Now that you’ve determined where you want to be, and how you’re going to get there, it’s time to let everyone else know what you’re doing. The artist statement is your declaration of intent—a showcase of your mission. They don’t need to know about your plans. As a matter of fact, it’s best to keep the details a closely guarded secret. What the world needs to know is what you have to offer. What can they expect from you? It’s your responsibility to define your work and your self, otherwise everyone else will. Action is preferable to being acted upon. Know what you stand for or you could fall for anything.
That’s the purpose of the artist statement. It defines who you are, what you’re doing, and why. It’s not written in stone, and it’s going to grow with you, so don’t get caught up in worrying that you’re confining yourself to this particular definition for the rest of your life. This is your current testimony to creation—yours—and shows the world your vision for a bright future. It also serves as a compass, leading you to your goals, lest life’s daily crises and the bright shiny toys distract you.
Stephen R Covey says in First Things First, “Vision is the best manifestation of creative imagination and the primary motivation of human action. It’s the ability to see beyond our present reality, to create, to invent what does not yet exist to become…it gives us capacity to live out our imagination instead of our memory.” Vision creates consequences and affects our choices. You want to be good, and good for something.
Your statement is an invitation to know you and your work. There will be 3 versions: a 3-paragraph explanation, and out of that comes a 1-paragraph description, and a 2-second sound bite that will (hopefully) entice the audience back for more.
It’s all about me! Write in the 1st person, keeping it brief, and highlighting what is unique about you, NOW-not-then, in a way that captivates and fascinates your audience. If people really knew me, what would they love about me?
This can be very difficult for those of us who sincerely want to love and serve others. When we start to pick apart what gives joy of living, it often runs smack against the expectations of whom we serve. How could what gives us the most pain also provide the greatest joy? Bite the bullet and answer the following questions anyway. Step 2 will help you to sort the diamonds from the dirt. You will discover your true-north principles that keep you moving in the path of God’s greatest glory.
Step 1. Brainstorm on paper, or into your journal. In fact, if you’ve already been keeping a journal (bravo!), read through them, highlighting the repeating patterns of your life. The seemingly specific questions for artists are adaptable to whatever you want to offer to the world:
Why do you do what you do?
What do you want to achieve in the long run?
What inspires you?
When you daydream, where do you go?
What gives you joy?
The 3 most important things in your life are…
The 3 happiest moments of my life have been…
What can you do to recreate moments like those?
What drives you to create?
How did you get to this stage of your life?
What materials and subjects thrill you?
What does success look like?
Is there a pattern to the way you use color, texture and light?
What is your favorite color? List 3 qualities of the color. Consider that these qualities apply to your work? How?
What is your favorite tool? Why?
Is there a pattern to how you select your materials?
What styles influence you?
What patterns emerge in your work?
How do you feel when it’s going well?
What talents do you have that no one else knows about?
What person or people have had the most positive influence on your life, and how?
What qualities of character do you most admire in others?
What do you appreciate most about yourself? Imagine your 100th birthday party. All your friends, family, and community are gathered to celebrate your life. What do you want them to say about you? Don’t worry that none of these things have happened yet; what will you want to enjoy looking back upon? Whose lives have you influenced, and how?
What do you like best about what you do?
Name each step in creating a work.
What do you do differently from the way you were taught? Why?
How do you determine when a work is finished?
What do you mean when you say that a piece has turned out really well?
What response do you want from the viewer?
If you had unlimited time and resources, you would…
Make a list of words and phrases that communicate your feelings about your work and your life values. Include words that you like, words that make you feel good, words that communicate your values and feelings. Add those words and phrases to your answers above, and vice versa…
I was too overwhelmed by my own visions and thoughts to be able to put any sense into my words. Therefore, the next step for me was to draw them. Perhaps your collage from last week will serve a similar purpose for you.
Step 2. Put your notes aside for 24 hours, then go back and highlight the most applicable words and phrases. Refer the dictionary and thesaurus to find words that will more closely define your work.
Determine your primary message—what most closely points to the true north of your life--and write an attention-grabbing opening sentence. Wrap a paragraph around that. Fascinate! Are you getting excited about your future? If you’re not, you can’t expect that your audience will. Support your statement by telling the world more about your goals and aspirations.
Explain to the reader in fairly simple terms how you make decisions in the course of your work. How and why do you select materials, techniques, and themes?
Also, clarify your current work and how it grew out of prior life experiences. What are you exploring, attempting, challenging and discovering in this work?
Read through your writing, and remove all negativity and bitterness. You need to prayerfully let the Spirit guide you through this in private or in the company of a trusted friend. The world doesn’t need more negativity. Consider this as your opportunity to clean up one more toxic dump.
Step 3. Let it rest for another 24 hours before editing, keeping it concise and vibrant. Explain anything that would confuse your audience and remove any unnecessary terminology. Correct your grammar and spelling. Limit any excessive personal pronouns, repetition and redundancy. Streamline your statement into an arrow that points straight to your true north.
Do a bit of research by reading others’ statements on their websites. Which people do you want to know more about? Who fascinates you, and why?
Step 4. Ask trusted friends who know your work to access and critique honestly, underlining the points that they recognize as are especially true, and taking the red pen to anything that doesn’t apply.
When you’re satisfied with your statement, the following step is to put your words into action. What will you do with the rest of today?
Today is the first day of the rest of your life!
Please welcome a friend to journey with you. Links are for sharing...