With all of the current shutdowns and economic worries, some artists are putting off plans for shows and approaching galleries. If you’re in that boat, you might be wondering what you can be doing to use this time productively. If you don’t already have a strong artist biography, this is the perfect opportunity to sit down and write one (or beef up an existing one).
Jason strongly encourages creating an artist bio as an early step for artists looking to approach galleries or market their own work. Having one ready to go as things are opening back up will put you in a great position.
I’ve worked as a writer for Jason for almost five years and produced dozens of artist biographies for Xanadu Gallery and Art Business Academy artists. I wrote a post about artist bios in 2017, but it mostly focused on the writing process, and I thought it could be useful to lay out a few basics about what professional artist biographies should look like.
How long should an artist bio be? It depends. We recommend having a 2-3 page biography to use for approaching galleries and for galleries to give to clients who are interested in your work. This length gives you a chance to go into details about your artistic journey and your art itself that just wouldn’t fit in a shorter narrative. If the biography is readable and interesting, potential buyers will eat it up. If they love your work, chances are they will want to know as much about you—and the story behind your work—as possible.
Some shows and venues ask for a much shorter biography, often between ½-1 page. If you show your work outside of traditional art galleries regularly, it’s not a bad idea to create a short version of your bio to have on hand.
You can use either version on your website, depending on your primary audience and the design of your site. Some platforms will allow you to post the short version but include a link to the long bio.
The standard 2-3 page artist biography should read a lot like a magazine feature, even if you’re writing about yourself. In your artist statement you’ll use first person, but your biography will tell your story in third person.
The first time you introduce yourself, use your full name, then use your last name for subsequent references.
Jaime Jameson is an abstract artist whose bursts of color in acrylic…
Jameson was born in Franklin, Tennessee…
An artist I worked with recently was worried about a magazine-style biography sounding too formal and stiff, but that doesn’t have to be the case. One way you can infuse the biography with your voice is to use quotations, just like a magazine article would.
Layout and Design
Match the look of your biography with the magazine-style content. Make sure you use a clean, readable font. Lay it out in columns and add a few well-placed photographs of you and your work.
If you have access to and experience with Adobe InDesign, you can use it to create a nice, professional layout. Microsoft Word can work for putting together something simple. Just make sure you save the final document as a PDF.
Artists tend to wear a lot of hats, but if yours don’t include writer and graphic designer and the idea of trying to write 2-3 pages about yourself sounds beyond painful, it’s not a bad idea to consider other options.
Maybe you have a friend or relative with these skills who would be willing to help. If not, you can look into hiring a freelancer or even using Xanadu Gallery’s biography services. More information on that here: http://www.xanadugallery.com/ArtistSvcs/Writing/index.php.
Artist Biography Questions?
Do you have any lingering questions about what makes an effective artist bio?