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The Art and Business of Conceptual Portraiture

Lesson 9 of 36

Writing an Artist Statement

Jennifer Thoreson

The Art and Business of Conceptual Portraiture

Jennifer Thoreson

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Lesson Info

9. Writing an Artist Statement

Lesson Info

Writing an Artist Statement

Okay let's get into that artist statement ideas we're talking about birthing the the baby okay? And that this is the next step I like to make right my statement after the work is finished so here's what I'm trying to answer in the artist statement this is pretty much it what are you interested that inspired the work so not only what is it about but what are you interested that inspired this work so it's a little bit more of a you're digging a little deeper than just it's about this okay, how did you make it so in my artist statement I saying we're going to look at it in a minute how are intothe house how I made the sculptures actually physically how I made the pictures okay, what have you made? What is it that you made? I made twelve um sixteen by twenty um pigment in photographs that's the physical thing I made that's going to be in the statement to what specifically is the work about? So in the first part, I might say I'm interested in blah, blah, blah blah blah blah blah these theme...

s okay? And then later in the statement this particular work this is the thread out of the rug that this particular work is about okay wouldn't talk about that and then usually some kind of a last um one elevator speech thing at the end that says umbrella this is what I did okay so funnel again what do you need for your viewers to know? We talked about this earlier when we had the question come in you have to decide how much you want to disclose I could write a twelve page paper about testament if I wanted to and every little thing that meant something to me that's in there but I would beat the life out of it nobody ever be able to see anything in there I'd be telling him everything you know so what do I absolutely need for them to know I need for them to know I rented the house and did it in the house because of my parents and my upbringing I need for them to know that there is some biblical symbolism in there I need them to know these four things and that's what's going to be in the statement you gotta edit the rest out okay? This is what the statement looks like so the first umbrella statement and you're just kind of going on and saying in the first paragraph this is what I did this kind of umbrella what it's about okay so and you will see the first in my work I revisit things of human fragility pain and eventually recovery I'm attracted to vulnerability peeling back the skin that reveals something precious dark insistently tender tender I'm compelled by the moments where people are on edge barely laced together be friending disaster remembering something or exposing something that has nothing to do with the work really it's that whole this is what I'm interested in thing okay it's a bigger overarching why this work came out of me something can you sense it too? Because I'm interested in these names so you can kind of think about it as the theme I'm curious about how relationships survived, why they dissolved, how people love one another and how such love is expressed so that next section I'm talking about a little bit more specifically what I'm interested in so big overarching idea a little bit more specific idea over the things I'm interested in okay, the next section is how did I make it and I literally just spell it out to create the work I am to a rented an empty house for a year and transformed into makeshift sanctuary afraid id space for constructing photographs chose the house because of a sentimental and the very much felt like my nineteen eighty family home it had a worn in gentle quality and I felt connected to it the moment I walked through the door ok some talking aboutthe house the textiles in the next section I'm talking about the objects that I made that the materials are symbolic that they borrow symbolic language from bible and create alter like fleshy mass says so then I'm talking aboutthe house again that the houses bearing weight that I'm seeking the moment of relief and relishing in the moment before it occurs okay, so this is really all the first section how I made the work the next section kind of a little bit more specifically what those things might mean okay, the next one um I'm gonna talk about what happened what have I made the next paragraph so I'm staying in the exhibition each room includes photographs, textile works and objects not romantic just telling you what it is spelling out and then it tells you the pieces reference specific moments of understanding and awareness of my spiritual journey and I'm telling you about the wool the sheep's wool in the evolution of that wall and how about its symbolic also to the work so it's a very like physical what is in the space and if you just made photographs you say that I made twelve photographs I made twenty photographs by using this method heidi would then talk about how she makes them in the little tin boxes and why okay different stuff and then the end where I'm doing that elevator statement I'd like to know and feel the moment people fall apart in sacramento saturate my work in it I want to push it a breaking point and hold out hope for restoration the last sentence is my elevator speech these photographs are representations of ultra of quiet ultra still delicate moments of raw humanise the phase just after a labor in aching fall in the point where the renewal evan indefinitely begins that is how I met him in an elevator I wouldn't say those words and they'd think I'd lost my mind but that's what I would tell him that's what the works about one big synopsis at the end okay that's an artistic mint and it doesn't have to be this long you saw rachel's a lot shorter I'm wordy so what I find though, is the best thing that happens is when I make all those lists in the beginning less list listless and mike thing is full of words I just go back and look at that I literally look at my notebook pull the words like fragility, pain recovery, vulnerability, precious star all these words spiritually labor, sentimental sanctuary every one of those words was in my notebook when I was trying to apply my verbal language to my visual language and so writing this statement wasn't so bad I knew what it was about already I knew how to write the language was I'd already done the work ah lot of times when you're applying for things they'll ask, well, they always ask for an artist statement anytime you're doing a grant application or sending word to a gallery anything you d'oh you need a statement sometimes they'll ask for a concise statement so they'll give you a word count and yikes for me because I like to write a lot but I then we'll just focus on the highlights the most important thing what is it? What did I make? What does it mean and maybe a little bit of how I made it and just squish it down into a smaller section so you can see the first test is a collection of twelve stage photographs and tells you how they were made to create the work I did this I fabricated the objects in the third paragraph there telling you disembark from the bible blah blah blah talking about the house and and then why I made it basically the moment of relief in that bit the big highlight stuff that I really need people to know look at medic will just kind of looked this quickly it's the same exact formula it's I do it in a different order but it's the same thing so the first section they're just telling you what it's about the umbrella statement the big what why I kind of made it what I'm interested in that maybe want to make this work that whole first paragraph in fact is about that okay, the next one is telling you in ten photographs I've illustrated them with machines and things like that so it's how I made the work and then a little bit of why I made the work and at the end another like elevator statements it was the same formula that same kind of stuff we want to cover so here I could just kind of list out you can see the distinct sections exactly the same way I did the testament one and here's the kind of conclusion at the end. So for just a minute we'll talk about anybody have a question about artist statements. I know we went through it quickly, but it gives you the idea, huh? When you did the key wording was that deliberate. So you went back and looked at your key words and deliberately put them in the artist. Absolutely it helps me a lot because I mean, I find and I think most artists find that writing a statement is really hard and everybody hates it. Everybody hates it so it's easier for me, and it helps me to make the work in the first place to have those words but it's easier for me to then go back and look at all the things I was thinking when I was making it and just put it into a sentence that's really what I'm doing and some people we'll hire people to do this for them because it is that hard for them to write and so if you are one of those folks you need a list. Those words. You list out those words and send it to the person in the making. Right. This on this isn't put it together for you, but it helps a lot. Tab cues. So what? You're trying to get out.

