Lesson 25: Writing an Artist Statement of Intent

As I have stressed multiple times throughout this course we are not only building upon technical strengths but also your ability to synthesize and create concepts. We've gone into history a bit, and examined some of the more formal aspects of painting and drawing. Now's the time where we will delve into an area which often is ignored by many art schools, as well as working artists. The skill you will be working on here doesn't involve paint or a pencil, but instead your mind and your ability to focus on your interests to the fullest extent. Remember that mastering artistic techniques with paint, pencil, or a computer is one thing, and this will improve the more you practice, but having a unique idea and a viewpoint you wish to share with the world is what will make you an artist.

It is important not to confuse a Statement of Intent with an Artist Statement. A Statement of Intent (SOI) is a declaration of your plans and your ideas for a specific project, while an Artist Statement is a statement which is written by an artist (many times after the work is finished) in order to give a viewer more information about the process by which the work was created as well as the conceptual ideas which were being implemented. They go in completely different directions. An SOI goes from conception to fruition/realization, and an AS goes from conception to fruition/realization and back to the conception but now with reflection. For this post we will first be examining on how to write a Statement of Intent, and the next lesson we will be looking at examples at Artist Statements and see how other artists have used words to enhance the experience someone has with a piece of art.


What I want you to do is set up a schedule for your artistic working schedule (yes, artists also have schedules unfortunately). There is often a romantic notion that artists get to sit and dream all day, only to be interrupted by manic artistic outbursts. But this is generally not the case. All of the artists I know work a lot on their work, and by a lot I mean they often have a full time job, and still manage to work on their own work for at least 20 hours a week. This may sound crazy to you, but please keep in mind that this website is structured as a typical college level course, and students in physical colleges generally spend at least 15 hours a week in school. This is how you should approach your work schedule. As something physically which you "go to" and work for an allotted amount of time.

While it is great to shoot for the stars the first most important thing is to have realistic goals in place. If you can afford to only work 8 hours a week on your artistic work, then allot that amount of time to it. The following Statement of Intent sample below is merely a sample which is geared towards an average student. You can choose to try and work as much as possible, or you can also take it slower. One of the most important things to keep in mind is that you should have a physical schedule which you are held to. Put it up in a prominent space in your room and then check off all the days where you completed the task. You can download a monthly calendar template here and print it out, or buy a nice planner if you wish to write about and update your tasks for each day of work.

The theory of 10,000 hours of work as a measure of genius.

I do not wish to scare you with the amount of work that is needed to achieve genius, but would like to offer the following theory as a guideline as to how much the "Masters of Art" generally worked before achieving their status. In 2008 Malcolm Gladwell wrote a book called Outliers in which he postulated the theory that geniuses almost always worked harder, and longer at what they did as compared to others. And generally an expert level status was achieved when that artist had worked for 10,000 hours in their discipline

"“The curious thing about Ericsson’s study is that he and his colleagues couldn’t find any “naturals” – musicians who could float effortlessly to the top while practising a fraction of the time that their peers did. Nor could they find “grinds”, people who worked harder than everyone else and yet just didn’t have what it takes to break into the top ranks. Their research suggested that once you have enough ability to get into a top music school, the thing that distinguishes one performer from another is how hard he or she works. That’s it. What’s more, the people at the very top don’t just work much harder than everyone else. They work much, much harder.” (Gladwell, 2008)

Understanding this idea is very important if you want to progress as an artist. There is a common misunderstanding that artists are born, not made. But if we look throughout history we find thousands of examples of just the opposite. For instance, Mozart is often considered to be the definition of a "child prodigy" with natural talent. But did you know that Mozart was taught by his father who was a music teacher and pianist? He later became friends with one of the most powerful composers of the era (Haydn) by the age of 8, and had already toured the world, and played more concerts than artists 4 times his age. Of course there is also an element of luck and timing in all of this as well, however this isn't an isolated example. Look at Picasso, Raphael, Titian, Andy Warhol, etc. etc. for further examples. And you'll find the same thing time, and time again. All of them spent a tremendous amount of time working on their art and many became apprentices at very young ages to older and more experienced artists. So no, artists are not born (if anything they are born into the perfect era), they are made through hard work (which most artists enjoy doing, so you don't have to call it "work")

For those of you who wish to achieve master status you should be aware that it takes years, and years of work. If you managed to work 8 hours a day, every day, it would take four years to complete (Ironically the same time it would take to complete a Undergraduate degree). However, if you wish to set your goals a bit lower than there is nothing wrong with that. You should work at your own pace, and this course is designed for you to do it whenever you have time. I have set forth the following weekly work schedule as a good starting point for those who wish to dramatically increase their drawing and painting skills. I've seen a simple schedule such as the one below work many times over the years. If you don't give up, or lose patience I assure you that you can reach your goal if you are willing to persevere.

