Tuesday, January 28, 2014

Writing An Artist’s Statement

But I’m an illustrator…artist’s statements are for fine artists…why should I need one…?

In addition to having an effective bio statement, these days, illustrators need to have an artist’s statement. And whether it is written by the illustrator or written by a “ghost” writer, an artist’s statement can provide desired information to a reader in the absence of the illustrator, or even examples of their work.

© 2014 Don Arday.

What An Artist’s Statement Is

Many people don’t realize that most fine artist’s have more than a single artist’s statement, and in fact may have created several of them. They most likely will have a general statement, which is meant to serve in non-specific situations, such as online, social media postings, or for other media publications. Artists will also create specific artist’s statements, that each pertains to a specific art installation, or to a thematic body of work. So some artist’s who explore a variety of different directions for their work may have written a number of individualized statements.

An artist’s statement would be more aptly titled, “an artist’s ‘art’ statement”, for it is really the art itself that is being written about, not so much the artist. One way to look at it is as a biography, not of the artist, but of the artist’s work. Another way is to think about it is as a story of your art.

What An Artist’s Statement Is Not

It is important to remember that an artist’s statement is not strictly speaking a personal biography, although it usually contains biographical elements for the purpose of establishing a context for the artistic narrative. Let your bio do the job of providing information about yourself, position, qualifications and, achievements. Allow your artist's statement to speak about your art.

The Proper Voice

There is some debate concerning whether an artist’s statement should be written with a first person or a third person voice. Depending on the purpose for the statement it may be appropriate to use either. The first person voice is a more personal way of stating things. The third person voice is considered more formal and impersonal. Many fine artist’s prefer to write using first person form, especially for exhibition specific explanations their work and processes. For this sort of purpose, the first person form is perfectly appropriate, whereas for a more general, holistic purpose, the third person form would most likely be more beneficial.

First Person Voice 

© 2006 Don Arday.
The abstract works represent a total departure from the genre, style, and direction of my past work. The works are a part of 
my ongoing series that is based on the perceptual effects of association and geometric logic. They are concerned with the unraveling and/or building recognizable patterns, and a search for meaning in the discovered forms. The composition, surfaces, and elements within the image suggest possible identifiable, familiar human traits, expressions, etc. I call on each viewer to exercise his or her own set of visual beliefs. However, the number of elements and inconclusive suggestions for a viewer invite them to constantly reevaluate their perceptions.
My process of creating the works involves an investigation into decision-making, connoisseurship, intuition and serendipity. All bear a central role as intangible influences on the effect of a completed work. Viewers are engaged in the process of forming images in an attempt to define their own parameters for the image. The complexity of elements within the images challenges the attention capacity of the viewer compelling them to engage in their own manner of perception, judgment, and discovery.
             My work is created digitally using raster and vector based software programs. There is no acquired imagery of any kind used. All forms, textures, objects, and lighting effects are digitally created. All elements are prepared in Illustrator, exported to Photoshop, and customized for final output.

Third Person Voice 

© 2000 Don Arday.
Don Arday is Professor of Illustration in the School of Art at Rochester Institute of Technology. He has produced award-winning illustrations using computer media for Forbes, Coca-Cola, AT&T, Pepsi, Sprint, Fidelity Investments, and CNN to name a few.
            The work shown here presents narrative themes. The illustration themes were inspired by story concepts, content, and context. Although the images were created for a particular story, seen out of context, the narrative works invite the viewer to define their own version of a story, which will be influenced by their own history and associations. Several works were commissioned for corporate and consumer publications.
The works presented are created digitally using raster and vector based software programs. There is no acquired imagery used in any of the works. All forms, textures, objects, and lighting effects are digitally created. All elements prepared in Illustrator, exported to Photoshop, and customized for final output.

What Should Be Included

A Description of the Art

The physical appearance of the art should be briefly described. Although artist’s statements are usually seen in context with an exhibition or examples of the art, sometimes they are not. Using distinguishing adjectives to help describe the art can add interest for the reader.

Example: Described as logos on steroids, the bold geometric forms in Don’s illustrations give them an iconic appearance.

A Historical Context

All art, or in our case illustration, has a place among other art and illustration. And is usually influenced if even subconsciously by other art. Influences are appropriate within this context.

Example: The illustrations evoke the mechanical simplicity and directness of early 20th century applied advertising art as well as other art genres such as Art Deco.

