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Your Artist Biography Is A Key Component Of Selling Yourself As An Artist
The art of the biography is a tricky one.
From Marie de Pizan’s Book of the City of Ladies to Giorgio Vasari’s Lives of the Artists to James Boswell’s Life of Samuel Johnson, classical biographies were often incredibly lengthy texts about great men and women.
Some biographies prefer to mythologize and lionize their subjects, while others prefer to strip that veneer away and peer at the raw underbelly of what made that person who they were – and why.
This can be a key component of selling yourself as an artist.
When we think of Raphael, we think of the Bad Boy of the Renaissance – in part thanks to Vasari’s biography.
By contrast, when we think of Van Gogh, we think of one of the archetypes of the Tragic Starving Artist – in part because of all the biographies that continue that narrative.
It may not have worked for Van Gogh in life, but ever since his death, his mythologized biography has been a big factor in driving all manner of licensed products based on his work.
You may want Van Gogh’s fame and fortune, but would prefer not to enjoy it posthumously like him, which is why crafting an effective online artist biography is so important.
- Your Artist Biography Is A Key Component Of Selling Yourself As An Artist
- What Is An Artist Biography
- Where To Display Your Artist Biography
- What Should An Artist Biography Include
- How to Write An Artist Biography Step by Step
- Artist Biography Checklist
- Artist Bio Example
- Final Thoughts On How To Write An Artist Biography
What Is An Artist Biography
An Artist Biography describes an artist’s life, journey, vision, mission, and artistic style.
Why write an artist biography?
An artist’s bio is often the first piece of information available to readers and collectors, and as such, it offers you a chance to frame their practice and give collectors a reason to want to learn more. Bios also drive search engine optimization (SEO). (Source: Artsy)
Your goal in writing an artist biography for your artist blog is to connect you with your reader, build their trust, and connect them with your artwork.
Accomplishing this goal will help you to convert your readers into art collectors.
There are many benefits to selling your art online.
On top of the list is the ability to share your artwork with people around the world.
However, it does take more than just uploading images of your art online to land a sale.
You have to write content that connects you with your following, and an artist bio is one way to do just that.
Where To Display Your Artist Biography
The most commonplace for artist biographies are in the about section of your artist blog, website, and social media accounts.
If you are the only artist for the website, the title of the page should be “About YOUR NAME.”
Your biography will provide your readers with an understanding of the style of art that you create, your motivation, and your values.
Buyers want to know about the artists that they are purchasing from.
Providing information about you and your career will build trust with the readers and will generate loyal customers.
Many social media sites like Facebook, Twitter, and Pinterest have a section dedicated to your bio. Take advantage of this real estate.
What Should An Artist Biography Include
Keep your bio short and to the point.
People do not want to spend the time to read a novel. They want to get an idea of who you are as a person and artist.
What should be in your artist bio:
- A short description of your journey.
- A short description of your vision and mission.
- What message you are trying to say with your artwork, your artistic philosophy.
- Describe your artistic style and techniques.
- Any education or training relating to art.
- List all the awards you have received.
- Who are your influencers, and what motivates you to create art?
How to Write An Artist Biography Step by Step
Here are some steps that will help you to write your bio.
- Write your biography in the third person, keep it short and to the point. Respect your reader’s time. They want to get to know about you as an artist. They do not need a life story. Include your influences, education if any, when you started, what you would like to accomplish with your art, and your philosophy.
- Write several different biographies. Have someone proofread what you have written. Reread what you have. Take the best parts of each bio that you wrote and rewrite it. You will find that the more that you write it, the smoother it will sound. Remove any words that are not necessary. You want to remove any irrelevant content to make your biography short and to the point.
- Ask several people who know you well to read your final draft. Ask them if it represents you as a person and an artist. Make any necessary adjustments.
- Have someone proofread your work one more time and make any necessary changes.
Choose a Narrative and Tone
Some biographies are serious blow-by-blow accounts of major people’s lives with the history of the time thrown in.
Others – such as Tina Fey’s autobiography Bossypants – are hilarious collections of stories laced with humor and fun.
This is your story, so you have to decide how you want to tell it – and, indeed, what to tell.
Needless to say, your biography isn’t going to include every little detail of your life.
If you have been working in the arts for any length of time, it probably won’t include every gig you’ve done or piece of art you’ve made and shown, either.
