Bios, Artist Statements and Pitches

We tend to talk about artist statements and bios interchangeably at the Portfolio Center when we’re encouraging you to get started on your Talent Pool profile or VIRB site. We tell you that you absolutely need one, but we don’t often describe what they are or why it is imperative that you have one.

Beyond this, we talk about mission statements and elevator pitches as well. When we start to decode all of these, they all start to sound pretty similar.

So here goes, our best attempt to break them all down for you and when you’d use them.

  • Mission Statements

    What it is and Why You'd Write One

    A mission statement isn’t usually the first statement that we’re telling you to write. We should be. You probably won’t use it publicly, but it is the one that will inform all the others.

    A mission statement provides the “why” and “how” of what you do.

    For example, take a stab at answering the following:

    • Why do you make art?
    • Why are you pursuing a career in the arts?
    • What is your goal as an artist?
    • Who are you creating are for?

    If you answered “because I have to” or “to make the world better” than you’re not quite there.

    It isn’t easy, but your mission statement should succinctly tell us why you’re doing what you do, how you’re doing it, and who you’re doing it for. It is ok to make art for yourself and your art doesn’t have to change the world, but you should be able to answer why you’re recording a record, exhibiting your art in a gallery, or performing on stage.

    Fill in the blanks of one of the following templates to draft your personal mission statement:

    Template Sample 1

    My mission is to use my [interest/abilities/positive personality traits] to achieve [your goals], based on my [principles/values/education].

    Template Sample 2

    To be known and respected for my [expertise/abilities/qualities you wish to develop], which exhibits [principles/values/training/problem solving] and results in [your goal].

    Template Sample 3

    To [what you want to be, or what you want to do] so I can [describe what achieving the aspiration you wrote in the first blank will let you experience, contribute or provide here]. To make this happen I will [list the most important actions you will take]. I believe my [list training, experience, values that set you apart and end with positivity and/or future aspirations].

    Template 4

    As a [what you are], I [what you want to do, hope to do, what you are doing]. I [explain what makes you special about what you do]. I [say what you believe, include your values, training] and [end with how you will contribute positively to your artistic medium/industry/field/career/society].

    Where to use it

    Use it to guide and direct what you do. If you get to a point where your mission statement doesn’t reflect what you’re doing or what you want to do then it is time to draft a new one.

    With a clear and focused mission statement, you’ll have a much easier time dressing it up a little as an artist bio, artist statement, or pitch.

  • Bio Statements

    What It Is & Why You’d Write One

    A bio statement is your story. It is more than your resume in sentence form.

    However, it is also not a chronological overview of your life. For example, “I was born in ____ and at a very young age I took an interest in _______ “.

    Your bio, needs to be about who you are right now. Ever changing and evolving, you bio should talk about your immediate goals and projects and not about the long term. It is presumptuous and sounds arrogant to say:

    “I want to be a grammy award winning songwriter and producer”

    However, if your immediate goal was to write and produces songs in the hopes of one day reaching that level of success then a little humility goes a long way by telling us about what you’re doing and how you’re doing it (think about your mission):

    “I am currently working on numerous production projects and my work can be seen here _______ . I have ______ (background/history). It is with this experience that I approach songwriting and production as _______ (how you do it).”

    So, your bio is your story. It is about you. It is what you’re doing, what you’ve done, and how you do it.

    It doesn’t involve telling us about your cat or your favorite color. However, it can...if it works. Here are some things to consider when drafting your bio statement:

    • Be concise and succinct (Keep it focused. Keep it short.)
    • Be sincere
    • Use your own words
    • Write in 1st person or risk sounding like you still reside on Sesame Street
    • Write well (watch that spelling and grammar)
    • Be funny. If you’re not, don’t try to be.

    Where to use it

    Your bio statement is appropriate for your website, portfolio, Talent Pool profile, public facebook artist page, or any number of web “profile” platforms.

    One word of caution, think about saying the same thing differently in different places where you’re exhibiting your bio. For example, your website bio statement might be a slightly longer and more in-depth than the version that goes on the “About” section of your public Facebook page.

  • Artist Statements

    What It Is & Why You’d Write One

    Your artist statement differs from your bio statement and a mission statement because it isn’t about you, it is about your work. And, as much as we’d like for our art to speak for itself, it doesn’t.

    It can be about your body of work as a whole. However, more than likely it will be about a selection of your work when you're exhibiting work at a gallery, placing it on your website, or submitting a grant proposal to fund a potential project.

    To get started writing an artist statement, you must first understand what you’re writing about. Is it about a specific piece or your work as an artist?

    From here, ask yourself these questions:

    • What do I want people to know about my work?
    • What is my inspiration?
    • What was my process and what did I use to create the work?
    • What information do I absolutely need to provide my audience so they can understand my work?

    Use those questions and sketch out a draft. You can talk about yourself, but only as it relates to the outcome of your work (that inspiration part).

    Revise that draft using the following pointers:

    • Don’t be vague to sound intelligent. Drop the art speak. You’re not saying anything.
    • For example, don’t do this: “I see the world as a surreal collection of texture and movement. The perpetual shifts in culture change the human condition and predicament that can be seen here”.
    • Instead, make sure to:
    • Explain what you did and what you used.
    • Explain the topic and what you’re trying communicate in the work.
    • Explain what makes your work unique.
    • Be specific and direct.
    • Again, keep it short!
    • You’re the artist, write in 1st person.
  • Elevator Pitches

    What It Is & Why You’d Write One

    It has long been described as the hypothetical situation where you’re in an elevator with only the time it takes to travel a few floors to introduce yourself, your value, and a proposition to someone that you want to work with.

    This doesn’t happen.

    However, what does happen is this...

    • You’re at a party, concert, or exhibition and you’re asked the question, “What do you do?”
    • You’re in an interview and you’re asked the question, “Tell me a little bit about yourself?”
    • You’re at a family function and a relative asks, “So what you’re going to do when you graduate?”

    It is these circumstances that require the elevator pitch.

    At minimum it describes:

    • Who you are
    • What you do
    • What makes you and what you do unique
    • What you’re looking to do or asking for

    Here are some key things to keep in mind:

    • Make it flexible, but know those key elements listed above intimately.
    • Use the pitch as a conversation starter, not a monologue.
    • Use your pitch to ask a question to the person you’re pitching.
    • Be yourself. In all cases and context.
    • Be concise. Again, make it short!
    • Be interesting.
    • Practice doing this. Parties, concerts, exhibitions, family functions, etc. All are great practice arenas of the “pitch”.