A Biographical Context

As artists the directions our work takes and what we wish to express within our work are often influenced by our past personal experiences. Each and every artist has a unique background, which shows itself in the personal preferences that influence the appearance and provide an inspirational basis for our work.

Example: Having worked as a graphic designer for many years, Don applies a conceptual methodological approach to create inventive visual interpretations of narrative subjects.

Media and Techniques Used

Readers and viewers of the work will be interested in how it was achieved. What media and or materials were used, and the way the media was applied to create the work—in other words the artist’s artistic process. Whether the art was produced with traditional materials and methods, using digital techniques, or a combination of the two, this information should be provided in an artist’s statement.

Example: All of Don’s illustrations are a combination of vector- and raster-based digital software. By combining Adobe Illustrator with Adobe Photoshop Don is able to utilize the best of both digital environments. The “drawn” portion or basic structure and coloration of an image are laid out in Illustrator. Don’s work requires the utmost placement and compositional accuracy. From there the “design” is exported to Photoshop where photographic and painterly techniques are applied. All textures and any environmental effects such as wood grains, or cloudy skies are digitally created if not in Photoshop, then by using Daz 3D Bryce.

Content, Concept, and Context

If there is an ideology that underlies aspects that appear in the artwork, then it should be explained. A body of work usually has thematic overarching concepts that weave though it. An artist’s statement identifies and explains the context for these aspects and concepts as they relate the work. Illustrators may not realize it, but the reasons behind the decisions that are made in the work are of interest to an audience and are equally as important as the physical aspects displayed in the work.

Example: Abstraction of form and a deliberate visual understatement of detail are themes common in Don’s work. The images call on the viewer to understand a narrative that is visually presented as a combination of simplified geometric forms. The abstractness of form gives the illustrations a unique identifiable style.

What Should Not Be Included

Quotes about your art made by others such as clients, art reps, and colleagues.
Uncommon language, such as colloquial slang, or invented phases.
References to little known sources that require their own form of explanation.
The mention of other artists for the sake of comparison or name-dropping.
Non-relevant information such as statements that are off topic.
A diatribe or any other form of criticism.
Imperative statements that appear as commands or directives to the reader.
Exclamatory sentences that display excessive emotion.
Excessive background information.

Always Proofread 

Your artist's statement should be carefully composed. It is important that there be no typos or improper use of language. You will most definitely benefit from having someone else take a look at it to get a second opinion.

Tuesday, January 21, 2014

Writing An Illustration Bio

A business biographical statement is yet one more credential in your arsenal of job and business documentation. Bios are an essential and necessary component that must be provided for many professional opportunities and situations. A bio serves as a formal, personal introduction that vocalizes your status as an illustration professional to potential employers and other parties interested in you and the work that you do. Bios are needed when applying for a job, posting on a blog, communicating through social media, etc.

© 2014 Don Arday
To write an effective bio you must know what your bio should be about and identify your purpose and whom the bio is intended for. You must also know the media or venue you are writing your bio for. A bio for a personal web page might be very different than a bio for a job application or a presentation to a professional society.

A bio can be formal, entertaining, professional, or secretively personal, and it may be necessary to write a bio as a specific occasion demands. It is not uncommon for bios to be customized for the need at hand. Regardless of what the purpose of your bio may be, there are certain given pieces of information that will form its basis.

Your Name 

Always introduce yourself, both on paper and in person.  Don’t assume whoever is reading the bio will have heard of you. In fact, assume that they know nothing about you. Use your true name. The name you want to be referred to for the rest of your professional career can also be included, but after your true name is stated.

Example: Elizabeth (Liz) Jamison although born in England, grew up stateside in Indianapolis. Liz attended the Rochester Institute of Technology (RIT) where she received a BFA in Illustration.

Your Profession

Not all of the places your bio may be seen, such as Facebook, will be directly related to your profession, so it’s important to quickly and specifically identify your field of business.

Example: James specializes in children’s book illustration; there are more than two-dozen of his books available nationally.

Third Person

MOST importantly, you must write in the third person. THIRD PERSON IS THE STANDARD STYLE FOR A PROFESSIONAL BIO. Though your bio is written in the third person, it can still be made to sound personal, familiar, and friendlier.

Example: Ron has been creating award-winning illustrations since 2009. This sounds less egotistical and more believable than: I have been creating award-winning illustrations since 2009.


