Every Printmaker Needs An Artists Biography

An artist biography is often the first piece of information available to your audience, 
either in a gallery or catalogue, or somewhere on your website. 
All artists should have one, and it should be reviewed yearly for early- or mid-career artists.

The biography frames your whole art-making practice.
It can be written by you, or get help from someone with a particular skill in writing.
You can summarize your practice, including medium(s), themes, techniques, and influences.
It is about the current direction of your work, not a history of how you got to this point.

Audience engagement researchers found that visitors lose interest in wall labels after 150 words,
so try to write a profile between 80 and 140 words, the ideal is around 120 words.
A tightly written 80-word biography is preferable to a longer bio that includes unnecessary 'fluff'. 
Leave your reader informed, but wanting to know more.... 
 A good rule of thumb is to impart one idea per sentence,
with the viewer taking away one or two key points from your biography.

A biography is different from an artist statement, which is about your artwork(s) or series.
Your artist statement is written in the 1st person, using "My work..."
whereas your biography is written in 3rd person, about you, eg "[Name]'s practice focusses on..."

The biography should open with a first line that encapsulates what is most significant 
about the artist and his or her work, rather than opening with biographical information.
Here are some questions for you to consider when writing about your artist’s practice,
pick out just the most important about you:
  • What medium does the artist work in?
  • What is his or her style?
  • What are common or characteristic subjects or themes depicted in the artist’s work?
  • What subjects drive the works or provide underlying themes?
  • What impact has this artist made, or what precedent is he or she setting? 
  • Who are the artist’s peers or teachers who have impacted on the artist’s practice?
  • In what political or technological climate is the artist working in?
  • What areas of the arts or popular culture does this artist incorporate into his or her work?
  • What other areas of the arts or popular culture does this artist engage with?
  • Can their work be summed up in an engaging quotation from the artist (1–2 sentences)? 

Six Common Mistakes in Artist Biographies:
  • The List of AccomplishmentsKeep accolades to a minimum. Readers who are interested in all the details of exhibitions and awards can refer to your artist CV. 
  • Artspeak: Viewers dislike misplaced academic jargon and pseudo-theoretical writing. Remember your audience may be completely unfamiliar with your ideas.
  • Hyperbolic Praise: Readers respond negatively to unsubstantiated claims and exaggeration. 
  • Spelling and Punctuation: Incorrect spelling and grammar mistakes undermines the credibility of your ideas. Use spell-check and get a friend or colleague to proof-read for you.
  • Repeating or omitting essential information: Understand where your bio will appear and ensure information is appropriate to it's purpose, don't repeat artist statement or.
  • Stale Information: Artists with rapidly evolving careers should check back every year, or before new exhibitions, to re-assess what the most important aspects of your practice are.
If you don't already have one, I'd highly recommend you think about tackling this soon.
If you want to share or get feedback, post a link to your artist bio in the comments below,
or email me at help@nzprintmakers.com 

This post was based on an article published recently on Artsy.net