How to Write an Artist Bio
Writing an artist bio is an incredibly important part of being a working artist. But how do you distill all of your talent and experience into a single document, and in some cases, a single paragraph? How do you even begin to describe the nature of the work you do, where you’ve been, and what you hope to achieve?
We’ve come up with a few strategies to help you get started.
A quick note on Artist Bios vs. Artist Statements
To be clear, an artist bio is different from an artist statement in so much as a bio encompasses an artist’s overall career and experience, and an artist’s statement accompanies a selection of new art and explains the reasons for and the process behind the art.
This article focuses on bios specifically, so stay tuned for Artist Statements 101 in the future.
Why Write an Artist Bio
Your bio is often the public’s (or decision-making committee’s) first impression of you as an artist or maker. Without it, people will have to interpret who you are and why you do it directly from your work itself, which is a choice you can make, but it will limit your opportunities in the industry. To quote Simon Sinek, “People don’t buy what you do, they buy why you do it.” In the world of arts and culture, what you have to say about the work you make has almost as much impact as the work itself.
But don’t be intimidated by this prospect. The important thing to think about in terms of bio creation is first to simply have one. You can worry about perfecting it later.
An artist bio needs to be concise, explain who you are as an artist, where you do your work, what kind of work you do, the primary motivation for your work, your process/style/medium, and the scope of your work experience, all in a couple of paragraphs.
Since you will be adapting this bio slightly for vendor applications, gallery submissions, media kits, websites, social media, and more, you will want this source text to be as complete as possible.
It’s also important to note that your bio will evolve as you evolve as an artist, so focus on getting the bones right so that going into edit and update later will be much easier.
List first, write second
Focusing first on writing an eloquent and concise bio or statement without first deciding what you want to be in it is a good exercise in stream-of-consciousness writing but not a good way to go about defining yourself and your experience as an artist to your audience. If you don’t know where to begin when writing a bio, create a bulleted list with ten true facts about you. Here are some prompts:
- Your Name
- Medium and Style
- Educational Credentials
- Professional Credentials
- Awards Won
- Shows participated in
- Where you live and work
- Artistic context
Write more and edit down
Once you have your list, it’s time to get writing. Give each of your points a sentence or two and connect the pieces together. Write more than you feel you have to and then edit it down to the most important bits. The ideal bio is around 120 words, which is about two concisely written paragraphs.
Ask your friends/colleagues/peers to look at it
Once you have a draft started, give your friends, colleagues, or fellow artists a chance to look at it and give low-stakes feedback. Be sure to pick detail oriented people who can help you pick up on typos, grammatical errors, and word choice mistakes, but also pick people who know you well enough to comment on your voice and your authenticity. If people who know you best can read your bio and agree that it sounds like you and represents you well, then you’ve got yourself a winner.
Writing an Artist Bio is hard, so be patient with yourself
For many people, an artist bio is difficult to write because it forces us to look at all of our achievements and decide how we measure up. Most artists would love it if the work they made would speak for itself. But that’s just not how it works.
The truth is that you absolutely need a bio to make it in this industry. What you don’t need is to sound like anyone other than yourself. Writing a bio is an exercise in self-confidence, one that requires some self-love and attention.
You need to do this. You CAN do this. It’s just a matter of getting started.