Parliament Hill School / Visual Literacy activities / Yemisi Blake

Activity: How to write an artist statement

This workshop was developed by Yemisi Blake for Parliament Hill students. It takes them through analysing, mind-mapping and writing their own artist statements.

Writing and talking about their work is something that many photographers find difficult. It requires you to take a step back and see connections between your projects and images. You also need to consider your and inspirations and how they’ve influences your practice.

The Parliament Hill students are working on their personal projects. In addition to submitting their final pieces, they also need to be able  to communicate what their process and outputs. I developed this exercise to get them considering their own work and to gain analytical skills when look at artist statements.

1. Pose the question ‘In which situations would an artist need to write about themselves and their work?’

Answers that came back: emails, websites, articles, applications for competitions, making portfolios.

2. Facilitate a short discussion on how the writing would differ in the various situations.

3. Introduce the concept of an artist statement if it hasn’t already emerged.

Artist statements act as an introduction to your practice as a whole, highlighting common concerns, motivations and processes running throughout. A statement should give the reader a better understanding of where your practice and interests come from, influences on you or your work, and support them in interpreting what you do. You will need an artist statement for most applications for opportunities, to add to press releases, websites and when approaching galleries and curators.

Adapted from Artquest.org.uk

4. Give students a handout of a few artist statements (names removed). Ask them to read through them and choose which they think are most successful and why.

5. Facilitate a short discussion on their choices.

6. Invite the group to write down the following about themselves.

  • Why you are an artist?
  • What inspires you?
  • What is your background?
  • What techniques or  materials do you use?

7. Invite a few students to share.

8. Invite the group to chose one piece of their work and write about it.

  • What is it about?
  • Why you made a particular piece of work?
  • What was the inspiration?
  • Is it part of a series?
  • How did you start a particular piece? How did you know that you’d finished?
  • What was your mood at the time?

9. Invite the students to write up their artist statement in a short paragraph.

10. Share

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