A bio is not a novel. In fact it is a story of a professional life in 300 words or less. Start with what is essential to establish whom you are. Explain your relationship to your field is and what your career desires are. For a boxer, it would be his fight records and his physical statistics. For an illustrator it would be accomplishments that are relevant to the illustration profession. Extraneous details, in other words, information that is off topic has no place here. Due to the limited format of social network sites and online web hosting sites, an online bio will probably be even shorter with the most important information coming in the first 25 words. Also be aware that certain venues limit the number of words or characters allowed such as Twitter, which has a 140-character limit.

A less than 140-character example: Chicago born, and an alumnus of Northwestern U., Gary Miller has illustrated for Pepsi, Google, Reebok, and the NHL, with awarded success.


Be certain to highlight your most important accomplishments, Dean’s list, a juried national exhibition acceptance, etc. If an accomplishment is significant accomplishment, then include it. However, it is not necessary to repeat notable information that is listed on your resume.

Example: Sarah will have a solo gallery in the 2018 Armory Show.

An Attention Getter

If you have a special accomplishment then state it. Something you are, or can be identified with. If it is on your resume, don't expect someone will find it. Use an accomplishment to hold a readers interest, or to make a note. Illustrator’s who have some notoriety for a particular achievement will state it along with their name.

Example: Aldo Mere known for his excellent digital vector art technique has worked with John Lasseter at Disney...


It’s perfectly acceptable to include a statement or two that will project a bit of your personality. This can add some character to your written materials, which can in turn support the character of your visual presentation. It also helps to humanize you in a way that would interest a reader.

Example: When Don was three years old he knew illustration was in his cards, he couldn’t read the cards yet, so he relied on the pictures, from then on he was hooked.

Closing Information

A good way to conclude a bio is with contact information, short and sweet, such as an email or web address. You can’t assume that other materials that already contain your contact information will accompany your bio.

Example: Susan can be contacted at susan@susanart.com.


Your bio should be well thought out and carefully composed. Your bio is a window that readers can look through to see what you look like. It is important that there be no typos or improper use of language. And you can’t always rely on a spell checker to catch all the mistakes. (See below.)

Example: Recently, Beth was also delited to here she recieved too awards from the Society of IIIustrators, there top metals. The sentence should appear as: Recently, Beth was delighted to hear she received two awards from the Society of Illustrators; their top medals.

Tuesday, January 14, 2014

The Illustrator’s Genuwhine Dictionary: The Letter B

© 2014 Don Arday
To celebration its 83rd article, The Informed Illustrator presents the letter ‘B’ of The Illustrator’s Genuwhine Dictionary. The dictionary was conceived to answer a desperate need for the language of illustration to be defined. The intention is for additional installments to appear at irregular intervals over an interminably long period of time.


1. an area in an illustration that fills up the picture plane behind the main subject or anything else more important.
2. the truth about the origin and education of an illustrator.
3. the exhaustive screening an illustrator will have to go through to obtain a job.

Usage: “You can’t go wrong with a plain black background, it’s like that little black dress fashion designers are so fond of. Stay away from white, clients wont pay for white!”

Bad Art

1. an illustration that is heavy-handedly controlled by a client.
2. art without a point, i.e., art for art sake.
3. chat room art.

Illustrator A: “What do I say to the client if he shows me his nephew’s bad art? Illustrator B: “Don’t think of it as bad art, just think of it as a bad idea.” Illustrator A: “Say, that’s not a bad idea.”
Usage: “All art has a place whether it’s bad art or not. The place is the internet.”


1. an elusive state that is seldom found in compositions.
2. the ethereal position between an overworked illustration and an under developed idea.
3. the amount of time spent illustrating a commission in relationship to how much it pays.

Usage: “I have a sense of perspective, but somehow I can’t seem to get a sense of balance.”
Usage: “One of these days I’m going to balance my workload with my payload.”


1. the main food source of the giant panda.
2. grass used as a material for creating pens and brushes used by artists that are sold at thrift stores.
3. an electronic stylus found on the floor of public restrooms and subway stations.
4. a digital drawing tablet for those who cannot afford a good one.

Usage: “Essential materials have really gotten better over the past few years; not only are my brushes made of bamboo, so are my paint pallet, my pallet knives, and my sox.”


