artistic mission statement resource tips
How do you even start the process of developing your own artistic mission statement? Why should I care about producing such a difficult and seemingly obscure and self-serving piece of writing? At a recent workshop I attended in Maine, we talked about the importance of developing a statement that attempts to define the type of work we as artists try to produce. It represents your artistic objective, your reason why you just have to take pictures. By writing this down, it will force you to verbalize what perhaps before this had been impossible for you to articulate. Have you stumbled through your words when a friend or another viewer asks you what kinds of pictures you like to take and why? Being able to readily have an answer will, if nothing else, provide you with a sense of reinforcement and personal validation as to your own artistic direction. You are not just taking a series of random, unrelated pictures out of whim. This statement could then be used to start a personal roadmap as a means of determining future bodies of your work.
Although the purpose behind developing these kinds of statements may be worthwhile, to actually know where to even begin considering what to write can be at best a monumental challenge.
To get you started with your research, I have a couple of tips below which may help you.
Searching For Personal Trends
The first tip I suggest can take a lot of time, depending on how exhaustive you make your search. Assuming you have been shooting for a few years, go back through some portion of all of the pictures you have ever shot, and sort them into a few general categories. You are looking for any recurring idea trends in the pictures you have historically captured. Try to keep it to just a few categories, if you can. If you can’t, then maybe that suggests that your interests are a bit too diversified and need to consider refining your scope.
For example, in my basement I have many backup spindles of dvd/cd’s which I have accumulated since I started shooting again back in 2002. I was curious to see if I could spot any general trends in the typical pictures I shoot. What I found was four general categories: landscapes from the hikes I have taken and will continue to take; architecture; artistic/still life; and shots from old mill visits I enjoy making. I actually did this exercise when I was building my website, trying to make selections for the galleries eventually placed there.
This was quite an eye-opener for me because it helped me to narrow down my focus in the way I approach a scene. It has made me more aware of what attracts my eye rather than mere intuition, being unable to verbalize the specific concept.
Your “Greatest Hits”
The second tip involves picking from these newly-found categories about a dozen of what you might consider your “greatest hits” portfolio, the images you feel represent your best work. The process you use to make your selections will tell you something about what it is you consider important, whether it be the story the image presents, the use of color or shades of light and dark; or the arrangement of the graphical elements, etc.
Be as objective and as candid and critical as you can. Try to dismiss any sentimentality you may have towards the image, regardless of what it may have taken you to get this picture. Your image should stand alone and be able to whisper in your viewer’s ear its own tale. You will have to decide if you will make your selections based on your own personal requirements, or the popularity based on what you may have heard about the image from other viewers. Or maybe it is a little of both?
Whatever method you use, the final group should present to you hints toward the start of several bodies of work. This may just be enough to spark in you a creative surge of ideas and possibilities. You will want to revisit this group at least once a year to refine the grouping. You will find that your art will evolve over time and through your life-events and each shoot you do. Group candidates may change like the tides, but this is natural.
Armed with the knowledge and insights that these two tips have given you, composing a mission statement should present less of a challenge and more of a personal artistic enlightenment.