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Art Sales: Let’s Start At The Beginning 

Art Sales: Let’s Start At The Beginning 

When a piece of your art sells, it lights you up. When I hear about it, it lights me up too. 

Nothing is more validating, more affirming than someone wanting to pay you for the piece you’ve poured your heart and soul into. 

It’s a high like no other. 

And in that split second transfer of money for art, all the hours with their endless details—some high, some low—melt away. 

But along the way, you had to take three foundational steps toward that art sale. 

Each one seeming so obvious, and in some cases inevitable, that taking time to pay conscious attention might feel frivolous, or unnecessary. 

I’d like to stress-test that by peeking under the ArtLife hood. 

3 basic building blocks to selling your art

No.1 —  Your art is created.  

You’re putting in the time and effort to reach a certain level of skillfulness. You’re establishing your artistic fingerprint, your unique artist angle. You’re reaching deep into your creative spirit and manifesting a creative truth for the world to experience. 

No.2 —  Your art is visible. You’re in a gallery. Or hosting an in-studio reception. Or at an art fair. Or maintaining your website, not as a glorified portfolio, but as an experience for people who will become lovers of your work.  

No.3 —  You, the artist, are excited to engage. You’re answering a question from a potential collector standing next to one of your pieces in a gallery. You’re responding to an email from a potential buyer who just saw a piece on your website. You’re answering an email from someone who met someone who told that someone about your work. You’re replying to comments on Instagram that invite the sale. 

Nail all three steps, in sequence, and the golden ring on the Art Sale Merry-go-Round is yours. 

Obvious, you’re thinking.  

I agree. 

Only, let’s see what happens when we reverse it, shall we?  

Because, after decades of experience with artists at all career levels (and in all genres), I have watched as one (or more) of these obvious basic steps become… A stumble. A missed opportunity. A missed art sale.  

what happens when we reverse the basic building blocks of art sales

No.1 – Your art is sort of made. It is generic or superficial. It needs more technical expertise. Your art needs an honest critique from a trusted art-community source. It fails the authentic artistic fingerprint test. (You know…unique to only you…) Your art needs more of you more of the time. 

No.2 – Your art is invisible: Your website contact form doesn’t work (and you don’t know this because you don’t email yourself—on a regular basis—from that same form!). You lost a gallery and haven’t worked yourself up to move on. Your website is a ho-hum, portfolio-only menagerie of your work. You truly think words don’t matter, so no artist statement and a boring bio. 

No.3 – You, the artist, fail to engage: Because the art is invisible, how can a collector stand next to you asking questions at an opening? There is no potential collector emailing you, either from your website or from someone who never saw your work, so couldn’t recommend it to someone else. Or you have the work up on a website, but no email list and no newsletter. You do Instagram, but forget to respond to comments. 

With any one of these basic building blocks, if the artist falters, the art sales falter. 

Let’s Dive Deeper Into Each Basic, Art-Sale Building Block  

art sale building block no.1 your art is created

At first glance, Your art is created might seem too obvious to bother with until you encounter three sticky wickets : getting enough studio time, being clear about what you are making, and consistently developing your artist fingerprint. 

Some might frame each of these as a problem, which, for me, is problematic. Problems have a habit of indicating that you’re at fault in some way.  

If you frame these as artistic intentions, then accountability becomes connected to the impartial marker of “Is it working?” “What would work better? Faster? More easily?” 

  1. Intention: Get enough studio time to make the work you need for art sales. 

When I gave out my Vision Questionnaire of 28 questions to the smARTist Telesummit participants, so they could identify where they were in their art career, a consistent response to one of the questions was: I need more time in the studio. 

It seems everything eats into studio time: family commitments, health issues, survival issues, even the irrepressible kitchen sink makes demands. 

What’s hard is to take responsibility for what part of this is unconscious self-sabotage. We might wish to lay reasonable, rational, and often guilt-laden demands at the feet of fate, or duty, or obligation, or anything but at the feet of our own choices. 

It’s not to say that family commitments, health issues, survival issues, etc. aren’t real. They are, and often alarmingly so. 

But first and foremost, we are responsible for how we show up. And if we are not taking stock of what we need, along with everyone else’s needs, that is on us. 

Give yourself the gift you give others: the time you deserve.  

It’s truly that simple. 

  1. Intention: Be clear about what you are making so you have art to sell.

Because creativity is not genre specific, most creative people have more creative inspirations than they know what to do with.  

for some of us the sheer luminosity of an idea becomes a firefly of creative possibilities that we'll follow deep into the forest

This is both a gift and a curse. If we harness this instinct, it turns into the gift of creating with intention. But if we spend too much time chasing down one inspiration after another, it muddies our creative waters. 

This doesn’t mean sticking to one thing—an impossibility for a good many of us. 

It means focusing on what makes your art…well…your art. Which brings us smack into the third intention for making art: developing a consistent artist fingerprint. 

  1. Intention: Consistent art sales depend on a consistent Artist Fingerprint.TM  

Does your work have an identifiable, artist fingerprintTM, visual cues that signal to any viewer that this work of art is yours and only yours?  

Are you aware of these visual cues?  

Are they intentional and conscious, or merely part of your creative flow outside of verbal language? 

You know a Judy Chicago, a Georges Seurat, or a Louise Joséphine Bourgeois because they each have an artist fingerprint that immediately identifies their work and often spans decades, styles, concepts, and mediums. 

Even if you’ve not thought of this before, can you look at several pieces of your work and describe what aspects are reliable from piece to piece?  

It might be a technique, a way of using color, light, perspective; subject matter married to a unique technique; a crossover of artistic genres (think writing and painting).  

Besides these visual cues of your art making,  there’s a more enigmatic characteristic of your artist fingerprintTM:  it’s the light passing through your spirit/soul into your earthly mind/body that guides you when you manifest creativity for the world to experience. 

Once you put in the time and effort to hone your skill and technique, it’s time to reach deep into your creative spirit and pull out your artistic truth.  

your artist fingerprint is the indelible foundation of your artist identity

And your artistic identity is the true force behind your art sales. 

So, what have we covered so far?  

Let’s do a quick recap for Art Sale Building Block No.1. 

When you  

  1. get enough studio time 
  2. and are clear about what you are making with your indelible, artist fingerprint 
  3. then, Your Art Is Created, becomes the obvious first Art Sale Building Block. 

      Art Sale Building Block No.2

      Here again, Your art is visible might seem so self-evident  as to border on absurdity. 

      Then again… 

      What if your website contact form isn’t working? Or you’ve lost the one gallery (or two) that you had?  

      Or you keep waiting for the perfect piece to materialize under your fingers before daring to go public? Or you’ve hit a creative roadblock? Or self-doubts have asserted themselves? Or family demands force studio time off the map? 

      Or… it’s no art sale because you refuse to show your work—for one reason or another. 

      Once upon a time, an artist contacted me for private coaching.  

      I had one spot left in my practice and I was excited to fill it—with the caveat that we first determine if coaching together would be a good fit. The last thing I ever want is to work with an artist who won’t, for one reason or another, be able to benefit from a coaching relationship. 

      This time, my standard preview session proved invaluable in a way I could have never imagined. 

      Ms. Private Extraordinaire (you guessed it… not her real name) had been painting for three decades. She had thousands of pieces in several storage units. But, she had never, ever, shown a single piece. 

      Let me repeat: Never.  Shown.  A.  Single.  Piece. 

      Or, put another way: Never.  Sold.  A.  Single.  Piece. 

      Thank goodness this was a phone conversation, and not Aoom, as I’m not known for my poker face. My voice, on the other hand, I could manage. 

      What’s holding you back from showing your work? My voice even, curious. 

       Nothing, she said. My work is private. Just for me. I don’t want to show it. 

      And do you have any intention of making artwork for others to experience?  

      No, she said, I definitely don’t want to show it. 

      Given that, I continued, what would you like from me? 

