Tips for writing a compelling artist bio
An artist bio is a useful and important tool for concisely conveying your biographical history. It is an opportunity for you to tell your story.
Bio requirements can range from 25 to 250 words. That’s a huge difference. Write the long version that includes everything and then parse it out to smaller versions as needed. Doing this gives you a chance to review what is important. I recommend revising your bio at least once per year. However, if you are actively engaged in promoting your art, entering shows, and sending out applications for proposals, grants, and residencies then you should be revising the bio regularly to tailor it to your needs.
Understanding your audience:
Your audience may be specific, such as exhibition jurors deciding whether to include you in a show, or it may be a broader audience, such as visitors to your website. Knowing your audience and tailoring your bio is an important part of the writing process.
Think about who will be reading your bio. Audiences can vary from show curators, your website visitors, jurors, application review committees for grants, residencies and other art related opportunities, social media, a job, an exhibition entry form, and so on.
In general, the artist bio contains education and training, career summary, major accomplishments, accolades, and significant honors. Highlight moments from your career and education if they relate to the artwork presented. Keep it simple: Raised in central New Jersey, Jane Smith graduated from Rutgers University and spent the majority of her career as VP of Human Resources for Engelhard Corporation. She studied painting with Picasso, and later earned her MFA from ASU. Her art is represented by A GREAT Gallery and is in public and private collections throughout the US. In this example, it is mentioning the HR career while focusing on her art career.
Other information to include would be notable collaborations, commissions, or collections particularly if it is a prominent museum or public figure.
It is important to think about what information needs to be included. As I mentioned earlier, there are many versions of your bio for specific projects. Consider what they are looking for and be sure to cull your biographical information to convey what they need to know. For instance, if you are applying for a teaching position, be sure to include your teaching experience.
I have had many accomplishments as a gallery owner. Of note is the exhibition of my kaleidoscope collection at the Museum of Northern Ariona. This was the first exhibit in the museum’s 100 years that was not indigenous to the Colorado Plateau, which is the criteria for show selections. So this show was a very big deal. Yet, as an artist, this information is irrelevant in my bio, and does not get talked about.
Questions to help you get started:
What are your major accomplishments?
What are you most proud of?
What is relevant to the purpose of writing the bio? For instance – if it is for a show, don’t drone on about your corporate career.
Does where you are from affect your work? If so, be sure to include it.
Consider the 5 W’s:
Who, What, When, Where and Why and don’t forget How
-The bio gets revised with EVERY application. You may replace earlier achievements with more recent ones.
-Write your bio in third person.
-Be sure to include your genre
-Select a simple, readable font. My favorite font is Garamond. It is clean, easy to read, and looks good on the page.
-Be sure to proofread, or better yet, have someone else proofread it for you.
-If you have room include how you view your current and/or future work. If the bio will be displayed with a specific piece of work, or body of work, be sure to include information about that. Remember, it is not your artist statement, so be sure to stay focused on your biographical information.
-Remember that your artist bio is an important part of your overall branding and marketing strategy. Take the time to craft a compelling bio that accurately represents who you are as an artist and what you stand for.