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5 Tips for Revising Your Artist's Bio Story

Welcome to Week 2 of revamping your plan to market your art! With this series, I’m going to walk you through the process of setting up your art marketing materials step by step. We’ll take this one item at a time, and before you know it, you’ll have a whole new set of promotional materials.

So, this week I thought we should probably focus on your bio—or as I prefer to call it, your bio story—which is one of the three essential written items (along with your resume and artist’s statement) that you’ll need to promote yourself.

Why do you need a bio, and why should it be told like a story? Well, here’s the thing: When collectors and other art buyers see a work of art they like, they immediately want to know more about the artist. I know from my own experience in selling art that they’re often looking to make some sort of connection with the artist. (Oh, the artist is from California? I lived in California! Oh, the artist loves to travel? I love to travel!) If you’re not there to talk to them directly and find that common ground through conversation, your bio story can and should stand in for you, offering plenty of personal details that allow the potential collector to connect with you!

To help you get started on writing your new bio story, here’s the foolproof formula I like to use:

  • An exciting lead paragraph that either a) describes your artwork in a compelling and interesting way, or b) describes an exciting, meaningful, or emotionally touching moment from your journey as an artist
  • A second paragraph that then describes your artistic journey chronologically from the beginning (this may actually run to a couple of paragraphs if you’ve been very active for a long time)
  • A third paragraph that details your credentials and any significant accomplishments you’ve made as an artist, including important shows, awards, association memberships, publications, etc.
  • A concluding paragraph that features maybe a few personal details, especially the city where you live, and your website or other contact info

As you’re developing your bio story, written in the third person as if you’re writing about someone else, consider these tips:

  1. Write like a storyteller. Have you ever noticed how a good storyteller or fiction writer doesn’t give exhaustive, lengthy descriptions of the main characters? Instead, a talented writer offers only a few select details that reveal the characters’ personalities. You can and should do the same with your own story, leaving out the boring parts and sharing only the facts and anecdotes that create the image you’re trying to project. (And in case you’re one of those art-as-a-second-career artists, only include details from your first career if they’re relevant.)
  2. Be honest. Just to be clear, while you should follow a good storyteller’s lead in how you tell your story, you should not embellish it with actual fiction. Keep it real, honest, and authentic, or you could risk being found out and destroying the trust you’ve established with others.
  3. Keep it conversational in tone. Although people do want to know more about you, they really don’t want or need to know every detail, so four to six paragraphs is usually sufficient. Stick to what’s relevant and interesting. Use plain language (not “artspeak”) and a writing style that’s informal and conversational, yet presents a professional image. And when you’re happy with your first draft, read it out loud to yourself and ask one or two trusted friends to read it before publishing it. 
  4. Give readers a taste of your personality. If you incorporate meaningful anecdotes and write as if you’re telling a story to a friend, your personality will probably come out naturally. But it’s still an important goal to remember when you’re revising your draft. If you’re funny, show it. If you’re serious and scholarly, show that. Make sure you’ve stayed authentic and true to yourself in communicating your story.
  5. Make your story memorable by adding in emotion. Something else to consider when choosing which details to put in and which to leave out is what those facts and anecdotes say about you. It’s important to choose things that reveal your personal values, goals, and characteristics (hello, branding, anyone?). Even more important are the feelings and deeper meaning within your story. That's what people really relate to, and in the end, people are less likely to remember the facts of your life and more likely to remember the emotional connection they felt with your story. 

Okay, then. Website update, check! Bio story revision, check! What else would you like to know about revamping your marketing materials? Let’s connect! 

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