      I don’t know, she said, I was hoping you could tell me. 

      Is there any chance I can help you find a way to release a select group of your paintings from their storage units for an exhibition?  

      Or, that you would work on a select group for such an exhibition? 

      Meanwhile, the graphic text bubble over my head: 

      Any chance I can get you to release the fear cocoon  

      holding you and your creativity 

      prisoner under lock and key? 

      I could never do that, she replied, answering my spoken and unspoken question.  

      Her voice was steady. It didn’t quaver. She didn’t hesitate in her response. She held the silence that followed. 

      (I listen very, very carefully to silences. They always have so much to say…) 

      We exchanged a few pleasantries before … 

      I don’t see a way forward, I said, because the work I do is about artists changing the world by putting their work in the world. 

      She understood.  

      Our parting was amicable. 

      When the work is invisible, there are no art sales.  

      The trick here is understanding what “invisible” actually means. 

      In the case of Ms. Private Extraordinaire, invisible was literal. I’m pretty darn sure if you’re reading this, that’s not you. 

      Most likely, you’re working just as hard to have your work visibile as you are making the work. 

      Or, your work is visible, but perhaps inaccessible: An outdated website. A contact form that’s not working. A gallery with odd opening hours that keep changing. Or, heaven forbid, a gallery that doesn’t respond to queries from collectors and buyers. 

      I can’t begin to tell you how many times I’ve gone to an artist’s website and sent them an email from their site…and…silence. Or the last work they uploaded is 2018. There’s no artist statement (you know, that personal connection that furthers the bond between artist and collector).  

      So, maybe you’re not guilty of any of these “let’s-make-visibility-as-hard-as-possible” no-art-sale crimes. 

      are there unintentional ways the visibility you desire, and need, for an art sale are being hampered

      In next week’s blog post, I’ll tease apart how the gap between your internal experience and your external behavior can, inadvertently, derail the visibility you need for art-sales. 

      It’s a process I call Map The Gap. 

      I’d love to “see” you here. But that’s only possible if you drop a comment or two below in the comment fields. 

      Tell me, do you have specific issues with making your artwork visible? 

      Ariane Goodwin's signature file

       

        Selling Your Art: An Invitation, Not a Transaction

        Selling Your Art: An Invitation, Not a Transaction

        r yoA Couple of Sad, True Stories 

        Selling Your Art, STORY ONE:  

        I’m on Instagram thinking about how you are selling your art, and looking at the truly astounding roll of artwork. If a piece catches my eye, I scroll through the comments, curious as about what other artists think. 

        Most comments are discouraging: “Bravo,” “Beautiful,” “Love it,” and a tribe of emojis. 

        Once in while another artist will make  an astute comment related to the art process, or a technique that captured a certain element. But this is rare. Always interesting, but rare. 

        Sometimes the artist, who took all the trouble to post (and posting is always a bit of trouble), will respond to the comments. And in this age of “good marketing,” no matter how banal a comment might be, a reply is di rigor. 

        Other times, I’ll see no replies from the artist, which is just odd. 

        One day, I see a post by a fan who went from Instagram to the artist’s website to buy a piece, that was sold, then returned to Instagram to ask if they could to buy something similar. Or if the artist would let them know when they do a similar piece. 

        Does this artist jump for joy? Look at their bank balance? Start fantasizing about new supplies? 

        Nope. 

        Yes, there were 222 comments on this piece the artist posted. And the artist replied to bland comments on either side of this direct request, yet failed to respond.

        Do you want to sell your art? I wanted to ask… and then shake him! 

        Sad but true. Sad. Sad. Sad. 

        selling your art story two

        Let’s call this artist, Annie, shall we? We’re in a private coaching session and she’s just told me about one of her core collectors mentioning that she’d like to buy more art for her vacation home. 

        “When did this happen?” I ask. 

        Oh, about six months ago,” she responds. 

        “And did you follow up on her comment?” 

        “Why, no,” Annie tells me. 

        “Because…?” I ask. 

        “Good heavens,” my client says…“I didn’t want her to think I’m bothering her!” 

        It’s a good thing we’re not on Zoom or my rolling eyes might have been misunderstood.   

        I wasn’t my rolling eyes at my client, you know, but at how often I get this specific response. At least 90% of the time I ask an artist why they haven’t followed up on a lead for a sale, it’s some variety of: I don’t want to presume/assume/bother them/have them think I’m pushy/bug them, etc. 

        I understand both the hesitation and the inherent instinct to be a considerate, polite person. 

        But, seriously, do you want to sell your art?

        In truth, this is a landmine of a mindset.  It’s a conditioned habit born out of a misplaced sense of politeness. 

        And it’s a mindset that will sabotage selling your art every darn time… which is why I roll my eyes. 

        When a mindset gets between you and selling your art, you have to yank out the old mindset before you can plant one that bears the juicy fruit of a dollar sign.  

        3 strategic steps for selling your art

        Our, collective, cultural go-to for selling always implies psychological coercion and manipulation to benefit the seller – the buyer be damned. 

        For decades, carefully calculated advertising research has backed this up where billions are spent on focus groups to get inside our heads and push us to buy, buy, buy. 

        In our psychological, arm-twisting commerce, we have ignored two key human conditions: genuine desire and real need. 

        At its core in any culture over time, commerce is the simple exchange of one benefit for another. I do need a new sofa. I do want what’s around me to be enriching. 

        In this culture, at this historical time, my exchange and your exchange for having these needs met is money.   

        Clean. Direct. Simple. 

        Selling Your Art First Step:   

        A Mindset That Supports You 

        Clean.  

        We all have our money stories. They are a combination of how we were raised, and how we’ve conditioned ourselves to experience making, saving, and spending money.  

        On top of that, we have industry after industry founded upon the premise, and research, that buying is a mindset to be manipulated and controlled.  

        As a result, we have muddied the waters around the bedrock principle of authentic value for selling your art.  

        Yes, value is subjective and, yes, you have responsibility for determining value for yourself. 

        You also have responsibility to become aware of what value means for the people who love your work (buyers and galleries included). 

        Direct. 

        If your artistic vision is paramount, and you know what your art has to offer our collective human experience, then how on Earth can someone be on the receiving end of your creative vision if you are not on the offering end? 

        You have to offer to sell your art before anything else. And, there’s a trick here.

        Simple. 

        Simply put: how can someone buy your work if you are not offering to sell it? 

        The trick is switching your mindset away from selling your art and toward an invitation to buy your art. 

         

        Selling your art is not a transaction

        Selling Your Art Second Step:   

        Enchant, Rinse, and Repeat  

        As intimidating as selling your art may seem, remember that each buyer, each collector, and each gallery dealer is, like you, first and foremost a person. 

        And like you, they respond best when they feel acknowledged and seen. 

        The most graceful way to a buyer’s heart, after they have purchased a piece of your work, is a simple, hand written, Thank You note. 

        The same is true for a gallery you are pursuing. Even if you haven’t broached the subject of representation, sending a hand written, Thank You note immediately after any interaction (talking informally while visiting a gallery, attending an event/opening, etc.) is a thoughtful and kind way to keep you and your art in front of interested parties. 

        Now especially, in our digital wasteland, old-fashioned, hand written notes stand out. They carry a forgotten ambiance, a resonance with old-fashioned courtesy and care.  

        Of course, you have a ready supply of envelops and note cards—with an image of your work on the front (titled + email & phone no.), blank space for writing inside, then a thumbnail of a different piece on the back along with all of your contact information. 

        However, once is not enough when you’re selling your art.  

        The research behind repetition is at the heart of all advertising and has never wavered for multiple decades.  

        You’d be mindful to take advantage of this simple technique for selling your art: after your first note, touch base a second time within six to eight weeks. This is long enough for someone to feel appreciated all over again, but short enough so they haven’t forgotten you.  

