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Nailing the dreaded artist statements; aka the "materials and techniques" for newbies and veterans alike

Actually the "artist statement" is the "description of materials and techniques" and the little devils are a giant pain, but they're becoming more and more critical. An artist statement is a different beast altogether and seldom asked for. Larry Berman has suggested that three versions should be written and saved; with the three as 100, 200, and 300 character statements.

The one hundred character statement is probably the hardest, and is more like a mini-tweet ;-) The suggestion was made over on one of the booth shot forum posts that a new thread be started where we could share some examples. I'll start off with mine below, and if someone feels there's a better way to say it, speak right up.

Hopefully we can get a dialog going like we have for the booth shots for newbies post.

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Well, the opening lines start off with "Actually the "artist statement" is the "description of materials and techniques", so the thread is in agreement with what you're saying. Most people are referring to the description of materials as the artist statement, incorrect or not. The 200 and 300 character statements give just a little more room to expand the explanation what we're doing with our work. The problem is that the 100 character statement  is the default length offered by ZAPP. 

The 100 characters requires some serious work to get something beyond a flavorless and generic remark. Which is the point of this thread ;-) Your statement is a pretty good one that is concise and descriptive, giving the style of work for the technique, media used, and the materials. 

No. I don't see how this thread agrees with what I'm saying. I think it's important to make a distinction between the two since each communicates very different information. The misleading headline of this thread says Artist Statement, not Description of Materials & Techniques, and then the thread is about the latter of the two. Your first sentence of your initial post here ties the two together as if they are one-in-the-same. They're not.

A newcomer to art needs to know the difference. If pros don't know the difference, they're not as pro as they could be.

I have a couple of artist statements myself, suitably framed which I hang in my booth depending on space availability. Neither of which look anything like the little text block that ZAPP requires. What I've noticed after sitting in on several major jury sessions is that almost everyone is using the statement more as a micro artist statement instead of a true materials statement. The 100 character block is the one that least resembles an artist statement with the tight control needed for it.

It's of interest that when sitting in on the St.Louis mock jury a couple of times the judges referred to the M&T block as an artist statement. Additionally they strongly suggested including artistic influences, naming art movements that influence your work or that you're working within, and so on. Incorrectly named or not, the longer ZAPP form for all intents and purposes is being used as a mini artist statement. In over 25 years of doing shows, there has only been two or three times where I was asked as part of the application to include a traditional artist statement.

I've changed the title of this post to include the correct wording, and still retain the common but incorrect usage.

my belief is that an Artist Statement is about our beliefs and motivation about what we do and why we so passionately do it.

A Description of Materials and Techniques describes what we use and how we use it to achieve the work we are create

This is a really helpful discussion with good information. Thank you.

I'd say that in the art fair business the "artist statement" is a description of materials and techniques. Applying for a grant or putting up something at a gallery exhibition it is actually a statement of ideas and who you are, more of a resume. But in THIS business I'm telling you the jurors don't want to hear "inspired by nature," organic themes, etc. Because they are seeing all of these bodies of work you need to stand out with specific words that described what the work is, your perspective that includes materials and does not sound just like the next statement.

When the judges themselves refer to to the materials and techniques as the artist statement, I think that sets the tone for the usage. I've had work in galleries before and that calls for the traditional academic statement. Art fair judging is a whole 'nuther animal, and they want to know what is it put together with or how, and a little background space permitting.

I didn't expect an academic discussion of what is or isn't an artist statement. The technique part of the ZAPP block is where the wiggle room comes in where the artist can include influences just as in a real artist statement, and this seems to be where the confusion comes in.

I remember hearing at St. Louis that for the photographers they said they really don't want to hear what camera and printer you use. I've noticed at the Broad Ripple judging that the photographers either state the camera, lens, and printer or about a fourth of them use the M&T block for a mini-artist statement.

On the photography side, I don't think the judges care a lick about the camera used, but are interested in processing methods: "wet darkroom", "archivally processed", etc. Could be though that I only focus on this as we did photography. I'm sure there are iconic words that raise the level of understanding for other categories. One I always think counts for jewelry, e.g., is "hand fabricated" and definitely "lapidary."

Hand fabricated is a given. You don't have to waste 15 characters saying it.

And never use words or abbreviations the average person (not in your medium) wouldn't know what it means, because not every medium is represented on every jury.

Larry Berman

I guess I am thinking about not the Top Ten shows for descriptions! Hand-fabricated always means to me, something special, not bead stringing.

I still puzzle over "cone 15"   ???

I think cone numbers refer to heat.

It's like a painter telling what size brushes they use.

Larry Berman

Good comparison. I know it refers to heat -- but what if I said "cone 225?" would you know if that was outrageous or impressive?


The higher the cone/greater firing temp, the more durable the pot. But the higher the cone, the more difficult it is to get nice colors in your glaze. The highest cone I've ever heard of is 10, but I'm not a potter.


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