1. something no longer acceptable in art.
2. an ugly thing viewed next to an even uglier thing.
3. being paid in less than 60 days.

Usage: “This assignment is a thing of beauty even if it is for pharmaceutical suppositories.”


1. a food source many illustrators subsist on.
2. something a client never wants to pay for at a bar.
3. a way to sell a client the concept you want to illustrate.

Client: “I’m not sure I understood the pencil concept.” Illustrator: “Sure you did, you approved it.” Client: “Yea well I didn’t really look at it.” Illustrator: “Sure you did, you said it was brilliant, and that it was just what the product needed.” Client: “I did?.” Illustrator: “You sure did…and not only that, you said it was worth twice the fee. Now how about another beer?”
Usage: “In this business it pays to know your way around a beer keg.”


1. a test of computer performance, if you can believe that.
2. a small cut made by someone trying to trim a digital print on the wrong surface.
3. a goal set by a client for an illustrator that they will never be able to achieve, e.g., a day sooner, and a dollar less.
4. for an illustrator, a day later, and a dollar more.

Usage: “My benchmark is Thomas Kincaid, if he illustrated it than that’s good enough for me.”
Usage: “I've been sitting at my drawing table so long I've achieved a benchmark.”


1. an illustrators rep.
2. a substance that prevents two other substances from becoming enemies.
3. a mysterious compound that is missing in order for colored pencil to take to acrylic.
4. a harmonious sketchbook.

Usage: “I was told I could use an egg as a binder. Do you think I can use an egg substitute instead, I'm a vegan.”
Usage: “My binder is silvery gray and comes on a roll and is sticky on one side.”


1. an absurd name for pixel, which is in itself is an absurd name for a tiny square on a digital display.
2. the image that you get when you are trying to get directions on an iPhone.
3. a thing of no concern to traditional media illustrators.

Usage: “Nobody uses the term bitmap anymore.”
Usage: “I remember when everybody used the term bitmap, along with wicked and bitchin' .”


1. a way of describing an illustrator’s mental state after a three hour meeting with a client.
2. a quick and dirty background in an illustration.
3. a color not to be used straight out of the tube.

Client: “I’m glad you chose black, I think it was the right choice.” Illustrator: “I didn’t really have a choice since it is being printed in black and white.” Client: “Actually it isn’t, it is only being printed in black.”
Usage: “Black is always acceptable, it works for pen and ink, scratchboard, tattoos, and lady’s handbags.”


1. the illustrations you can’t remember ever producing.
2. I don’t know.
3. something that has something missing.

Illustrator A: “The client thought my concept of illustrating a mom holding a full size SUV in one hand and a child in a safety seat in her other hand was too bland. “ Illustrator B: “I think what he meant was that it was too photographic.”
Usage: “I wasn’t aware that bland was a color.”


1. what we all do to be illustrators.
2. a phenomena that occurs to illustrators who work with x-acto knives too fast.
3. a strange term used for an illustration that is too large for the page it is printed on.
4. the thing behind all watercolor painting.

Illustrator A: “The challenge is to do a portrait of a vampire with no bleed.” Illustrator B: “Did you say nose bleed? Here’s a tissue.”
Usage: “Go figure, scratchboard is the only media you can’t bleed.”


1. a successful bleed.
2. a state of material confusion.
3. forcing two things that don’t belong together to be together.
4. trying to fit in stylistically.

Usage: “I would say it looks like a blend of realism, cartoon, and expressionism, in other words…anime.”


1. a negative spot or stain.
2. an accident or an opportunity.
3. an unintended eyesore that inspires an idea.
4. a mark on an exemplary academic record created by an asshole professor.
5. using your sock to dry wet paint.
6. removing an embarrassing credential from your driving record.

Usage: “When you see something hanging on a wall that looks like that, you simply have to blot it out.”
Usage: “Did he just blot it out? I wish he would think before he blots.”


1. the only way a photo can happen.
2. a commission that has gone south.
3. a thing achieved by redrawing a thumbnail sketch half a dozen times.
4. an act certain clients excel at.

Illustrator A: “I finally had that blowup with my rep.” Illustrator B: “Oh yeah, what was it about?” Illustrator A: “She couldn’t remember my name.”
Usage: “When they noticed I had included a weasel running along side their company mascot it caused a big blowup.”


