How to write an artist biography with examples you can use


How to write an artist biography with examples

Writing an Artist biography is probably one of the hardest things I have had to write. If you are reading this then I assume you are struggling with this as well. In this post we will attempt to answer many questions I have asked myself while providing some real world artist biography examples that you can use as a base for your own artist bio.

What is an artist biography (bio)?

Before we start, you should understand the difference between an artist biography and an artist statement vs an artist profile.

Each one serves its own purpose and should be used for a specific goal in mind.

What is an Artist Biography / Artist Bio

In its simplest form, an artist biography is a summary of you as an artist in a few paragraphs, it should detail your qualifications and any training you undertook as an artist (if you are not qualified you can just omit this part). You then detail your influences, your achievements and contact details. It is usually followed by a brief artist statement.

One thing to note, many artists refer to themselves in the third person which I believe can come across as a little pretentious.

Another pretentious artist is the last thing the world needs.

Use singular pronouns such as “I” instead of “we” or your first name.

It makes you more relatable.

What is an Artist Statement

An artist’s statement is a brief description of your work as a whole. The purpose of an artist statement is to give anyone looking at your work some context around why you work a certain way so that they can either connect with you or the subject matter. The artist statement should cover the “why” you do things and not the “who you are”.

You would usually include an artist statement as part of the artist biography.

For more information on Artist’s Statements, wikipedia has some further reading.

What is an Artist Profile

The Artist Profile is quite interesting, it is a mix of both the artist bio and artist statement. The difference is the artist profile packages both pieces of information into an interesting page designed to ‘hook’ the reader into wanting to learn more about you as the artist as well as your art and your interests.

Think of the artist profile as the first page of a really interesting novel, designed to make the reader want to keep reading and learn more.

Use good story-telling techniques when planning your artist profile.

If you are struggling to write an Artist Biography and Artist Statement, try writing an Artist Profile instead as it lets you channel your creative energy rather than following a boring format.

Here is an example of an Artist Bio with an Artist Statement

Here are some real examples of artist profiles

Anselm Kiefer

Rhian Malin (though it is written in the 3rd person..)

Larry Poons

Jeff Koons – As he has so many achievements, Jeff’s website also has formatted his bio into sections covering Awards and Honors, Talks and Lectures and Collections.

Why write an artist biography (bio). What is the purpose of an artist bio?

writing an artist bio
Writing an Artist Biography

What is the purpose of writing an artist bio? Is it for vanity, was it requested by art galleries or was it just so that you could be found in search engines?

Most artists write an artist bio because other artists have written one. Pretty simple.

Personally I don’t have a formal artist bio written and the only time I pull one together is when I am entering an art competition and it is part of the entry form.

When we write our artist biography we need to ask ourselves “Who is it for?” You should write to your audience and not to yourself.

Writing an artist bio is a bit like a resume. It can feel cold, impersonal and detached.

When we write a resume we are writing for a specific audience such as a recruiter but the goal is the same. When we write an Artist Bio, we are writing to a curator or collector.

We want them to know our skills, our qualifications, what we are good at and what makes us so much better than the next person that the reader will want to invest in us, our art.

When you write an artist biography I have found it to be actually quite harder than a resume.

When we write a resume we tend to be able to be more objective about our skills, work and achievements but with art, we are emotionally invested and being an artist is core to our self identity.

Types of artist biographies

Artist - Photo by thom masat on Unsplash
No matter what type of artist you are, there is a biography type for you

Self taught artists

Self taught artists may believe the lack of a formal qualification or training in the arts may preclude them from needing an artist biography.

I suffered from an inferiority complex for many years as I too am a self taught artist.

Self taught artists can usually do well with an artist profile instead of an artist bio as it can gloss over or skip over any need to highlight their qualifications.

So if you are a self taught artist, write your artist biography listing all your achievements, influences, showings, sales and include an artist statement.

Then when it comes to qualifications, highlight that you have been an artist for X amount of years, highlight your experience over any qualifications.

Now i’ll get on my high horse.. Not being formally trained is not a hindrance. In fact, an art degree or tertiary qualification is actually only a recent thing for artists. Most artists until the 20th century were trained as artist apprentices or self taught. None had a piece of paper proclaiming that they were now part of the creative elite!

As we no longer have artists guilds to confirm our skills as an artist, then some use a degree or diploma as a proxy. Though this does not guarantee that you are as good an artist as any other.

