There is no overseer of the perfect artist statement and bio that is going to come get you for not adhering to rules that never existed. Breathe a sigh of relief.
You can’t go wrong unless you have a bunch of typos, use poor grammar, or don't align your tenses.
Here are some guidelines for which tenses to use and when when you're writing your artist statement and bio.
Your Artist Bio
Your bio is about you and your artistic accomplishments. It is not your life story.
It is written in the third person (otherwise, it would be an autobiography). It helps to think of it as your résumé in paragraph form.
Write it in reverse chronological order, acknowledging that your most important accomplishments are those that are most recent. You can open a bio with a short paragraph summarizing your current work. This can be taken from your statement and reworked for the bio format.
Your Artist Statement
In contrast to your bio, which is about your accomplishments, your statement is about your work—the current direction of your work, not the history of how you got to this point. It’s your opportunity to define a body of work before others respond to the work and define it for you.
Your statement—because it is a statement—is written in first person. It is not the definitive statement about your work forever and ever because your work changes. You must allow your statement to get better and to grow along with your art.
My litmus test for a good statement is that it makes me want to quit reading and look at the artist’s work again. Otherwise, it’s just a bunch of words.
Exception for Websites
I believe, however, that there is an exception to the “bio in the 3rd person” rule. And that’s when the information is on your website.
It's perfectly okay to combine your statement with your bio on an About the Artist page and write everything in 3rd person. If you separate them, don’t call your statement a statement because a statement should be in 1st person. Statements come from an individual’s lips, pens, or fingertips.
It’s also perfectly okay to do the same and write everything in 1st person. In fact I kind of prefer that About pages for artists are written in 1st person because, let's face it, everyone knows you wrote it anyway. It's weird to talk about yourself in 3rd person. I’m kind of a stickler (or try to learn and get better) about correct grammar.
I prefer that a bio in 1st person is called About Me. As I said, though, no one is going to lock you up for breaking my guidelines. Praise the lord!
This article was first published on October 9, 2007. It has been updated with original comments left intact.