August 17, 2009 | Alyson Stanfield

Art Marketing Action: Work On Your Biography

There are two primary ways to write your biography: formal and informal.

The formal bio is you at your most professional. It’s straight-laced–some might even say “stiff.” It’s what you hand in with your job, grant, or gallery application. The formal bio is what you learn to write in your last semester of art school.

Dean Allan, Gratitude Poppy Close-Up. Oil on canvas, 18 x 18 inches. ©The Artist

In short, your formal bio is your résumé in paragraph form. Take the highlights from the dates and bullet points on your résumé and make a story out of them. Here’s an example of an easy 3-part artist’s bio that I like to use with clients.

1. Opening Paragraph

I like to start a bio with a one- or two-sentence summary of the artist statement. This lets the reader knows immediately about your current work and gives context to what comes after it.

2. Middle Paragraph(s)

This is where you list your accomplishments. They could be–like your résumé–in reverse chronological order or according to importance. Don’t highlight something you did thirty years ago and leave it at that. You want to sound vibrant and relevant today. Aim for a paragraph or two in this section.

3. Closing Paragraph

Mention your education, where you’ve lived, where you reside, your birth location and—if desired–your year of birth.


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7 comments add a comment
  • maria poroy

    you ha wonderfully useful site, I am slogging through your book now. You have a lot to teach a long time MBA marketer and GTD follwer. I have been painting again for only about a year,seriously, and have been in 2 shows and just got a first prize.I am challenged by the bio because it is my “day job” where I have all the fancy credentials. But I am really into the art and appreciate your book and blog very much.

  • […] Last week I reviewed a formal biography and gave you an easy-to-use, three-part bio format. If you missed that newsletter, you can find it here: Work On Your Biography. […]

  • I have read “I’d Rather Be In the Studio” too and found it a great book, packed full of excellent advice, very inspiring. I also find that I constantly refer back to it, so its not just a one off read but also a resource. I agree with Maria – great advice on this blog too.

    Maria if you’re just getting back into it you may also want to check out “The Artists Way” by Julia Cameron

  • Alyson B. Stanfield

    Maria: Thanks for visiting! If you don’t have the art credentials, tell us a good story and make us laugh. We’ll forgive you.

    Angela: Thanks for that nice word! You’re right, IRBITS is a reference book. But glad you’re here, too.

  • Dear Alyson,
    Lectured to a group of art majors at Pensacola Jr. College in Pensacola, FL and reccommended your book. I hope they all bought it . I wish there had been information like your book when I graduated in 1963! It has been a great help.
    Pat Regan

  • Ann Marquis

    Dear Alyson
    I have been a painter for about 10 years. During that time I have taken many classes and workshops in painting and drawing, put I have no degree. I do have many awards and 2 academic degrees that have nothing to do with art. Do I list them in my bio, or forget them and just stick to art information?
    Thank you for your time,

  • Alyson Stanfield

    Ann: It depends. Some people can make a neat story out of their other degrees and awards. If you can weave it in so that it’s interesting to read, it doesn’t hurt. Otherwise, stick with the art stuff.

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