        The first note is physical, mailed to a physical address or post box. Your second note needs to be an email so you can invite the person to click on one of the following links that… 

        1. Takes them to your most recent work.   
        1. Takes them to a page where they can sign up for your list.  
        1. Takes them to your most current exhibition.  

        Be sure to personalize the email by noting some aspect of your new work (or a website page you are directing them to) that is aligned with what you know about them. 

        • For your buyer: Perhaps they have an alternative space in their home, where they would have put the original piece they purchased. Except, for reasons they shared with you, that first piece wasn’t exactly right for that spot. But now, you have a piece of work that is right. 
        • For the gallery dealer: Perhaps draw a parallel between your work and the work of an artist they already represent—the boldness of color, the nuance of perspective, etc. 

        This helps them associate you with an artist they already know. For this, it’s imperative that you are accurate, thoughtful, and engaging when you draw a parallel between your work and one of their artists. One way is to invite them to reflect back to you if they also see the same connection you do. 

        Of course, you have a website. Of course you have a third party that keeps your email contacts organized and spam free. And of course you update the work on your website every single month – taking off old work that no longer represents the best of what you are doing now.  

        Selling your art is the art of repetition 

        because it’s not just children who need to hear or see a consistent pattern multiple times. 

        It’s all of us.  

        Selling Your Art Third Step:  

        Be Connected to Commitment and Committed to Connection  

        Here’s a story from a US gallery dealer in the southwest: 

        A Canadian artist stopped to visit, portfolio in hand, and asked for representation on the spot. The dealer, however, had a full stable, so he declined, but did indicate he liked her work. 

        Once the artist returned home, she sent him an email with a link to one of her newest pieces. 

        He clicked on the link, again liked the work, and emailed back a polite note. 

        The next week, the artist sent a new link to new work (being prolific helps!). Again he clicked on the link, looked at the work, but did not email her back. 

        The next week, here came another email from the artist. This time the dealer did not click on the link and did not respond to her email. 

        She emailed him a new piece of work every week for an entire year. And for an entire year all the dealer did was delete her emails. 

        Then, something happened. The dealer lost one of his artists. He had an opening… and who did he think of first (repetition!). And who did he invite for representation (repetition!)? 

        Yup, that artist who didn’t for one minute worry about annoying the dealer. 

        Note: her emails were short, consistent, and always friendly. And, I’m sure, if he’d asked her to stop sending emails, she would have. 

        Plus, besides keeping her work in front of the dealer, she was also showcasing that you could keep up with gallery demand should her work prove to be a best seller. Nothing frustrate a gallery dealer more than representing an artist who can’t keep up with demand. 

        The point is not to duplicate this artist’s story (though, in some cases, it might be a perfect strategy), the point is to understand that… 

        value is a two-way street

        After that, develop follow-up strategies aligned with your belief. 

        Which inspires others to experience the value of your work. 

        And, maybe, just maybe… send that email with new work once every three weeks. 

        ————————————————————————————————– 

        Unswerving belief in your work is the mindset for selling your art.  

        The practical key for selling your art is consistent repetition. 

        ———————————————————————————————— 

        As for bothering someone… here’s the rest of Artist Annie’s story: 

        After Annie confessed that she didn’t want to bother her former collector, I suggested that she write a simple email, reference their conversation, and say that she had some new work, which might be perfect for her former collector’s vacation home, and would she like to look at it? 

        Turned out the collector was thrilled to hear from Annie (please, note the word “thrilled” because I do not use it lightly!). 

        The collector asked to see the new work and immediately purchased two more pieces for her vacation home. 

        Moral? 

        Do not over estimated nor under estimate, the art of bothering someone. 

        ============================================= 

        So, when has “bothering” someone landed you exactly what you wanted? 

        ============================================= 

         

        Ariane Goodwin's signature file

        Whenever you’re ready to update your artist statement, or even write your first one, join my waitlist for: Writing The Artist Statement eBook & Ambitious Bundle. 

        It’s not enough to know what an artist statement is. You need to know how to write one! 

        This new 3rd edition eBook with its Ambitious Bundle takes you from head scratching to a polished, compelling artist statement. Check it out! 

          HOW TO RELISH YOUR ARTIST STATEMENT 

          HOW TO RELISH YOUR ARTIST STATEMENT 

          Here’s two things I know to be true about artist statements:  

          1. An immediate, very human desire arises when someone is moved by your art: to know more about the person who moved them. Simple. Undeniable. 
          2.  At the outset, an artist statement may be used for art patrons, gallery owners, websites, applications (grants/residencies, etc.), press releases, etc., but more than that, it’s also for you, the artist. Here’s an Artist Statement Stress Test: A True Story 

            I suggested to one of my private clients that he display an “art” statement beside each of his sculptures for an major exhibition. 

            Wait… let’s back up. What’s an Art Statement? 

            An Art Statement is an artist statement tailored to an individual piece of art. Instead of a succinct, overview of your artistic vision, the Art Statement sticks to a single piece.  

            Now, Back To Our Artist Statement Story… 

            Before his solo, sculpture exhibit, he and I talked at length about presentation strategies. 

            If you’re going to the trouble of writing a statement, then making sure it’s easy to access and read just makes sense. 

            I was pleased, when I attended the exhibit, with how he’d mounted each typed “art statement,” on handmade paper,  at the top of a thin, metal pole set in a simple disc on the floor.  

            Those typed statements were assembled at the perfect height. A viewer could walk right up and read it. And, even if someone else was peering over the first person’s shoulder, the font size and word placement allowed that second, or even third, person to read it too.  

            His presentation followed all the best practices I’d put together. But what I observed, as over 200 guests mingled in and around his pieces, truly astounded me. 

            Written Artist Statements Are Innately Compelling. 

            The caveat: when presented well!  

            I make this claim because of my first-hand experience during a long evening of quiet observation. 

            As I too mingled with the guests this happened: whenever someone approached a sculpture, they would glance at his piece, then immediately turn their head to read his art statement for that piece. 

            After reading, they would turn back to look at the piece with an appreciative nod or smile. These weren’t cursory observations. They would lean in and study the sculpture, walk around it, talk about it, then walk around it some more. 

            Once in a while, they would return to the art statement again. Then back to the sculpture. 

            You could almost see, on their faces, how their brains were connecting with what they saw (visual language) with what they read (word language). 

            And this happened over and over and over again… confirming what I’ve suspected all along… 

            The Heart of an Artist Statement Embraces a Deep Truth… 

            When your statement is effective and presented with care, that statement creates an engaging, meaningful connection to your artwork because it ignites our human thirst for story. 

          Blog 4 Ariane Goodwin The Heart of an Artist Statement Embraces a Deep Truth

          And that’s not all it does. 

          Once you fan the flames of an engaging story, that goes on to trigger someone’s long-term  memory.  

          Connecting your visual language with word language builds neural connections in the viewer’s brain about you and your work, because it immerses the viewer in not just one, but two languages: visual and linguistic. 

          As the viewers read those art statements that night, and then looked more closely at the sculptures, they also began a conversation with the people near them about the connections they were seeing between what they read and what they saw.  

          Between these two, different forms of creative expression. 

          This highlights some of the brain research in science communications that shows how thinking about a narrative, and talking to others, reinforces our memory and, over time, can drive a broader change in attitudes—quite literally changing aspects of our world. 

          In an interview with Liz Neeley, a scientist working in science communications, the host of NPR’s Short Wave podcast, Maddie Sofia, gave Neeley the opportunity to make two points: 

          1. Word narratives are so powerful they can “shift stereotypes” about who we are.
          2. Research data suggests that people remember things better, and are more engaged by stories, over a list of facts, like a resume or artist bio. 

          Blog 4 Ariane Goodwin Word narratives are so powerful quote

          Imagine the implications of these two points for the people in your world who love your work. 

          An Artist Statement can, subtly, alter some of the artist myths and stereotypes floating around. And simultaneously, help you and your work stay longer in your viewers’ brains. 

