It’s tempting to neglect your artist biography or artist profile. You might throw something together only when necessary. After all, you’re a visual artist — and a picture’s already worth a thousand words.
But a well-crafted introduction to you and your work engages your audience. By giving a little bit of context, you provide an easier way for audiences to enjoy both individual pieces and whole collections — you establish history and intention.
Take a painted rock. People are more likely to connect to it if the piece was done by a recluse in Maine who only uses materials that he discovers on his property. Would a pretty painted rock interest you as much if it comes from an assembly line powered by a machine?
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Bios and profiles matter, but the terminology can be confusing and the substance difficult to write. Read on for clarification and a general definition, followed by tips and examples.
What’s the difference between an artist bio, an artist statement, and an artist profile?
While the terms aren’t always used precisely, these are general definitions:
- An artist bio is a paragraph-long introduction to you and your work.
- An artist statement is a paragraph-long art manifesto on your influences, media, and message.
- An artist profile blends the two and may also have room for a partial CV.
Some galleries, websites, and competitions will give you specific guidelines for one or more of the above. Follow them. If you’re exhibiting someplace new and they don’t provide you with instructions, check out the general style and tone used by other artists exhibiting there. You want to stand out for the right reasons.
If you’re generating an artist profile for your personal website, you can write in the first person if you prefer — depending on the tone you hope to establish.
What are the components of a strong artist bio or profile?
Your profile may expand upon the bio with additional material culled from your artistic statement or CV. However, the base is a strong bio. There are four things every artist bio should include, as discussed below.
The hook is the most important part of your bio. It should be the thing that people take away from the text — that little detail that makes them want to learn or see more. It should also be your first sentence.
It needs to answer the question: What is the single thing that best defines your art or differentiates you from all the other artists working in your medium?
The hook is the hardest thing to write. And artists will approach it in different ways. If the question above doesn’t inspire a hook from you, try answering the following questions:
- How does your personal story inform your artistic practice?
- What urgent need does your work respond to?
- What should people feel when they look at your work?
- Where do you see yourself fitting into a greater artistic narrative or movement?
- What inspires you to create?
Successful bios don’t try to cram too much in here. In a sentence or two, they situate the artist and their current projects within a larger story.
They also don’t try to juggle too many high concepts at once. They avoid artspeak for plain English. If you need an example of artspeak for reference, the site 500 Letters will automatically generate a pretentious artist statement for you, off of a few details.
If you want to mention a particular honor or bit of training, this is the place to do it. In a longer profile, you can follow this short paragraph with partial lists of accomplishments, exhibitions, or education.
This part of the artist bio may also answer questions such as:
- What media do you work with?
- What subjects do you gravitate towards?
- How have you evolved or changed during your artistic journey?
As a bit of practical information, your location is necessary for prospective exhibitors or buyers who might want to visit your studio or a nearby gallery showing your work.
Your location also helps personalize you. People want artists to be locals — even if they’re locals somewhere else.
Contact info and social platforms
Unless you have been given explicit instructions to the contrary, it’s always a good idea to include these details.
Where can you find inspiring examples of artist profiles?
You can look up artist bio and artist profile examples on individual artist websites and online marketplaces such as UGallery or Saatchi Art.
Artist profile examples on UGallery
The online gallery UGallery introduces its artists with short, paragraph-long bios. You can see the profile of one of the more successful artists on UGallery below.
The bio conveys a sense of exuberance. While it may be too short to be a perfect example of an artist profile, it does the job. Technical phrases such as “gestural brushstrokes” add legitimacy without getting in the way of understanding. Moreover, the whole paragraph flows naturally to create a coherent whole. You feel that you have a sense of who Mary Pratt is by the end of it.
Artist profile examples on Saatchi
The artist profiles on Saatchi are a little longer than those on UGallery. They provide more CV-like material in addition to the introductory paragraph.
Saatchi allows its artists to choose between first-person and third-person. Either can be effective, as Heather Goodwind demonstrates with her use of the less common first-person perspective.
The personal and almost intimate tone of the text works well. “I give fleeting thoughts as much consideration as monumental ideas” — the level of description in this almost makes it sound like it belongs in a poet’s professional details. The well-written profile creates the impression of a passionate artist deeply invested in each of her works.
Artist bios on their personal websites
In addition to gallery sites, you might also look at the personal websites of artists you admire. Check out the About page on the photography website of Benjamin Hardman.
The hook of Hardman’s profile is also a distillation of his professional details and location: “Benjamin is an Australian freelance landscape photographer based in Iceland.”
Hardman’s bio will appeal to a particular type of buyer — in the same way that Pratt’s or Woodwind’s will. As you look at sample artist bios, you should think about who your target clientele is and how they differ from the clientele of the artists whose profiles you’re learning from. Apply that knowledge to the eventual artist profile that you’ll create for yourself.
After learning how to create your artist profile, what’s next?
Now that you’ve got a sense of how you want your artist profile to sound, you’re ready to begin crafting it. Once you have a version you like, be sure to update it regularly.