1. an inflexible material constructed to display art that is subject to a lot of abuse.
2. a surface that determines how little skill one can have with an x-acto knife.
3. yet another overly expensive art supply.
4. a work surface created by laminating a number of dollar bills together.

Usage: “Get out your crow quill and ink and whip that board into shape.”
Usage: “With your painting style, you better forget board and canvas and go straight to MDF.”


1. presenting sketches that have nothing whatsoever to do with an assignment.
2. using black straight out of the tube.
3. using the default black provided in Adobe Photoshop or Illustrator.
4. trying to talk money with an illustrator’s rep.

Usage: “She paints representationally, thinks realistically, drinks responsibly, and wears bold.”


1. a polite way of saying “in your face”.
2. a typographic term used to describe a fat letterform.
3. what happens to a portrait when all you have to render it with is a china marker.

Usage: “If you want it to shout, yell, scream, and holler at someone then use boldface.”


1. things responsible for a fair share of a medical illustrators gross anatomy income.
2. something quite a few figure studies do not represent.
3. innards that anime characters seem not to possess.

Student: “I can’t seem to get his head quite right.” Instructor: “Don’t forget there’s a set of bones inside it called the skull.”
Usage: “When a figure is well drawn it is said to have good bones.”


1. a portable gallery of an illustrator’s work.
2. an assignment that will take a sizable portion of an illustrator’s career.
3. an illustrator’s never-ending story.

Usage: “The Good Book of Illustration say’s ‘thou shalt not commit acts of fine art’.”
Usage: “The Good Book of Illustration also say’s ‘thou shalt not be overworked and stiffed on payment’.”


1. an illustrator’s contract with a publisher.
2. the crease at the center of two facing pages that is responsible for ruining many an illustration.
3. the difference between a book and a pamphlet.

Usage: “The bookbinding was so tight the pages wouldn’t open wide enough to see my credit line.”


1. the difference between a great illustration assignment and hell.
2. although common before World War II, something seldom used or understood by illustrators anymore.
3. a place where too many clients have crossed with too many illustrators.
4. a barrier between pandemonium and serenity.
5. a place for the eye to sit this one out.

Usage: “If you can’t fit the object in the illustration then make it into a pattern in a border.” 
Usage: “All illustrations should border on something.”


1. thinking about something in particular while trying to think of nothing at all.
2. a propagandistic art term to explain thinking to non-artists, like “right-brained”.
3. a massive migraine headache brought on by too much stress.
4. the fundamental principle behind The Illustrator’s Genuwhine Dictionary.

Usage: “My whole like has been nothing but one long brainstorming session, and there’s no relief in sight. I’ll have to give that some thought.”
Usage: “I eat sensibly, I go to the gym, and I practice brainstorming everyday while I’m brushing my teeth.”


1. an art tool that seems to have a mind of its own.
2. hair found on the floor of a barn, a stable, a sty, or a barber shop, that is strapped together and used to make art.
3. a tool when held in the opposite direction and combined with another makes a fair set of chopsticks.
4. what one does while they are brainstorming.

Illustrator A: “I recommend a No. 4 round sable for that section.” Illustrator B: “Well I though I’d use a No. 5 flat boars hair.”  Illustrator A: “If you’re going to go in that direction, maybe you should try a No. 6 horse hair filbert.”  Illustrator B: “No, I think I’ll  go with a No.5 bright camel hair.” Illustrator A: “I wouldn’t do that, how about thinking small with a No. 1 synthetic rigger.”  Illustrator B: “I don’t know what’s worse about that suggestion, the rigger, or it being synthetic. You know this isn’t art school any more.”
Usage: “I must own at least 100 brushes, and the sad part is I own 110 pairs of shoes.”
Usage: “I have bought my last brush, from now on I’m going to download them.”


1. marks left on a surface by a brush when it has been pushed around for a while.
2. something a viewer should not be aware of in an illustration.
3. the smart way to deposit paint on a surface.

Usage: “Artists use a brushstroke, swimmers use a breaststroke, survivalists avoid a heatstroke, writers use a keystroke, and rowers use a sidestroke.”
Usage: “You can have a stroke of luck, or a brush with luck, but you can’t have a brushstroke with any luck.”

I’d like to acknowledge the following individuals who provided inspiration for this project. G.K.C., L.T., B.A., B.D., B.H., J.P., G.H., B.F., and T.L.