You thus need to be selective.
What you choose to leave out can shape your biography just as much as what you choose to leave in.
The place in which you are posting can also have a huge impact on your tone.
A more professional setting, such as LinkedIn or a professional artists’ site, requires an aura of professionalism.
On the other hand, if you are posting to your own website or social media, humor can be a big help.
This is especially true if you’re an indie author or musician and don’t have the same marketing engine as those signed by major labels or publishing houses.
Know Your Audience
Of course, the question over humor or professionalism belies a bigger issue, one of the audience.
A jokey tone may not work in the professional sphere, but it doesn’t work for a brooding artist, either.
Think of how differently we imagine Van Gogh and Dali. Besides the big differences in their art, the former is the archetype for brooding starving artists, and the latter is a testament to flamboyance.
You wouldn’t expect Van Gogh to take to Twitter and start LOL-ing away at the latest pop culture gossip, and you wouldn’t expect Dali to post long brooding blogs.
What’s more, you wouldn’t expect either of them to be the kind of neatly brushed, combed, trimmed, and suited individuals than corporate figures tend to prefer.
While positivity tends to sell more than negativity, overdoing it in the former case can cause you to appear false and phony, putting people off and being just as detrimental as the latter.
When crafting your artist biography, knowing your audience is just as important as knowing yourself.
None of the aforementioned approaches is wrong, but they may be wrong for an audience that isn’t receptive to that kind of persona.
Include Pertinent Information
Of course, it won’t matter how good of an artist you are or how good of a narrative you weave in your bio if nobody knows how to contact you.
That’s why you always need to make sure that you include pertinent information such as your name, roughly how long you’ve been working, where you are based, and at least a couple means of contacting you.
This being the social media age, at least one of those means should likely be a social media or email account.
For obvious reasons, you probably don’t want to give out your home phone number, so get a professional line.
The same goes for your email. email@example.com or firstname.lastname@example.org might be fun casual emails, but they’re hardly what a professional email address looks like.
Artists, like anyone else, need to show off their credentials.
You worked hard and probably paid a lot (too much!) for that MFA or any other art training and degree, so if and “When You’ve Got It, Flaunt It!” If a company is looking to hire for a professional job, an MFA or other art training or experience can make a big difference in their hiring process.
The same is true of experience and past work, so you’ll definitely want to feature an up-to-date portfolio of your best work.
Finally, professors often list ongoing current projects on their profile site on their university page, and you’d be wise to do the same.
This can be a great way of giving potential buyers an idea of past and present exhibitions, concerts, shows, and interests, and also show them where you’re interested in heading artistically.
Don’t Upload Your First Draft
There are plenty of stories of songs’ first drafts being awful, funny, or both.
However, you only get one shot at making a positive first impression with whoever ends up reading your artist’s biography.
As such, you want to make sure that it is crisp, clean, and absolutely typo free. (Nothing says “unprofessional” like publishing a biography of your own life with “professional” spelled incorrectly!)
First drafts are rough, raw, and, more often than not, way worse than the final product, so take your time and rework your biography until you’re sure you have something that’s clean, polished, and as close to perfect as you’re going to get.
Lead with a Bang
The start of your autobiography doesn’t have to promise “The best of times” and “The worst of times,” or have an equally-pithy opening.
That said, to riff on another Dickens novel, David Copperfield (itself a loose attempt at autobiography in fiction form) whether or not prove to be the hero of your artistic story, you need to start with something big.
David Copperfield leads with a bang – or, in this case, a birth, as by the second sentence David already tells us he was born at midnight as “the clock began to strike, and I began to cry, simultaneously.”
You don’t need that level of Dickensian detail and drama, but you also don’t want to bore your readers with paragraphs of dull drudgery before getting to the good stuff.
Even if the really great part of your career is later on chronologically, at least tease it in the first paragraph.
Be creative, and entice the reader with a taste of bigger, better things that lie further on in your artistic story.
Give the reader a reason to keep reading.
If Dickens could hold readers’ attention for years at a time in a single periodically-published story, you should be able to find some way of grabbing and keeping your readers for a few paragraphs at least.
Avoid Manufactured Speech
Good writing is authentic writing. It doesn’t sound like it came from a computer, and it certainly doesn’t sound like it was spat out by some market-tested advertising agency.
