Snapshots: Artist Presentation Tips

Sharpen Your Artist Statement, Bio, Resume, Portfolio

“If you aim for a market you’ll miss the mark.” That statement clearly rings true. No good looking over the shoulder at what strangers prefer before creating. Authentic expression is the spear that taps audience attention. Likewise, strong presentation tools are the magnets for audience attraction. Far too many masterpieces are tucked on lower shelves beneath the light of day. Like the apex of an iceberg, our presentations show first. They introduce our work, foster credibility, and mirror how far we’ve traveled along the arc of our goals. New leads and connections must be supported by an effective “portrait” of who we are. Selling may be a secondary motivation, but is a vital part of every career. So never underestimate the power of presentation. Why not enter the new season prepared with an updated, incisive, authentic, and powerful one? Start now and stay ahead of the pack:

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Artist Statement:

Shape your essential bond with viewers to attract sales.

An artist statement communicates what motivates you as an artist. The most personal part of your presentation, it is an opportunity to invite your viewers and potential buyers closer for a glimpse of the person behind the work. A few tips: While delivering the what, why and how, let your personality show. Explain to your audience what your work means to you, not what it’s supposed to mean to them: they will arrive at their own conclusions. It’s fine to mention influences, but reserve mostly for the resume prominent names associated with your career. There they will serve as testimonial and avoid the appearance of boasting. Give some details about your techniques and how they help you to achieve your vision. Then, you might add a segment about your approach: how it’s unique, or even pushes the boundaries of your genre. Finally, keep your statement succinct. Most general artist statements are around one page or less. Brevity sustains attention, so I lean toward three or four concise paragraphs. A statement about a particular work of art may be requested in some situations, where it acts as a marketing piece. Choose your structure, as appropriate, and be sure to tailor your artist statement to its purpose.

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Artist Bio:

Create a memorable snapshot of your career life.

An artist biography contains similar information to the artist resume but is presented in narrative form. It is less formal than the resume, though most often written in the third person. It highlights key aspects of your resume and surveys the arc of your carer in a conversational way. The best bios offer a compact and colorful “snapshot” view of your career experiences.

Artist Resume:

Detail your career with clarity and professionalism.

Artist resumes detail your accomplishments, endeavors, and knowledge. They offer a full picture of your career in list form. The categories featured on the resume will depend upon your artistic discipline. It’s important to update your resume on a regular basis, adding and deleting the listed activities, as appropriate. An artist resume can be one to four pages in length. Most artists have two versions prepared: one longer, and one shorter. It’s often best to use a professional paper stock, in white or ivory. The type style can vary but should provide a clean and professional tone.

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Artist Proposal:

Stand out from the crowd with dynamic writing/shaping/editing.

Artists need strong presentation materials to apply for specific projects, funding programs, residencies, or other competitive opportunities. These applications may require a project description, details on your approach to the project, and a cover letter. These written materials should be tightly edited and tailored to the particular opportunity. Be passionate and sincere in the presentation of your work and goals. Always conclude by thanking the panel, juror, and/or organization for their time and consideration.

You will need to answer a range of questions including:
Why are you an ideal applicant?
How will your work bring value the program or project?
What technical qualifications, abilities, or personal assets can you contribute?
How will you benefit from the opportunity?
How would the project advance your career as an artist?
How would you use the money awarded?

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Visual Artist Portfolio:

Keep the heart and soul of your work evolving.

Your portfolio is the most valuable tool in your overall presentation.

Visuals are worth a thousand words, and an arresting portfolio can help close the gap, especially when your written materials (as in younger applicants, for example) are naturally less developed. There are many approaches to a portfolio, depending upon the discipline. One essential ingredient to a successful portfolio is a sense of continuity. The transitions between- and within- subject matter must cohere. Color, tone, shape, scale, must all be considered when choosing what images to include and how to position them. This process involves subjectivity as well as objectivity. Most artists benefit greatly by feedback from a trained eye. A portfolio is most successful when modified and tailored with acumen for its particular audience.

Many artists now supplement their physical portfolio with a digital version either on the Web or presented on CD-ROM or DVD. Stay current on new formats and choose the method(s) that feature your work most powerfully, in support your of marketing goals.

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*Essay by Barbara Bowen of - the definitive source for artists and creative careers in transition. Contact Barbara to empower your creative process and for help with your career goals. She would love to hear from you.*