Artist Statement for Your Series
Now the artist statement is (sighs) really difficult because we think we need to sound a certain way. And it's hard to live up to that standard of what an intelligent, in air quotes, intelligent artist would sound like. You know, like you walk into a fancy New York City gallery and there's this artist statement on the wall and it just sounds so out there and like you are not really sure what they're trying to say but it sounds really fancy and smart. That's what I always think of when I think of an artist statement and it doesn't need to be that. It should be relatable. It should be easy to understand. It should be something that really comes from within, comes from who you are and why you do what you do and it's just a very authentic but polished way of sharing your work. So we're gonna jump into an artist statement. And for me, an artist statement always comes down to these three things; what, how and why. Specifically regarding your work and your process. what do you do? Literally, ...
what do you do? So nothing fancy here. Do you take pictures, do you not take pictures, do you use Photoshop, do you not use Photoshop? What are you doing? How are you doing it? Any interesting little tidbits about your process would be good to throw in here. Then why do you do it? What is your motivation behind creating this work? You could be doing anything in the world, anything. You could build houses. You could be a travel blogger but you're a photographer. Why do you do that? So what is telling your audience literally what you're doing, what type of artist you are and specifically, something to note is what medium you're working in. I know for me, my images are very painterly and I would say 50% of the time in galleries, people come in and look at the work and think that they're paintings. So I have to say I'm a photographer so then I'm not tricking people, you know, like if an art buyer come in and they only collect paintings and they think that my images are paintings, that would be really bad when they get home and they're like, "This isn't a painting." You wanna be really really clear about the medium, especially because that's really important to different people, specifically what you do, how you do it. Now you have to note uncommon pieces of your creative process and this is I think one of the most challenging things to write about because you might not realize that what you do is unique. You have to think about it, not in terms of other photographers, but in terms of your client base. Now if I were to say to you guys, "I'm a self portrait artist," is that interesting to you? Is that unique to you? Maybe, maybe not. You might also be a self portrait artist or know lots of them so you're like, "I know tons "of self portrait artists, that's not unique." But to a potential client, to somebody who's going to purchase an image off of wall of a gallery, If I say I'm a self portrait artist, they're gonna be like, "What, what does that mean, how do you do that?" And then I go through my explanation of well, I have a tripod and a remote and this is how I do it and they think it is fascinating, fascinating. So remember who you're talking to when you're describing how and remember that something that seems really commonplace to you might be completely out of the ordinary to somebody else and then why. Why are you compelled to create? Be honest, be candid and share something personal here about your motivations. I have read a lot of artist statements and it's really astonishing how many artist statements say nothing personal in them. Where somebody's writing about why they create and a lot of the motivation goes something like, "I couldn't paint so I decided to be a photographer." It's like that's not a motivation that's an excuse, right? So really think like personally. Now maybe your story is; I couldn't paint because when I was 10 years old I broke my hand and so I picked up a camera and then I became a photographer. You know, something like that. That would be a personal way of saying that same thing so just make sure that you're making it personal and you're showing why. So here's my little example of what I would put into an artist statement. If I had to say what I do, I would say, "I'm a fine art photographer," important to note that, "Using Photoshop to create the images "I've always seen in my imagination." So now what you know about what I do is that it's probably not based in reality because I'm some talking about my imagination. I use Photoshop and presumably I use a camera of some kind because I'm a photographer. That is what I do. How I do it? I utilize self portraiture to tell stories that look painterly and timeless, often layering together many images to create an otherworldly feeling. Lots of keywords here that we have to sort of hone in on; self portraiture, painterly, timeless, layering images, otherworldly. These are all cues as to how my images are created. Now there's much more detail to go in obviously with this. How is like a really big thing which brings us to how do you even choose what to put in your how section, if there are lots of different elements. We'll talk about that and then why. Why do I create? So I said, "I've always been fearful without reason, "I found myself grown with those same childhood fears, "and I channeled them into art that I could control "and manipulate on my own terms." Now this is a personal story of mine. I could've gone into more depth. But now you know that I've always had issues with fear and that's what I use as the catalyst for my art. Simple, simple, simple. Now an artist statement only has to be about two sentences per topic, that's six sentences. It's just a paragraph; really, really short and there are places where they might say make it longer, make it a full page but if you think about going into a gallery and maybe you see like an artist blurb up on the wall, that's their artist statement. Sometimes it's specific to the series that they're producing. Sometimes it's just about their art in general. But you would see that blurb and that's their artist statement and it's usually about a paragraph of an artist statement. Now often when you're submitting to juried shows, for example, they'll say, "Give us your statement," and it's good to just have that solid paragraph or something to put in there. So when we break it down like this into what, how and why, it becomes a lot simpler, right? Like instead of just saying, "Write about your work." And then you're like, "Where do I start? "I have no idea," so I usually just use that order. Like I would literally put these sentences together in order and that's my artist statement. It's really really short and sweet. So does that feel more manageable for you guys? Okay, so if you're thinking right now, you're like, "Okay, how would I do my artist statement?" Can you easily think of what you do. Okay, so you got it. You're a photographer. You're sort of a photographer. We've got mixed group here. Okay, so you're a photographer maybe and/or mixed-media artist maybe and/or digital connoisseur, whatever you want to call yourself. You can get as fancy as you want and then April, I'm really curious to hear what your what is. If you had to say, what is your what? Which is a great book, What is the What. Okay, you can do it.