          Why would any rational artist give up learning to wield this kind of power? 

          It’s a question that haunts my sleep. 

          Artist Statements: What’s Good for the Viewer is Even Better For the Artist. 

          Writing an artist statement is not easy. 

          Oh, I know, all kinds of artist advocates might use the “5 Easy Steps to Writing Your Artist Statement” to persuade you otherwise. 

          And, if you’re a surface-level kind of artist, who doesn’t enjoy digging into their psyche for hidden material, I suppose you could write an artist statement that would hit all the surface benchmarks. 

          What a surface-level artist statement can never do is give you the kind of insight into your own artistic process that signals to your viewer, “Ah, now this is fascinating. This is compelling…” 

          At best, it passes English 101. At worst, it comes off trite, inauthentic, and padded with generalizations. 

          Once you’ve decided to use writing your artist statement as a way to deepen, enrich, and expand your relationship to your artistic process, you’ll find the exercise gives you a surprising and new way to reflect upon your work. 

          It’s not at all unusual, when I’m working with a private client, to get some variation of what my most recent client, a mid-career professional artist, said to me: 

          I didn’t think I would have anything to say but there are all these  words and phrases and sentences coming out now…L.A. 

          And that was followed by pages of material she’s uncovered, all waiting inside her psyche for permission to show up. 

          It Takes Courage to go Into the Heart of Your Artistic Process… 

          … and bring the intuitive into consciousness. 

          The magic happens when you search for words that truly reflect your relationship to your art, and experience an upsurge in your creative flow. 

          Surprising benefits show up whenever we tackle a form of self-expression that pushes us out of our comfort zone. Like sweat from physical exertion, the very struggle gets our juices flowing. 

          One of the great keys to creativity is to work against the grain,  get out of familiar mindsets, and shake things up. And for artists, whose very practice is founded on being unique, it can be hard to recognize when a pattern has become familiar. 

          For prospective art buyers, your artist statement will draw them closer to your work. For you, the artist, writing your artist statement gives you an opportunity to deepen your own awareness. 

          I mean, what’s not to love? 

          Writing my artist statement gave me a chance to focus on myself. It opened up more creative juice and self-expression than I had experienced in a long time. Taming my internal critic, and the roadblocks to my inner mind, gave me new skills to express my heartfelt emotions to others. 

          Working on my statement gave me the opportunity to delve into my inner soul and reflect on the science of “me.” When I took the time to evaluate what, how and why I do what I do, it refined my work and gave me a fresh, determined self-confidence that I had lacked before.  

          ~ Norbert Ohnmacht, sculptor 

          ***** 

          Nine Reasons to Banish Resistance & Relish Your Artist Statement 

          For The Artist:

          Writing an artist statement asks you to, once and for all, recognize the faces of your true self: Truth. Power. Beauty. 

          • You may feel the relationship you have with your work is already pretty strong. But once you write your artist statement, I promise you’ll lift way above your level. 
          • Writing an artist statement affirms what you do, and so, by extension, also affirms you. And who would give up being affirmed? 
          • Self-trust can be hard to come by. Writing your artist statement makes another statement about you:  that you trust yourself enough to flow into another realm of creative expression.  
          • Writing your artist statement invites you to experience an expanded awareness about yourself and your art. Given a chance to update your own art experience, why wouldn’t you? 
          • Writing your artist statement is a rare and precious time to engage your artistic soul. 

          Digging deep into the artist statement reveals more about your work than even you suspected. Surprise yourself! 

          Blog 4 Ariane Goodwin writing artist statement affirms what you do quote

          For The Viewer, Your Potential Buyer: 

          • Your artist statement builds a compelling bridge between your viewer and your work. Of course your art is the real deal. But when connecting to your potential buyers on  more than one level increases their interest, and thus the likelihood of a sale, why wouldn’t you? 
          • Your artist statement enriches the connection between the artist, the art, and the art patron, and influences how long the memory or your work stays in your viewer’s long-term storage. 
          • Because it is a powerful experience for your viewers when you use the tool of language to support the art you love giving to the world. 

            Drop a line in the blog post comments below. 

            I’d love to know what stage you’re in of the writing-your-artist-statement process.  

            Do tell! 

             Ariane Goodwin's signature file

            Whenever you’re ready to update your artist statement, or even write your first one, join my waitlist for: Writing The Artist Statement eBook & Ambitious Bundle. 

            It’s not enough to know what an artist statement is. You need to know how to write one! 

            This new 3rd edition eBook with its Ambitious Bundle takes you from head scratching to a polished, compelling artist statement. Check it out! 

              YOUR ARTIST STATEMENT… WHY BOTHER? Part 3

              YOUR ARTIST STATEMENT… WHY BOTHER? Part 3

              PART 3: Three More Rational Reasons To Not Write Your Artist Statement…or, 

              Are they really “rational?” 

              In Part 1, I wrote about seven core reasons artists use to rationalize away any need for an artist statement. And then we dove into the first four in Parts 1 & 2. 

              Here’s a quick review of those first four before we finish up with the last three of these seven arguments against writing an artist statement.

              REVIEW of Parts 1 & 2: Four Rational Reasons To Not Write Your Artist Statement 

              Reason No. 1:  I Won’t Write My Artist Statement Because… 

              #1 – My artwork speaks for itself! I mean, what is there to say that someone can’t already see? 

              Under the hood:  

              Fearing words have a power, when mis-used, that could negatively affect a viewer’s opinion of your artwork, speaks to a deeper mistrust of your own ability to use words effectively. 

              When you approach words as just one more tool in your art career toolbox, this resistance relaxes.  

              Reason No. 2: I Won’t Write My Artist Statement Because… 

              No. 2 – Reducing my intuitive, reflective, and emotional creative process to words feels like caging a magnificent beast. 

              Under the hood:  

              Here’s a variation of the “ tyranny of commitment” theme: Words have the unreasonable power to make whatever you write real and unchangeable. You become committed to them for life. 

              Realizing you have the same control over which words you choose (and can delete or change at any time), gives you permission to use your artist statement words not just for your viewers, but to also deepen into your own consciousness about your intuitive ArtLife. 

              Reason No.3: I Won’t Write My Artist Statement Because… 

              No.3 – I want my viewer to draw their own conclusions. I don’t want to interfere or impose on  their interpretation or experience. 

              Under the hood:  

              Of course you don’t want to trample on anyone’s experience of your work. But isn’t the work itself already setting the parameters for what you want someone to experience? 

              It’s no different with your artist statement. Check out if there’s a part of you that has always felt unsafe being too exposed to others; so, putting your relationship to your art in words becomes a trigger for level of unsafe vulnerability. 

              As I said in Part 2: Revealing the true spirit of your work does not mean you don’t have boundaries. This is not a free for all and nothing has to be revealed that doesn’t feel right. 

              Reason No. 4:  I Won’t Write My Artist Statement Because… 

              No.4 – I don’t want my work judged by an artist statement when my true medium is visual. I want my work to stand on its own.  

              Under the hood:  

              Fear of “word magic” increases the fear of word power exponentially. Here, anything you say will be held against you and your art; the double whammy! 

              Remember, the idea is for your artist statement to become a complementary support for your work. Not to replace it. Not to deflect from it. Not to overshadow it. 

              As I said in Part 2: Revealing your relationship to your art creates a vibrant connection that keeps the story going after the artwork has been appreciated on its own. 

              Now, let’s tackle the last three of the seven core Reasons To Not Write Your Artist Statement. 

              ************************************ 

              The No.5 “Reason” Artists Tell Me They Don’t Want To Write An Artist Statement 

              I Won’t Write My Artist Statement Because… 

              No.5 – I don’t want the magic of my creative process demystified by words and left open to criticism. 

              Oh, goodness, two for the price of one: demystification and criticism (in other words,  judgment). 