Class Description

Conceptual portraiture is where art and photography meet. In this class, Jennifer Thoreson will explore the intersection of fine art and photography and discuss the practice, process, and business of bringing conceptual portraits to life.

Jennifer is a visual artist, speaker, and lecturer whose photographic work has been widely published internationally in print and online journals. In this class she’ll reveal the process for developing commissioned and exhibition work. 

You’ll learn how to:

  • Create unique, imaginative props 
  • Secure the right type of model
  • Price your work
  • Approach galleries, museums, and publications

Jennifer will help you define your personal style and show you how to put together a conceptual series. You’ll get the inside scoop on what it takes to make a living through fine art photography and also get Jennifer’s tips on managing the business side.

If you want to expand into the expressive and exciting genre of conceptual photography, The Art and Business of Conceptual Portraiture with Jennifer Thoreson is the perfect place to begin your journey. 

Class Materials

Bonus Materials with RSVP


Bonus Materials with Purchase

Book Proposal Sample.pdf

Critical Mass - Digital Book.pdf

Curriculum Vitae Example.pdf

Keynote PDF Segment 1.pdf

Keynote PDF Segment 2.pdf

Keynote PDF Segment 3.pdf

Ratings and Reviews

Student Work

Related Classes


a Creativelive Student

"Thinking about art is not making art." In this inspiring and informative workshop, Jennifer helps you put thought into action - through meaningful self-reflection, exploration and by taking her through her own processes. Through exercises and examples, she explains how to pull out a thread of an idea and develop it into a conceptual project that is informed and invigorated by personal experience, preference, interests, and so much more. Her workshop not only feeds the creative soul, but offers earnest information on taking first steps toward publishing and showing fine-art. Jen so beautifully shares her talent and her love of teaching - I first "met" her on Creative Live and have had the joy of being mentored by her in-person as well. This workshop is a very close second to spending time with her one-on-one. Thank you, CL, for bringing her back!

kalei harmon

I love Jennifer, she's one of my cL favorites! She is such a soulful photographer and her art just resonates with me in so many ways. While she was creating her conceptual piece with the mother and child, my eyes welled up because it was such a profound experience to witness. I appreciate that she has a graduate degree in art and is able to refer to others in the field who are leading the way. She is so genuine and I'm grateful for her willingness to bare her soul to us through her art and process. I've learned so much by watching how she interacts with models and communicates efficiently and gently to get AMAZING poses. Definitely worth the buy if you're looking for inspiration from an artist who creates images which evoke emotion and communicate a message, not just trying to make "great photos." I can't wait to learn about the business side of it all!


I am so grateful for this class; it is just what I have been looking for to help me go beyond my "photographic potty training". By leading us through her own creative process, Jennifer Thoreson invites us to think about why we do what we do and to make our work more meaningful and authentic, creating our unique visual vocabulary. Moreover, she provides detailed info on submitting work to galleries and publications, contests, printing editions, preparing an exhibition and pricing. In her calm, unpretentious manner, Jennifer demystified art without trivializing it and I finally saw light at the end of a rather long tunnel.