Qualified Artists

Many contemporary artists have some form of qualification they will include in their artist biography. If you have a certification in a specific field, or use of a specific tool then note that down.

Otherwise your artist biography and artist statement should read like any other.

Beginner artist biography

When you are a beginner artist your experience will be little, you may not have even had a showing yet and you may not have any qualifications.

When I was 17 I entered the Doug Moran National Portrait prize (in Australia) which is a $100,000 Acquisitive portrait prize.

I had about 5 years of artist experience under my belt, 1 showing in my high school where I won first prize for a portrait of Marilyn Monroe and 2 sales of my paintings.

The prizes required I submit an artist bio and artist statement. I did not know what to do so I left it all blank.

Today I would give the same advice as I give to self taught artists, highlight your achievements to date and not add anything negative.

Remember my resume example. When we start working we have nothing to add as experience but we document all the transferable skills we have all that we can offer.

As a beginner artist, add what you have done to date and be proud of that. If you have not done anything of note yet, then note what your influences are and where you want to go with your art career.

Artist Brushes - Photo by thom masat on Unsplash

What should an artist biography include?

What to include in an artist biography?

Images – Should I include an image of myself?

Just like in a resume, unless you are one extremely good looking person or you have a very original look that can help with your persona or help people remember you (think of Dali’s moustache) then do not include an image or photo of yourself.

Ensure you provide any links to where you have exhibited.

Ensure you provide any links to where you have sold your works. If you are unable to link to article showing a sale, then note down the item sold, when it was sold and the details of the artwork.

You do not need to note the price it sold for or who purchased the artwork.

Where possible, link to any articles about you or your works that are of note.

How to write an artist biography about yourself

The best way to write an artist biography is to start looking at the artist biography examples found on the internet.

The hardest thing I found was collating all the information I wanted to include in my bio. What I found was when I just did a brain dump without putting my thought into dates etc it was easier.

The first things you should do, using sticky notes:

  1. Collect and organise any courses you have completed. Don’t worry about the years commenced or completed.
  2. Write down keywords that you would use to describe your influences and put these aside. These can be art styles, people or places.
  3. Write down why you do what you do as an artist, was it something you have known since you can remember? Was it a specific experience?
  4. Write down any key achievements you have had so far in your art career.
  5. Your name and where you live and where you typically work from
  6. What styles or mediums do you work in?

Once you have these noted down, you actually have the key points required for an artist biography. All we need to do now is start writing the artist bio.

Sticky Notes - Photo by Kelly Sikkema on Unsplash
Sticky Notes are great for planning your bio

How do you start a biography?

Grab those sticky notes we just wrote. Put them in this order:

  1. Your name and where you live and where you typically work from
  2. Why you do what you do as an artist, that something you have known since you can remember or that specific experience.
  3. Those keywords that you used to describe your influences. The art styles, people or places.
  4. The styles or mediums do you work in
  5. The courses you have completed.
  6. The key achievements you have had so far in your art career.

Now that you have put all the raw data into some meaningful order, you just need to pad these out into properly worded paragraphs and ensure that they have a natural flow to them.

If you find that hard to do then take a look at some real artist biography examples to draw inspiration from. Find a few you like and experiment.

Artist Biography Examples

How to write an artist biography sample

Here are some real examples of artist biographies to draw inspiration from. Note: One take away from all the examples I researched (apart from Rita Ackermann) is that they were all badly formatted and hard to read.

So please take some time to ensure that your artist biography is formatted so that it is easy to read on a computer and also on a smartphone.

EVELYN SOSA

Cuban, born 1989

An Award winning photographer, Evelyn Sosa Rojas was born in 1989 in Havana, Cuba, where she still lives and work.
In her practice, since 2008, Sosa specializes in amazingly soulful portraits.
Sosa shows the power of femininity through photos of women in different familiar or intimate settings.
In 2016, Sosa was the winner of the Herman Puig Prize, awarded yearly to the best artist of the Body Photography Salon in Havana.
In her powerful series “Women’s portraits”, Sosa captures the very essence of each subject in a simple, sensual and compelling way. Sosa has an ability to capture the depth of the eyes and gaze, showing the subject soul and deep thoughts.
In 2019, Uncommon Beauty published a photo-book , HAVANA INTIMATE, through the lens of Evelyn Sosa.
In a scholarly essay written for the book, Grethel Morell Otero, the recipient of the 2019 Cuban National Curator Award, and a published authority in Cuban photography wrote: “her (Sosa) work represents something of a vanguard movement in contemporary artistic photography’.
Website