              In this “reason,” the assumption is that some things are better left unsaid (by the artist), while leaving the door open for all kinds of things to be said by the viewers, art critics, the peanut gallery, etc. 

              I mean, heaven forbid that you, the artist, might weigh in on the discussion.  

              Or that you, the artist, might actually lead the discussion. 

              Because, what would you, the artist, have to contribute to the conversation (all done in words, btw…)? 

              Never mind the assumption that demystification dilutes the magic. Of course, if artist statements are already suspect for you, then this No.5 Reason to not write one will be appealing. 

              But, what if…  

              Reason #5 – I don’t want the magic of my creative process demystified by words and left open to criticism. 

              …isn’t what it seems to be? 

              What’s Really Behind Reason No. 5?   

              The concern that your art magic will be demystified by your artist statement is a cover story for the real culprit: the potential criticism, the fear of being judged. 

              Even though most of us engage in judging others, when it comes to being judged, well… that is a beast with different stripes. Which means our fear of being judged is not entirely unfounded, because we know it’s a real possibility in human give and take. 

              Also, being judged feels embarrassing. Most of us will go out of our way to keep from feeling judged or embarrassed.   

              And if writing an artist statement leaves us open to either, we’ll figure out a seemingly “rational reason” for not doing it. 

              Releasing the Resistance Inside Reason No.5 for Not Writing an Artist Statement 

              First off, let’s demystify the demystifying-your-art-magic concern. 

              One of the beauties of art is how it can transcend language barriers. The universality of images and color and spatial relationships between these connects people on a deep, intuitive level. 

              This is uncontested. 

              Words hold a different kind of power. Which is why it’s fruitless to compare them, as in “a picture is worth a thousand words.” 

              Because word-language is basic to all of human interaction, it holds a primary place in our quest for understanding and meaning-making. It’s the basis of story, the oldest form of social connection. 

              Words excite specific areas of our brain. Words excite our imaginations. 

              The sharp tang of the cut orange peel rushed into my nose, even as it stung the cut on my finger, which had rested too close to the knife. 

              Try that with paint, or marble, or metal, or fabric… 

              You might execute the imagery, but the words ignite the smell and kinesthetic feelings that that translate into a direct sensation because of an odd truth about our brains.  

              Brains do not distinguish between the physical experience, and the same experience played out imaginatively.  

              It’s this kind of word power, when added to the power of your art, that creates the ultimate magic: exciting all of your viewers’ imaginations, visual and verbal (words). 

              But what about the potential criticism you leave yourself open to when you write an artist statement? 

              It’s important to remember that an artist statement is not an art critique; these are very different approaches to writing about art. 

              Your  artist statement is a bridge between what the viewer sees and what the viewer thinks about your work.  You artist statement revolves around your relationship to your art, not a critique about your art. 

              It reveals something (not everything) about this relationship that gives the viewer the sense they get to “peek into your studio while you’re working.” 

               It makes them feel more connected to you and what you do, not less. 

              And whom, may I ask  is better qualified to do this than you, the artist? 

              As I write in my book  

              (paraphrasing…) In the end, the best protection against the embarrassment of being judged or criticized, is to arm yourself with the truth, and the skill to reveal it.  

              You are the one who holds the truth about your art, no one else. 

              ***** 

              The No.6 “Reason” Artists Tell Me They Don’t Want To Write An Artist Statement 

              This reason smacks of visual-art elitism.  Art is everything; nothing else can compare. 

              Ouch. 

              I Won’t Write My Artist Statement Because… 

              No.6 – Words are too limiting while art is boundless. 

              I suspect Reason No.6 arises from the fact that a visual artist , by definition, is attuned to visual expression in a very direct, very compelling way. 

              What amuses me is that because of this overwhelming visual sensitivity (talent), artists dismiss or forget that word language has always been alongside their visual acuity.  

              It’s been with them as soon after birth as they began to mimic the caretakers around them and “speak,” in whatever word or sign language (also words) was in their environment. 

              So, maybe, just maybe… 

               Reason No.6 – I don’Words are too limiting while art is boundless isn’t what it seems to be… 

              What’s Behind Reason No. 6? 

              Words are your human birthright. 

              But if the words you think and speak every day are so taken for granted, so commonplace, so universally accepted that they become, in some sense, less than your celebrated talent for visual expression, this sets you up to dismiss their potential contribution to your artistic process. 

              And in this unconscious ignorance of the foundational existence and importance of words—every day of your life—you are more likely to misplace your visual talents as top dog in some kind of unconscious hierarchy of importance. 

              And then you land here: art = boundless / words = unacceptable limits 

              Releasing the Resistance Inside Reason No.6 for Not Writing your Artist Statement 

              Take your art off the pedestal and let it stand side-by-side with your words. Think of words as an extension of your art that can increase the vibrancy and connection your visual talent has made for a viewer. 

              Think of visual language and word language as partners in creating an indelible bond between you the artist, and the viewer who wants to own your work. 

              Offer this viewer, wowed by your work, insight into who you are as the artist that created this magnificent piece of art. Offer them another layer of complexity that cannot be “seen” by the work itself. 

              Give them more. Surprise them with an even richer connection. 

              Surprise yourself. 

              ***** 

              The No.7 “Reason” Artists Tell Me They Don’t Want To Write An Artist Statement   

              I Won’t Write My Artist Statement Because… 

              #7– The canvass is my mirror, and the strokes of my brush reveal more about me than an artist statement. 

              This reason has two flaws: 

              1. This artist assumes their viewer can decode what’s behind the artist’s visual language, which is nonsensical on its face. 
              1. This artist is also transferring the responsibility of bringing unconscious material into conscious awareness to their viewer. 

              Only the artist knows what those strokes mean to them. Only if the artist uses words to articulate the connection between brush strokes and what is “being revealed,” will the viewer have any chance of understanding that connection. 

              Hmmm, let’s see why Reason No.7 isn’t what it seems to be… 

              What’s Behind Reason No.7 

              What I find most intriguing about this reason is how it speaks to truth. 

              Indeed, your work of art is a direct reflection of you, the artist. The two of you are forever entwined in a creative experience; one cannot exist without the other. 

              But… truths can be tricky, especially when one truth is simultaneously hiding another. 

              In this case, the truth—that  your art is a mirror, revealing important aspects of your artistic psyche—fails to acknowledge that the “reveal” is private and hidden, only available to the artist. 

              This means that writing your artist statement will directly and intentionally bring what is hidden into the presence of others. 

              Which may unconsciously threaten an artist who feels, for whatever reasonable reason, unsafe. Or who feels vulnerability is to be avoided. Or who doesn’t want to be judged or criticized (sound familiar?). 

              Let’s see what we can do with all of this, yes? 

              Releasing the Resistance Inside Reason No.7 for Not Writing an Artist Statement 

              I’ll remind you:  

              You, the artist, are in control of the word language you choose. You are in control of what you decide to share in your artist statement. 

              There is a soft landing on what will increase a viewer’s experience of your work, and the elements you choose to reveal  that feel right to you. 

              You can pull back the curtain enough to create an expanded art experience for your viewer that also honors your privacy. 

              This is not a win or lose proposition. It’s a win/win all the way around. 

              Because, isn’t that what it’s all about: connecting to others, sharing your visions with the world? 

              At least Reason No.7 admits that there is, indeed, something in the artistic process and production of a piece that reveals an artist’s psyche. 

              Which is why I end all of my emails with this salutation: 

              Revealing the true spirit of your work is the work. 

              What’s Next: 

              You know, I’m not really sure. I’m toying with writing about Art Sales next. But I may head in a different direction with artist statements. 

              It’ll be a mystery to us both. 

              Drop a line in the blog post comments below. 

              I’d love to know if you see yourself in any of these 7 reasons why artists won’t write their artist statement! 

              Whenever you’re ready to update your artist statement, or even write your first one, join my waitlist for: Writing The Artist Statement eBook & Ambitious Bundle. 