You, thus, want to make sure you avoid clichés as best as possible and keep your voice authentic.
The late Christopher Hitchens used to tell his writing students, “If you can talk you can write.”
The same holds true for you. Use your own voice, and use it masterfully.
Even if you don’t think of yourself as much of a talker or writer, you nevertheless talk with close friends or family at least, so work off of that level of confidence and comfort.
Think of how you talk to them, and model that tone and approach when writing your bio.
Anecdotes and Examples
Did you know that F. Scott Fitzgerald met Edith Wharton while drunk?
Or how a young Ernest Hemingway learned art and life with Gertrude Stein?
How about Dorothy Parker blew off the FBI’s questioning with some help from her overactive dog?
Those aren’t the most professional of anecdotes, but everyone loves a good story, so why not share some of your own?
While they should be clean and professional, anecdotes can help people get a feeling for where you’re coming from as an artist and what you’re all “about.”
What’s more, examples of your work that flow from these anecdotes can make it – and you – seem all the more real.
Artist Biography Checklist
- Inspirations and influence
- Education if any
- Years being an artist
- Experience in your field
- Philosophy about art
- What you would like to accomplish as an artist
- Other things you like outside of art
During your career, you will be growing as an artist.
Every year or so, read your biography and add any valuable new information.
When you revise your biography, it is a good idea to update your photo as well.
This will also be an excellent time to update your photo on your social network sites and blog.
Artist Bio Example
I want to end this post with a visual artist biography sample.
Here is Lori McNee’s Artist Bio. This an artist bio example you will want to read and learn from.
Lori McNee is an internationally followed art blogger, and the owner of FineArtTips.com, She is an artist, author, social media influencer, brand ambassador, and keynote speaker. She has been featured in the The Wall Street Journal online, and named a #TwitterPowerhouse by The Huffington Post. Lori shares her online success secrets to artists, businesses, and organizations around the country.
Lori writes for F+W Media publications including Artist’s Magazine, Artist’s & Graphic Designer’s Market, Photographer’s Market and her own title,“Fine Art Tips with Lori McNee: Painting Techniques & Professional Advice.“ Lori is a #SocialTV correspondent pioneer, tweeting red carpet events for Entertainment Tonight, The Insider, Access Hollywood, and Vanity Fair.
Lori lives in the beautiful Rocky Mountains of Central Idaho, where she derives much of her inspiration. A native of California and reared in the southwest, Lori cultivated an interest in art and wildlife during her childhood.
While her three children were young, Lori began an art career as a wildlife artist in the 1980s-90s. During this time she mentored with famed wildlife artists Robert Bateman, John Seerey-Lester, Carl Brenders, Vivi Crandall and Guy Coheleach. Lori illustrated for organizations such as Ducks Unlimited, The Nature Conservancy, the Wolf Education Research Center, various trout and duck stamps, and books.
In 2000, Lori discovered plein air and still life painting. After studying with Robert Moore and Joe Anna Arnett, Lori made a shift from working with photographs to painting from life.
Today, Lori’s broad spectrum of artwork includes poetic landscape, still life and encaustic wax paintings which often incorporate birds or other wildlife. Her paintings have been featured in numerous publications including Plein Air Magazine, Fine Art Connoisseur Southwest Art, Artists’ Magazine, American Art Collector, Western Art Collector.
Lori is an Ambassador Artist for Royal Talens, Princeton Brush Company and Fredrix Artist Canvas. She is a certified Master Artist in Cobra Water-mixable Oil Paints, and is an exhibiting member of Oil Painters of America, the American Impressionist Society, and the Encaustic Art Institute, and serves the City of Ketchum, Idaho on the Ketchum Arts Commission. Lori also teaches 3-4 painting workshops each year, at home and abroad.
To learn more about Lori visit her website at Lori Mcnee Fine Art and Tips
Final Thoughts On How To Write An Artist Biography
It is easier for you to tell your story and the story behind your artwork in person.
You can answer questions and express your thoughts by the tone of your voice and your expressions.
Your artist Biography will help you to connect you with your potential buyers.
How to Write an Artist Biography Step by Step Overview:
- What is an artist’s biography?
- Where to display your artist biography and what should it include?
- How to write an effective bio step by step.
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