Joseph Rolella

Born in Sydney in 1972, Rolella completed a Bachelor of Visual Arts (Honours) in 1994 and went on to obtain a Masters in Visual Arts at the University of Western Sydney in 1998. Joseph Rolella has exhibited consistently for the past twelve years both nationally and internationally. Rolella has won several major art prizes including the Australian Cricket Art Prize in 2011 for the painting “Cricket at Kandahar”. The Oakhill Grammer School Art Prize in 2013 as well as being selected as a semi-finalist for the prestigious Doug Moran Portrait Prize. Complex and contradictory, Rolella’s recent abstract paintings seek to expose a delicate equilibrium between a sense of balance and visual calm and the tumult of painterly texture and surface tension. The play of light at the waters edge…


SOFIA AREAL (Lisbon, 1960)

Begins her studies 1979 at the Hertfordshire College of Art and Design in St Albans, UK. In Portugal she studied etching and painting at Ar.Co. (Art and Visual Communication Center).

Her first group exhibition was in 1982 at the 1ª Mostra de Artes in Lagos, Portugal and her first solo show was in 1990 at Galeria Alda Cortez, Lisbon. Since then, Sofia has exhibited in various countries individually and collectively. She had a retrospective exhibition covering the last 10 years of her career in 2011 at the Galeria da Cordoaria Nacional the exhibition was accompanied by a book published by Babel, with texts of among others: Jorge Silva Melo and Professor Luís Campos e Cunha. In 2012 Areal illustrates the literary magazine published by Calouste Gulbenkian Foundation, Colóquio Letras. In 2013 launches a book together with Harvard Professor, Allan Hobson – “ Creativity”. Since 2013, Areal has started an international exhibition program, in Macau – Orient Foundation 2014, Oslo – Embassy Art Space 2015 and Dublin in 2016. In the same year a film by Jorge Silva Melo, “Sofia Areal: Um Gabinete Anti-Dor” premiers. In 2017 Areal continues a series of exhibitions, started in 2016 in quARTel das Artes in Abrantes, about her own private collection in Lagos Cultural Centre, followed by MUDAS. Contemporary Art Museum of Madeira and Centro Cultural Raiano – a series, which will continue in 2019. In the same year Areal will have an exhibition in the Portuguese Cultural Centre in Luxembourg. In 2017-2018 creates a tiles panel is together with a group of artists and 3 individual ones, all with Ratton Gallery in Lisbon.

Great example of a short artist biography

Rita Ackermann Biography

Born: Budapest, Hungary, 1968

Education:

The New York Studio School of Painting, Drawing and Sculpture (Hanes Foundation), New York NY, 1992 – 1993
Academy of Fine Arts, Budapest, Hungary, 1989 – 1992

Resides: Lives and works in New York NY

SOLO EXHIBITIONS

2019 Hauser & Wirth, ‘Rita Ackermann. Brother and Sister’, Zürich, Switzerland

2018 La Triennale di Milano, ‘Rita Ackermann. Movements as Monuments’, Milan, Italy
VIEWING ROOM, Marlborough Contemporary, ‘Rita Ackermann and Carol Rama: Body Matters’, New York NY


How to write an artist biography using a template

You can follow this simple template if you want to skip the sticky note exercise from the previous steps.

As I do not like referring to myself in the third person I will move away from your typical artist biography examples and make it a little more personable.

My name is [Insert your name], I was born in [insert town/city/country] in [year]. My first experiences as an artist was when [insert time period in life or formative experience].

My influences were [insert influences].

It was here that I realized that I wanted to pursue my career in this field.

I went on to study [insert course and institution] where I earned my qualifications in [insert field of study].

It was here that I furthered expanded on my knowledge in [insert fields of interest], where I [insert key achievements].

I work primarily in [insert mediums] and I currently work from [insert location] and [any other locations of interest].

Self taught artist bio sample

For self taught artists, your bio will be the same as all the examples but without listing any formal qualifications. Using the template above, I have modified it to make it suitable for self taught artists.

The focus for a self taught artist is to focus on your practical experience and what you did in lieu of formal training.

My name is [Insert your name], I was born in [insert town/city/country] in [year]. My first experiences as an artist was when [insert time period in life or formative experience].

My influences were [insert influences].

It was here that I realized that I wanted to pursue my career in this field.

I believe that being an artist is something that one is born to do an not learned at school, I went on to study through practical experience, learning through trial and error and self learning studying the works of [insert influences] as my teachers.