              It’s not enough to know what an artist statement is. You need to know how to write one! 

              This new 3rd edition eBook with its Ambitious Bundle takes you from head scratching to a polished, compelling artist statement. Check it out! 

              YOUR ARTIST STATEMENT… WHY BOTHER? Part 2

              YOUR ARTIST STATEMENT… WHY BOTHER? Part 2

              PART 2: Peeling back the layers on …Four Rational Reasons To Not Write Your Artist Statement…or,

              Are they really “rational?”

              In Part 1, I wrote about seven core reasons artists use to rationalize away any need for an artist statement. And then we dove into the first four.

              Here’s a quick review of those first four before we peek under the artist psyche-hood and see what’s simmering behind these rational arguments against writing an artist statement.

              Reason No. 1:  I Won’t Write My Artist Statement Because…

              #1 – My artwork speaks for itself! I mean, what is there to say that someone can’t already see?

              Reason No. 2: I Won’t Write My Artist Statement Because…

              No. 2 – Reducing my intuitive, reflective, and emotional creative process to words feels like caging a magnificent beast.

              Reason No.3: I Won’t Write My Artist Statement Because…

              No.3 – I want my viewer to draw their own conclusions. I don’t want to interfere or impose on  their interpretation or experience.

              Reason No. 4:  I Won’t Write My Artist Statement Because…

              No.4 – I don’t want my work judged by an artist statement when my true medium is visual. I want my work to stand on its own. 

              Now it’s time to look under the artist psyche-hood and see who’s actually calling the shots here.

              Let’s see if there’s anyone you recognize…

              The No.1 “Reason” Artists Tell Me They Don’t Want To Write An Artist Statement

              This reason is miles ahead of all the others. It carries the hubris of an artist strutting their stuff, with a withering dismissal in the process.

              #1 – My artwork speaks for itself! I mean, what is there to say that someone can’t already see?

              This reason is hard at work to marry confidence, self-assurance and support for one’s work while deflecting it’s arrogant edge.

              As I wrote in Part 1: This reason works by virtue of an unspoken hierarchy: visual language bests word-language, as in a picture is worth a thousand words.

              But, since everyone loses when exclusion takes over, may I suggest that the more effective perspective is not this or that, but this and also that.

              However….

              I Won’t Write My Artist Statement Because…

              #1 – My artwork speaks for itself! I mean, what is there to say that someone can’t already see?

              Or its close cousin:

              Words can never express the true nature and beauty of my work. My work speaks for itself.

              … isn’t what it seems to be.

              What’s Really Behind Rational Reason No. 1?  

              The positive, life-affirming tone of — My work speaks for itself. — sounds independent,  self-assured, even grand. 

              So, it’s pretty tricky to figure out who’s pulling the strings behind ye-old-positivity mask. 

              One clue is the sense that this artist has landed so firmly in soft cement, that they don’t realize how quickly it hardens. There is no flexibility in this reason, none;  rigid to the core. 

              On a scale of one to ten, the artist here is ready to entertain a different opinion? 

              Zero. Zip. Zilch.

              Inside Reason No.1,  language becomes an evil alchemist, ready to wave its word-wand and… Presto! The incredibly shrinking art work! By the time diabolically clever words destroy the “true nature and beauty” of your art, you couldn’t find it with a high-powered microscope.

              Drill down further, and maybe this artist has a lurking fear about their work. That it really isn’t as marvelous as they would like. That they’re a fraud. Or as I say in my book on artist statements: That, in the Land of OZ, there is someone else behind the curtain?

              Releasing the Resistance Inside Rational Reason No.1 for Not Writing an Artist Statement

              What if you consider words another tool in your artwork toolbox?

              How you use them is your choice. It’s in your control to say and write what you truly believe. And when you write about your work, it means you take yourself seriously at more levels than visual expression.

              Consider the writing process an extension of your creative journey because different forms of self-expression not only deepen how others experience what you do, writing about your work has the power to spark new insights and influence what you do in the studio.

              The No.2 “Reason” Artists Tell Me They Don’t Want To Write An Artist Statement

              Even though there’s honest resistance going on behind this “reason,” you know something’s up when the reason is ridiculous right out of the gate.

              #2 – Reducing my intuitive, reflective, and emotional creative process to words feels like caging a magnificent beast.

              Think about it: artists are constantly reducing everything they do.

              They start out with a block of wood and reduce it to the vision in their inner sight.

              They start out with an entire palate of colors, and reduce it to the few they decide to use. 

               

              They start out with a range of subjects, then selectively reduce the photograph to a single frame.  

              Oh, but words are different. Eyup! They have evil magic that reduces the artwork to… what? Dust? A single exclamation point. A raging rhino?

              What?

              Has this rational reason not considered that words have the same variable range as any other creative process? And the artist is as free to choose one word over another? Delete, erase, or replace?

              So, maybe Reason No.2 isn’t what it seems to be…

              What’s Behind Rational Reason No. 2?

              Once again, this reason implies that words have a malicious power able to imprison the work; cage it in another realm of time and space from which there is no escape.

              I dare say this is a fine, fine example of Fear of Commitment, with some Word Glue thrown in to make it stick. Dare to write down one, little thing about your art, and you are forever committed. 

              Words have the unreasonable power to make whatever you write real and unchangeable. 

              As if the act of writing something down on paper establishes its own tyranny and you and your art become a powerless prisoner of language. The artist-statement soft-cement you’ve stepped into has finally hardened around your creative ankles.

              Releasing the Resistance Inside Rational Reason No.2 for Not Writing an Artist Statement

              But, hey! Being born is a commitment. So is choosing that color over those colors. Or that piece of oak over the walnut. Or wire and fishing hooks over discarded water bottles.

              Your artist statement is no more bound to time and space than they work in your studio. And that doesn’t seem to elicit a heart pounding anxiety, so what’s up with words that feel so different?

              Switching to word-language offers you a way to deepen into your own consciousness about your intuitive ArtLife. It’s an opportunity to offer a different kind of richness and complexity that only heightens a viewer’s experience.

              The caveat being… when the artist statement is compelling and as unique as your work.

              The No.3 “Reason” Artists Tell Me They Don’t Want To Write An Artist Statement  

              Goodness, such concern artists seem to have over the power words hold over them, but no concern when it comes to the power of their art materials.

              #3 – I want my viewer to draw their own conclusions. I don’t want to interfere or impose on  their interpretation or experience.

              This reason has two flaws:

              1. Who truly believes any of us are in control of what another experiences?
              1. If you aim for an “explanation” of your work, or a “roadmap to what someone should be experiencing when they see it,” you’ve missed the entire purpose of an artist statement.

              If you are doing it right, your artist statement is not telling, or explaining, it’s revealing your relationship to the piece they’re viewing.

              But what if you haven’t taken time to reflect on your relationship to your creative process and the artwork that your creative process produces?

              Hmmm, maybe Reason No.3 isn’t what it seems to be…

              What’s Behind Rational Reason No.3

              Deferring to others is a hallowed pastime of almost every woman I’ve ever known. Once in while a man will fall into this category of human behavior. In both cases, the deference is considered “polite,” or “kind,” or “considerate.

              All of which may be absolutely true. 

              And the rationale behind Reason No.3—I don’t want to interfere or impose (myself) on someone else’s experience…—falls squarely into this quasi-truth camp. However, I suspect that it’s the intimacy behind an authentic artist statement that quietly controls this story.

              When we are uncomfortable or unsure, it’s easier to focus on someone else. And for a lot of us, if we’ve experienced a past trauma that still lingers in our system, revealing ourselves can feel unsafe. Maybe even a bit dangerous.

              So, definitely, don’t get involved in your audience’s experience of your work. And whatever you do, don’t expose your own perspective on your work. That’s a target on your back for sure.

              The truly sad aspect of this “reason” is how it uses a deep truth—that connection between the artist and the viewer is a good thing—and flips it to imply that any connection could harbor an unseen threat. 

