In the last post we talked about how to write a noteworthy artist statement. These two topics are very tightly connected, but at the same time there are several differences to keep in mind. Artists tend to confuse the CV, the artist statement and the biography, however they are three very different pieces of writing with different purpose. The biography should remain more or less the same regardless the exhibition, or the submission materials and probably the most important rule is that the biography is always written in third person.
Why do you need a biography?
It became common to have a biography as part of your portfolio package. When submitting your application materials for residencies, grants, competitions, or just sending your portfolio to a gallery they will most probably ask for your biography too. Moreover it should be featured on your website and it certainly will be featured on the gallery’s website once you have a representation. So again, better to have it ready, so you are not caught off-guard.
No more than a page!
Whatever document it is, keep in mind that people don’t like to read lengthy texts, so make their life easier and keep your bio maximum one page, but preferably even shorter. This is where you want to state your most important achievements of your career. Imagine that you grab someone by his hand and walk him through your career path. On the way make a stop and highlight the events that shaped you and your art into what it is now. The key is to state only the relevant events. To do so you will most probably have to practice some self-reflection and understand where you came from and where you are heading. This way you will also know which events had the most significant impact on your practice.
Few things to keep in mind…
Again, everybody has a different story and it is essential to keep yours interesting and unique, but there are few guidelines that can help.
- Length! Easy as that, keep your writing succinct, maximum one page, but somewhere between 100-200 words is ideal.
- Write in third person. This is not the time for “me, myself and I”,keep that for your artist statement.
- Keep the reader interested. You might think that what formed your artistic practice has to be a spectacular event. That is not true; oftentimes it can be a walk on the beach or a quite evening at home. You don’t need to look for Hollywood-like stories, just be honest and personal!
- Proofread your writing. Do it yourself, or ask someone, a friend, a colleague, a spelling-check app. It doesn’t matter whom it will be, just make sure to submit your bio without errors. Also try to keep your language simple and accessible. It can be very frustrating when you have to go through a text several times in order to understand it and quite frankly the last thing you want is someone getting frustrated over your biography.
- Let people decide what they think, don’t tell them. You have to understand that this is probably the first thing someone is going to read about you and your art. Give them time to get an impression of who you are and how your work is. Don’t be a judge of your own work. Your role should be to tell your story, your themes, your influences etc. and leave that information to sink in with your reader, so he can come to his own conclusions. It’s good to be self-confident, but do not exaggerate.
- Keep your bio updated. As you proceed with your career there will be new events, exhibitions, partnerships etc. to be proud of. Make sure to include them!