Yeah, I guess I'm still trying to find out people and places, that's what.
Okay. People and places. Interesting so, if you had to say in one sentence... Well, we'll just start it out. I am a photographer that shoots blank? How would you finish that sentence? I know.
It is hard.
I know. It's meant to be.
I might have to get back to you, oh my goodness.
Okay, that's alright. Pass to it to Soree, let's see. Okay, I am a photographer that shoots blank?
I am a photographer that shoots landscapes.
And I have stories to tell.
Great. I love that. Okay, how do you do it? What's something interesting about your process? I, as somebody who knows absolutely nothing about landscapes you can impress me with anything. So how do you do it? What's something interesting?
I look for a decisive moment in nature, something that... Well, I capture the moment.
Great, through lighting or through time of day or?
Through type of day, time of day, season.
Yeah, interesting. Now, I noticed in your portfolio that you go through lots and lots of interesting foreign locations, to me. So travel is a big part of your process, I assume?
Okay, good to know.
So yeah, a part of it is travel photography. I also like shooting people so--
Okay, so you've got two different genres that you are working with?
Okay, so sticking with landscapes, why do you do it? What compels you to do that?
Well I'll go back a bit. I'm saying I'll go back in time and just say that I was always, like nightmares. I'd wake up and you know, a dream that I'd be in an amazing place and I had no camera on me. (laughs) So well nowadays, that won't happen because we all have our iPhones or Androids, whatever. How or why or what?
That is already a great reason why you know, like telling that story, we all were like we were so compelled by you just now. We all looked at you and our attention was directed because you said something that's personal and intriguing and well, what a weird reason to become a photographer but makes so much sense, right? So that was perfect and you've got a great start and this is how simple it can be. It's just answering those questions. If you have multiple portfolios, answer it for each one and see if there's any overlap that you can use to define all of your work. It doesn't have to be like one per genre. It doesn't have to be one to encompass everything. It could be either one, just depends. Okay, so here we have a few images of mine and these are some of my portfolio that I've pulled out that I feel define my artist statement. So if I had to say what, how and why I work, I would say that these images go really well with the artist statement. Now I'm not saying that you have to include images in your artist statement but if there is a reason for you to be giving an artist statement, it's probably a good idea to have some images to go with it. This is where choosing your portfolio images comes in. Something that will embody those words that you've put in your artist statement or vice versa. That your artist statement must embody the look and feel of your images. It is really important to think about... We've already talked a little bit about choosing your portfolio and all of that but just really making sure that you have a very clear connection between artist statement and images, super important. How I chose these images is that they're my personal favorites but there are also other people's favorite, it's a mix. So whenever those two things overlapped, I made sure to really hone in on that image and ask myself why. There's a through line with the images. They're sort of in a story arc. They have good technical skill. They're innovative and they show intent. At least, that's my perception of these images and so that's why I chose them. We've already talked about how to choose for portfolio, choosing 10 to 30 images and these are just a few of mine that I would choose to go with my artist statement. Sometimes when you are putting together a press package, you're sending this information for the first time to people so they might not have a good sense of what your work is like. You need to choose those few images that they are most likely to connect with, which is super daunting as a task to be like, "Okay, I'm gonna write "to this gallery. "Now what do they want to see more than anything else "in my portfolio?" And putting yourselves in that mindset of that other person, super difficult, but really important to do. If you only have, let's say, three images for them to say yay or nay to your work, good to think about. So writing captions for your images. Now this is a challenge for a lot of us, especially if writing does not come naturally to you and I struggle sometimes, especially with what content do I put out there specifically. Like do people wanna know technically how I made this picture? Do people wanna know why I made this picture? Do people