It was here that I furthered expanded on my knowledge in [insert fields of interest], where I [insert key achievements].

I work primarily in [insert mediums] and I currently work from [insert location] and [any other locations of interest].

50 word artist bio example

Describe yourself in 50 words or less. This is much harder to do than you may think.

If you must provide an artist biography in 50 words or less then focus on the key information and remove the filler words that we tend to use when describing ourselves and our achievements.

When creating a 50 words or less artist bio, use simple headings and bullet points and stick to the point.

My name is [Insert your name]. Born in [insert town/city/country] in [year].

I work primarily in [insert main medium]

My influences are [insert influences].

I obtained a [insert qualification] from [institution].

(I am represented by [insert gallery]) or (I have exhibited in [insert shows]) or (I have won [insert main prizes])

I currently work from [insert location] and [any other locations of interest].

Still struggling to write an Artist Bio?

I found this cool site, it generates artist statements and biographies. All you need to do is click “Generate Some Bollocks”.

First Draft of an artist biography

Have someone write the outline for you

If you find it hard to write about yourself, find someone you trust and hand over your sticky notes and ask them to write the artist biography for you using the templates as a guide.

You will find that someone who knows you well will remember to add other information about you that you may have forgotten to include or too embarrassed to include.

Once they have a draft, read through it out loud with them and see if it makes sense and look at areas for improvement.

My English is not good, what do I do?

Use Google Translate
Try Using Google Translate if English is not your first language

If your english is not as good as you like, that is totally fine. If anything it is an advantage as you can now have a bilingual artist bio.

You can have your artist bio written in your native language for your native audience and then ask someone you trust to translate it to English or pay a small fee on Upwork or Freelancer to translate your artist biography for you.

If you do not want to pay someone, you can give Google Translate a try and see how that comes up. Speaking from experience when I tried to translate text from English to Italian, be careful as this does not always give the best results.

Review and review again

Again, with anything your write you should review it yourself and then ask someone you trust to review it again for you.

Check for grammar and spelling.

Common mistakes in artist biographies

Contrary to my advice about writing in the first person, some say that your artist biography should be written in the third person to give the impression that it was written by someone else and that it sounds more authoritative.

Unless your artist biography was actually written by a third person I disagree with this advice. We know you wrote this so why pretend it wasn’t.

Secondly, if you are an unknown and not professionally represented, most people in the industry will know you bring little authority with you. That’s the sad truth.

The next mistake is to fail to tell an interesting story about your journey as an artist. Note down any gaps in your career and explain why, sometimes the gaps are as interesting as the art journey itself.

Taking care of children, sick family, going to war, being in accident can all be used as part of your narrative and drawn on for inspiration.

Think of all the books you read that you could not put down, they told an interesting story you could relate to and the characters were usually likeable and not pretentious.

Which leads to the next mistake, do not big note yourself or embellish your achievements. Do not lie about your achievements. With the internet available to most people on their phones, most facts can be easily verified.

The next mistake is to write an artist statement when an artist biography was requested.

Other mistakes when writing an artist bio are spelling mistakes grammar mistakes, not proofreading your draft, and the final mistake artists make when writing their artist biography is forgetting to tell the why they became an artist.

Conclusion

As I mentioned earlier, writing an artist bio is a bit like a resume. It can feel cold, impersonal and detached. This is the reason why I prefer an Artist Profile instead.

I would format the artist profile to include the initial hook paragraphs to get your readers interested in knowing more.

I would then follow the lead from the examples provided and include information that you would usually see in an artist biography.

Keep it up to date

Remember, as artists we are always changing and progressing. This means whether you are using an Artist Biography, Art Statement or Artist Profile, these should be updated to reflect where you are in life and as an artist at that point in time.

It should change as you change. Keep some of the older information in there so your reader can follow your career and influences progressions.

These tell a story about you.

Rewrite and Review

Each time you make an update, review what you wrote and do not be afraid to re-write it all if it no longer applies to who you are today.

Get someone to proofread your artist bio and take on any constructive criticism.

Good luck! If you have any of your own artist biographies that you would like linked to this article, please send through a message on the contact-me page.

If it is suitable, I will include it in the list of Artist Biography Examples.

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Joseph Colella

I'm an avid artist and I love to share everything I know about art and all the new art related tips i've recently learned. Get Your WastedTalentInc Merch at Redbubble https://rdbl.co/2OkI0CM

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