As a professional artist, your portfolio will need to be accompanied by a few different writings. Your CV, Biography, and the Artist Statement. Here's how to approach the often dreaded task of preparing an Artist Statement.
The Artist Statement is your opportunity to attach words and statements to your artwork that will help museums, galleries, patrons, and foundations communicate and support your work to others who may not be as visual. They will have to do this no matter what, so it's preferred that you provide your own words to describe what you're trying to convey.
While some applications may have requirements, in general there are no hard and fast rules as to the length and language of an artist statement. The best one's reflect or demonstrate the visual artwork by providing background on the technique and/or concept behind the work.
Most importantly: approach the artist statement just as you do your artwork.
What I mean is follow the same steps, same process, and same level of critique just use words as your medium. For example, let's say you produce paintings that are stylistically traditional and romantic but feature subjects that are contemporary. Then you may want to:
1. sketch out a subject=select contemporary descriptive words and statements. Fill a page of your sketchbook with these words. Reflect back on critiques or discussions of your work; what words creep up? Are there questions that always get asked that you often find yourself supporting? What are the words you say when describing your work?
2. create an underpainting=get words on the page. Just as you would an underpainting, get some paint on the canvas and make sure the composition is working=or paragraph/sentence outline.
3. start laying out the mood of your painting through painting style and color=decide what sentences you want to emphasis and which words can be replaced with one's that are more reflective of the style of your art. In our example the painting style is traditional so we may want to replace words in our statement with more traditional ones or follow a more formal style of writing.
4. paint paint paint=write write write...being sure to save versions along the way. Just as you would when painting add/remove bits and pieces to your statement, take breaks, and -just like making art- don't be afraid to problem solve along the way.
5. add details=proof read and edit. Make sure the grammar, spelling, and structure is how you want it.
6. step back and evaluate=re-read your statement. I'd even suggest hanging it beside your artwork read it and look at your work. Ask yourself if it makes sense with the art.
7. seek critique=have someone else look at your statement and provide feedback. Just make sure they understand your artwork and how an artist statement functions.
As with art-making the audience must be considered but should NOT dictate your style, subject, and approach.