              If you have any angst about artist statements, this reason gives you an emotionally credible out, cleverly disguised as a thoughtful, considerate gesture of respect.

              And if you peel back another layer, it further insinuates that what you reveal about yourself has the power to harm others by offering the power of your perspective. Yikes!  

              If some part of you has always felt safer hiding out,  this rational reason lets you off the hook. 

              Its mission is to make you believe that revealing who you are is your own worst enemy. 

              Please, don’t buy it.

              Releasing the Resistance Inside Rational Reason No.3 for Not Writing an Artist Statement

              Revealing the true spirit of your work does not mean you don’t have boundaries. This is not a free for all and nothing has to be revealed that doesn’t feel right.

              Revealing appropriately, with insight, candor, and personal truth draws people closer to you and your art.

              As I say in my book:

              When you reveal, you invite connection. When you invite connection, you open up the channel for good things to flow toward you. Yes, the opposite might happen (fear stage whispers), but when you have nothing to hide (that’s what revealing is about, not hiding), the fear that you might be exposed is preempted.

              Your artist statement provides a deeper context without dictating a singular interpretation or meaning because it’s your point of view. You aren’t telling people what to think; you’re offering a personal perspective on what you, the artist, thinks. And in so doing, you offer people another way to connect with you.

              And isn’t that what it’s all about: connecting to others, sharing our visions with the world?

              The No.4 “Reason” Artists Tell Me They Don’t Want To Write An Artist Statement  

              As I said in Part 1, this is a variation on Reason No. 1 (visual language vs the language of words), but with a couple of twists: judgment alongside the stand-on-its-own rationale.

              #4 – I don’t want my work judged by an artist statement when my true medium is visual. I want my work to stand on its own. 

              I want my work to stand on its own is factually impossible because the work, by its very existence, points directly to the artist who created it.

              You can create physical distance from your work. You can refrain from interviews, or documentaries (though I really don’t know artists who do either). But you can never, ever be divorced from the energetic reality of having created the work.

              You and your creation are inseparable, which ignites one of the mysteries that draws people to your work, and thus to you.

              Maybe Reason No.4 isn’t what it seems to be…

              What’s Behind Rational Reason No.4:   

              I don’t want my work judged (by an artist statement) means you want your artwork to do all the heavy lifting—by itself.

              This reason quivers under a fear of artistic intimacy vis a vi the viewer.  

              I call this fear of Word Magic.

              And in my book on writing artist statements, I explain it like this:

              Deep down, you believe that words hold a mysterious power, which automatically makes something true about you. Of course this “something” is always a bad thing. Somehow, this same mysterious power evaporates when you try to use words to say something good about yourself. 

              Under their spell, words become evil magicians who render you incapable of writing a valid, engaging, and honest perspective of your work. In a flash, your naturally gorgeous tail feathers are turned into the gaudy fan of a peacock strutting around.

              Releasing the Resistance Inside Rational Reason No.4 for Not Writing an Artist Statement

              It’s obvious that your work speaks for itself. And an artist statement does not quibble with this.

              An artist statement also speaks for itself. Neither of these alternate voices drowns out the other. In fact, when done with intention and thoughtfulness, an artist statement expands the influence of your visual work.

              The artwork and the statement support each other; but in the end, they stand on their own. Which is why it’s so important to lean into writing the most compelling, evocative statement you can.

              Revealing your relationship to your art creates a vibrant connection that keeps the story going after the artwork has been appreciated on its own.

              Your artistic journey is a powerful component of your studio work. Offering aspects of this journey provides a roadmap for viewers to navigate your work in a different medium—word language.

              How exciting would it be to have an extension of your artistic magic in word language so the viewer experiences more bonding with you and your work, , not less.

              What’s Next:

              In Part 3, we’ll explore the last three core reasons.

              ———————————————————————————————————

              Whenever you’re ready to update your artist statement, or even write your first one, join my waitlist for: Writing The Artist Statement eBook & Ambitious Bundle.

              It’s not enough to know what an artist statement is. You need to know how to write one!

              This new 3rd edition eBook with it’s Ambitious Bundle takes you from head scratching to a polished, compelling artist statement. Check it out!

              Art Career Reflections Blog

              Artist Statement

              Why Bother
              PART 2: Peeling back
              the layers

              PART 2: Peeling back the layers on …

              Four Rational Reasons To Not Write Your Artist Statement…or,

              Are they really “rational?”

              In Part 1, I wrote about seven core reasons artists use to rationalize away any need for an artist statement. And then we dove into the first four.

              Here’s a quick review of those first four before we peek under the artist psyche-hood and see what’s simmering behind these rational arguments against writing an artist statement.

              Reason No. 1:  I Won’t Write My Artist Statement Because…

              #1 – My artwork speaks for itself! I mean, what is there to say that someone can’t already see?

              Reason No. 2: I Won’t Write My Artist Statement Because…

              No. 2 – Reducing my intuitive, reflective, and emotional creative process to words feels like caging a magnificent beast.

              Reason No.3: I Won’t Write My Artist Statement Because…

              No.3 – I want my viewer to draw their own conclusions. I don’t want to interfere or impose on  their interpretation or experience.

              Reason No. 4:  I Won’t Write My Artist Statement Because…

              No.4 – I don’t want my work judged by an artist statement when my true medium is visual. I want my work to stand on its own. 

              Now it’s time to look under the artist psyche-hood and see who’s actually calling the shots here.

              Let’s see if there’s anyone you recognize…

              The No.1 “Reason” Artists Tell Me They Don’t Want To Write An Artist Statement

              This reason is miles ahead of all the others. It carries the hubris of an artist strutting their stuff, with a withering dismissal in the process.

              #1 – My artwork speaks for itself! I mean, what is there to say that someone can’t already see?

              This reason is hard at work to marry confidence, self-assurance and support for one’s work while deflecting it’s arrogant edge.

              As I wrote in Part 1: This reason works by virtue of an unspoken hierarchy: visual language bests word-language, as in a picture is worth a thousand words.

              But, since everyone loses when exclusion takes over, may I suggest that the more effective perspective is not this or that, but this and also that.

              However….

              I Won’t Write My Artist Statement Because…

              #1 – My artwork speaks for itself! I mean, what is there to say that someone can’t already see?

              Or its close cousin:

              Words can never express the true nature and beauty of my work. My work speaks for itself.

              … isn’t what it seems to be.

              What’s Really Behind Rational Reason No. 1?  

              The positive, life-affirming tone of — My work speaks for itself. — sounds independent,  self-assured, even grand. 

              So, it’s pretty tricky to figure out who’s pulling the strings behind ye-old-positivity mask. 

              One clue is the sense that this artist has landed so firmly in soft cement, that they don’t realize how quickly it hardens. There is no flexibility in this reason, none;  rigid to the core. 

              On a scale of one to ten, the artist here is ready to entertain a different opinion? 

              Zero. Zip. Zilch.

              Inside Reason No.1,  language becomes an evil alchemist, ready to wave its word-wand and… Presto! The incredibly shrinking art work! By the time diabolically clever words destroy the “true nature and beauty” of your art, you couldn’t find it with a high-powered microscope.

              Drill down further, and maybe this artist has a lurking fear about their work. That it really isn’t as marvelous as they would like. That they’re a fraud. Or as I say in my book on artist statements: That, in the Land of OZ, there is someone else behind the curtain?

              Releasing the Resistance Inside Rational Reason No.1 for Not Writing an Artist Statement

              What if you consider words another tool in your artwork toolbox?

              How you use them is your choice. It’s in your control to say and write what you truly believe. And when you write about your work, it means you take yourself seriously at more levels than visual expression.

              Consider the writing process an extension of your creative journey because different forms of self-expression not only deepen how others experience what you do, writing about your work has the power to spark new insights and influence what you do in the studio.