just want me to describe this picture? So first thing is to cultivate a tone. Think about how you want to write about this image. How do you wanna make people feel, how do you want it to sound, is it going to be poetic, is it going to be technical? How do you want your tone to sound when you write about your images? You want to evoke a feeling. Now, that feeling may be very technical. Like maybe I'll post, "I shot this with the Sony a7R II "and it was f3.5," okay. I would never do that but that's not to say that that's wrong, just depends on your audience and how you wanna make your audience feel. If that's what you're going for, is the technical side of things and you want your audience to feel a sense of, I can do that too then that might be perfect. If I want to evoke an emotion like a really deep feeling of sadness (laughs) Why would anybody wanna do that but if you wanted to do that then your caption might have certain keywords that will bring people down a notch (giggles) which is horrible but just maybe. So keywords. When you're writing about your images, make sure that you hone in on keywords. I'm gonna say this again and again because I feel that if you know the keywords that really embody visually what you're trying to do and you keep using those words over and over, you're putting a message in people's heads and that message is; my images are dark. My images are dark. My images are dark. And at the day if I say to you, "What do you think about images?" You're probably gonna be like, "They're pretty dark." Yeah, because I told you that they are over and over and over again. I think that that's half of it; is not just letting people make their own assumptions but I'm probably gonna say keywords like, for this image, fairytale, dark, storytelling. Things like that because that's what I want you to repeat back to me when I say, "What is this image to you?" I want you to say those things. So it's good to subliminally put little messages in people's heads. Attempt to be brief. I know. It's very challenging and I actually, I posted something on Instagram the other day and I hit the limit, the word limit and I was like, "Whoa, I didn't know "there was a word limit." I felt like I had reached like the end of the world and like I was seeing something that nobody ever witnesses, but it was just the end of the character limit on Instagram and it was like a personal goal for me so I was very pleased with myself but I write a lot and there are times and places for writing a lot and there are times and places where you should probably not do that. Image captions are one of those things where if you're writing it for a press package, you probably wanna be brief. People don't have a lot of time to read your giant Instagram story so you might wanna make sure that it's very short and make a point. I mean, don't just talk fluff. You know nobody needs to hear that. Make sure that when you're speaking about an image, you're getting to a point that there is something that you want people to take away from reading what you have to say about your image and really this point applies to literally everything. Make a point whether it's blog post, whether it's creating the image itself, make a point. People want to know your point of view. Okay, I've got an image here and I've got two different ways of speaking about this image. The first one says, "I took a picture of a girl "in some smoke holding a candle." Now if I told you that's what this image is, I'm right, that's literally what this image is but then I decided to make it more flowery and put my caption on it with my tone. So I wrote, "She stands resolutely, tragically, stolen away from the march of time, holding a single candle that the wind threatens to extinguish. And it's super-dramatic (laughs) like I was laughing when I was making this. I was like, "Oh my God, this is so silly," but nonetheless, that is a way more compelling way of speaking about this image than just saying, "Oh yeah, there's a girl. "She's in some smoke. There's a candle, ha ha." And that's too often how we speak about our work because we don't feel like we're good enough to be flowery with our language or like we think people will think that we're stupid for doing that and it draws attention to you and I get that it's uncomfortable to do that sometimes but let's imagine that I didn't take this picture and we all walk into a gallery right now and this is hanging there in the gallery and there is a little caption next to it and the caption either says, "I took a picture of a girl in some smoke," or it says this caption. Aren't you way more likely to have so much more respect for that artist if it says something interesting than just, "Oh, I just took this picture?" You know, like okay. Well, great. I'm glad to know that you put some thought into that you know, you really wanna feel it from the artist.