Portfolio Development for Artists
Susan Myers I NYFA
Many artists are downright intimidated by the thought of writing an artist statement. It’s easy to go wrong and end up with a muddled statement since there are so many ways you can go about writing them.
But hands down the best statements I’ve read are written by the artists themselves. Statements written by those with a commercial interest tend to be more marketing pieces than informative statements — which in certain situations is appropriate.
In some instances you will be asked for a general artist statement, and in other circumstances you may be asked to provide a statement about a particular piece of artwork. The best tip to start with is to limit the length of your statement to one double-spaced page.
Your artist statement should discuss both the conceptual (your ideas, concerns, and how they manifest themselves in your work) and technical or formal aspects of your artwork. Your statement may include information on any influences you feel inform your work. Keep it simple, concise, and straightforward.
Your work samples are the most important component of your portfolio. Work samples can range from slides and photographs to manuscripts, disks, and videos, depending on your artistic discipline. You have seconds to impress a panel, juror, agent, producer, or other professional with your work! Ideally, most artists should have their work documented and/or edited professionally.
All artists should supplement their work samples with a work sample description sheet. This sheet should include all pertinent information such as titles, dimensions, materials, date completed, length of performance, where preformed, your role in the performance, and any other technical, synoptic, or descriptive information that can inform your work.
If submitting work samples to a competitive application process, ask the sponsoring organization how your work will be viewed, how much time the panel or judge will spend reviewing your work samples, and what the selection process is like. These types of questions can help you select the appropriate work samples to include in your application. It is the administrator’s job to answer these types of inquiries and to assist artists in preparing their applications.