              The No.2 “Reason” Artists Tell Me They Don’t Want To Write An Artist Statement

              Even though there’s honest resistance going on behind this “reason,” you know something’s up when the reason is ridiculous right out of the gate.

              #2 – Reducing my intuitive, reflective, and emotional creative process to words feels like caging a magnificent beast.

              Think about it: artists are constantly reducing everything they do.

              They start out with a block of wood and reduce it to the vision in their inner sight.

              They start out with an entire palate of colors, and reduce it to the few they decide to use. 

               

              They start out with a range of subjects, then selectively reduce the photograph to a single frame.  

              Oh, but words are different. Eyup! They have evil magic that reduces the artwork to… what? Dust? A single exclamation point. A raging rhino?

              What?

              Has this rational reason not considered that words have the same variable range as any other creative process? And the artist is as free to choose one word over another? Delete, erase, or replace?

              So, maybe Reason No.2 isn’t what it seems to be…

              What’s Behind Rational Reason No. 2?

              Once again, this reason implies that words have a malicious power able to imprison the work; cage it in another realm of time and space from which there is no escape.

              I dare say this is a fine, fine example of Fear of Commitment, with some Word Glue thrown in to make it stick. Dare to write down one, little thing about your art, and you are forever committed. 

              Words have the unreasonable power to make whatever you write real and unchangeable. 

              As if the act of writing something down on paper establishes its own tyranny and you and your art become a powerless prisoner of language. The artist-statement soft-cement you’ve stepped into has finally hardened around your creative ankles.

              Releasing the Resistance Inside Rational Reason No.2 for Not Writing an Artist Statement

              But, hey! Being born is a commitment. So is choosing that color over those colors. Or that piece of oak over the walnut. Or wire and fishing hooks over discarded water bottles.

              Your artist statement is no more bound to time and space than they work in your studio. And that doesn’t seem to elicit a heart pounding anxiety, so what’s up with words that feel so different?

              Switching to word-language offers you a way to deepen into your own consciousness about your intuitive ArtLife. It’s an opportunity to offer a different kind of richness and complexity that only heightens a viewer’s experience.

              The caveat being… when the artist statement is compelling and as unique as your work.

              The No.3 “Reason” Artists Tell Me They Don’t Want To Write An Artist Statement  

              Goodness, such concern artists seem to have over the power words hold over them, but no concern when it comes to the power of their art materials.

              #3 – I want my viewer to draw their own conclusions. I don’t want to interfere or impose on  their interpretation or experience.

              This reason has two flaws:

              1. Who truly believes any of us are in control of what another experiences?

              1. If you aim for an “explanation” of your work, or a “roadmap to what someone should be experiencing when they see it,” you’ve missed the entire purpose of an artist statement.

              If you are doing it right, your artist statement is not telling, or explaining, it’s revealing your relationship to the piece they’re viewing.

              But what if you haven’t taken time to reflect on your relationship to your creative process and the artwork that your creative process produces?

              Hmmm, maybe Reason No.3 isn’t what it seems to be…

              What’s Behind Rational Reason No.3

              Deferring to others is a hallowed pastime of almost every woman I’ve ever known. Once in while a man will fall into this category of human behavior. In both cases, the deference is considered “polite,” or “kind,” or “considerate.

              All of which may be absolutely true. 

              And the rationale behind Reason No.3—I don’t want to interfere or impose (myself) on someone else’s experience…—falls squarely into this quasi-truth camp. However, I suspect that it’s the intimacy behind an authentic artist statement that quietly controls this story.

              When we are uncomfortable or unsure, it’s easier to focus on someone else. And for a lot of us, if we’ve experienced a past trauma that still lingers in our system, revealing ourselves can feel unsafe. Maybe even a bit dangerous.

              So, definitely, don’t get involved in your audience’s experience of your work. And whatever you do, don’t expose your own perspective on your work. That’s a target on your back for sure.

              The truly sad aspect of this “reason” is how it uses a deep truth—that connection between the artist and the viewer is a good thing—and flips it to imply that any connection could harbor an unseen threat. 

              If you have any angst about artist statements, this reason gives you an emotionally credible out, cleverly disguised as a thoughtful, considerate gesture of respect.

              And if you peel back another layer, it further insinuates that what you reveal about yourself has the power to harm others by offering the power of your perspective. Yikes!  

              If some part of you has always felt safer hiding out,  this rational reason lets you off the hook. 

              Its mission is to make you believe that revealing who you are is your own worst enemy. 

              Please, don’t buy it.

              Releasing the Resistance Inside Rational Reason No.3 for Not Writing an Artist Statement

              Revealing the true spirit of your work does not mean you don’t have boundaries. This is not a free for all and nothing has to be revealed that doesn’t feel right.

              Revealing appropriately, with insight, candor, and personal truth draws people closer to you and your art.

              As I say in my book:

              When you reveal, you invite connection. When you invite connection, you open up the channel for good things to flow toward you. Yes, the opposite might happen (fear stage whispers), but when you have nothing to hide (that’s what revealing is about, not hiding), the fear that you might be exposed is preempted.

              Your artist statement provides a deeper context without dictating a singular interpretation or meaning because it’s your point of view. You aren’t telling people what to think; you’re offering a personal perspective on what you, the artist, thinks. And in so doing, you offer people another way to connect with you.

              And isn’t that what it’s all about: connecting to others, sharing our visions with the world?

              The No.4 “Reason” Artists Tell Me They Don’t Want To Write An Artist Statement  

              As I said in Part 1, this is a variation on Reason No. 1 (visual language vs the language of words), but with a couple of twists: judgment alongside the stand-on-its-own rationale.

              #4 – I don’t want my work judged by an artist statement when my true medium is visual. I want my work to stand on its own. 

              I want my work to stand on its own is factually impossible because the work, by its very existence, points directly to the artist who created it.

              You can create physical distance from your work. You can refrain from interviews, or documentaries (though I really don’t know artists who do either). But you can never, ever be divorced from the energetic reality of having created the work.

              You and your creation are inseparable, which ignites one of the mysteries that draws people to your work, and thus to you.

              Maybe Reason No.4 isn’t what it seems to be…

              What’s Behind Rational Reason No.4:   

              I don’t want my work judged (by an artist statement) means you want your artwork to do all the heavy lifting—by itself.

              This reason quivers under a fear of artistic intimacy vis a vi the viewer.  

              I call this fear of Word Magic.

              And in my book on writing artist statements, I explain it like this:

              Deep down, you believe that words hold a mysterious power, which automatically makes something true about you. Of course this “something” is always a bad thing. Somehow, this same mysterious power evaporates when you try to use words to say something good about yourself. 

              Under their spell, words become evil magicians who render you incapable of writing a valid, engaging, and honest perspective of your work. In a flash, your naturally gorgeous tail feathers are turned into the gaudy fan of a peacock strutting around.

              Releasing the Resistance Inside Rational Reason No.4 for Not Writing an Artist Statement

              It’s obvious that your work speaks for itself. And an artist statement does not quibble with this.

              An artist statement also speaks for itself. Neither of these alternate voices drowns out the other. In fact, when done with intention and thoughtfulness, an artist statement expands the influence of your visual work.

              The artwork and the statement support each other; but in the end, they stand on their own. Which is why it’s so important to lean into writing the most compelling, evocative statement you can.

              Revealing your relationship to your art creates a vibrant connection that keeps the story going after the artwork has been appreciated on its own.

              Your artistic journey is a powerful component of your studio work. Offering aspects of this journey provides a roadmap for viewers to navigate your work in a different medium—word language.

              How exciting would it be to have an extension of your artistic magic in word language so the viewer experiences more bonding with you and your work, , not less.

              What’s Next:

              In Part 3, we’ll explore the last three core reasons.

              ———————————————————————————————————

              Whenever you’re ready to update your artist statement, or even write your first one, join my waitlist for: Writing The Artist Statement eBook & Ambitious Bundle.

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