead.


  • Intermediate photographers ready to take fine art to the next level
  • Professional photographers looking to expand their storytelling and compositing skills
  • Fine art photographers at any skill level


Adobe Photoshop, Adobe Lightroom


Brooke Shaden is a storyteller. The American fine art photographer is well-known in the art world for her dream-like, fairytale images. Her work often uses dark tones, heavy emotions, self-portraits, and juxtapositions. Working as a fine art photographer for more than a decade, she started her art journey after studying film in college and now teaches and speaks along with continuing her work. Brooke's work has been featured in dozens of gallery exhibitions, along with magazine and book covers and limited edition fine art prints. After growing up near an Amish community in the United States in Pennsylvania, she now lives in California.

Class Materials

bonus material with purchase

Brookes Posing Guide

Self Portraiture

The Art of Self Critique

Ratings and Reviews

Student Work

Related Classes



Brooke says she wants to be inspirational - she has achieved this and so much more during this course. I am so inspired to follow my dream of becoming a fine art photographer and step out of a life as an academic and stop finding excuses. Watching other photographers shoot and edit is always a great way to learn, everyone does things slightly differently and I enjoy Brooke's no fuss techniques. Seeing so many of Brooke's beautiful images through the course has been great and seeing shots from the shoot through to editing really makes them come alive. If you are looking for inspiration or you want to learn techniques or new skills then this course provides all of these things with a big dose of positive thinking thrown in.


Brooke is amazing! I love this course. Brooke is easy to listen to. She has a beautiful insight into creative fine art . Love it! I have learned so much. I especially love that she is so candid about everything.

renee Akana

I love Brooke and the wonderful way that she teaches. She is a gift to us all. Jane, her model, was lovely - a beautiful girl, a wonderful attitude and a real professional.. I could not do what Jane did to help Brooke convey her story.