Sunday: 5 Hours (Painting)
Monday: 2 Hours (Drawing from Observation)
Tuesday: 2 Hours (Artist Research/History)
Wednesday: 1 Hour (Drawing from imagination)
Thursday: 3 Hours (Life Drawing)
Friday: Free!
Saturday: 5 Hours (Painting)

Find a Life Drawing class in your community and start going. Take a sketchbook to a coffee shop and sketch the people there. Go to a park and draw trees. Make weird collages in photoshop and make drawings from them. Sketch when you're on the metro. Sketch in the margins of your notebooks in class. Sketch on napkins at restaurants. Play Exquisite Corpse and other drawing games with friends. Draw your cat, your coffee mug, your boots, people on TV, your hand, your foot, or a corner of your room. There is never an excuse not to draw when we are all surrounded by objects that all have unique traits which, upon examination, are complicated and can increase your abilities. Trust me, if you draw every day, you'll see huge improvements in your drawings over time. If you're looking for tricks you won't find them, you can only work them out yourself by practicing your craft daily.

One movement which I was a part of about 5 years ago was the Painting A Day project where many different artists created a painting every day and posted it to their blogs. For those of you who have blogs I highly recommend getting into the habit of updating them as much as possible. Not just with my assignments which are given but with your own creative visions and sketches. One of the most popular of these artists in the Painting a Day movement was Duane Keiser who since has stopped posting every day but still posts quite regularly small paintings of objects in his house. You can see one of his stop motion videos below, and visit his blog here.

So what else should go into your Artist Statement of Intent? Along with a schedule of how much time you can put aside for painting and drawing every day I've compiled a list of common questions which can help determine the path you wish to take and focus your true ambitions. These are questions which you should think about and write about in your blogs as you form your Statement of Intent. It is quite common for these questions to be asked during Foundation Year studies at many art universities throughout the world, and by thinking about them, and answering them, you can begin to reveal exactly what it is you wish to achieve.

What types of techniques do you wish to incorporate into your work, and what type of processes are required to achieve the desired effect that you wish to crate?

What do you want a viewer of your piece to take away upon "reading" your work? What ideas/feeling do you wish to transmit to your audience?

What is it that you wish to draw and paint? Are there themes which reoccur in your ideas and work?

Social/Cultural Concerns:
Are you interested in political or cultural concerns in your work? Can your work make a comment about society that can only be transmitted by a drawing or painting? What do you feel is the role of the artist, and do artists have a responsibility to make specific work for a specific audience?

Are there any ethical rules which you wish to consider in your work? Do ethical or moral concerns prevent you from creating a specific work? If so, should they be ignored in order for you to realize your creative vision?

What is the ultimate function of your work, and why is paint the right medium to transmit your message?

Should you limit the accessibility of your work because you find that self expression is more important? Or is it more valuable to create a painting which can be widely understood by a large portion of the population?

To make it even more clear just exactly what it is I'm asking from you. I've included the two following Statements of Intent as examples from which you can draw from. The names of the students are imaginary, and the statements are of my own imagination. I've used the common required amount of independent work at the Foundation level which is 20 hours a week for three months. Which is a total of 240 hours. At the BA level this would be increased to 40 hours a week.


Part 1:  Your assignment is to give yourself an assignment. It's like the inception of assignments :) You will be creating a statement of intent, and this is something you will adhere to for as long as you create the assignment for. This is where you create deadlines for yourself, and hold yourself accountable. Because that's the only way to really work as an artist.  Figure out what interested you the most over these last two months, and where you need to improve.  Seek out inspiration and document it in your blog. Write about your process. Your successes, your failures, and get in touch with why and what it is that you wish to paint. You've got the keys now. Go and paint!

Part 2: Go back to assignment one, and redo the original drawings. Look at your progress, and assess your abilities. Compare the drawings side by side.


Student Name: Leonardo Cattawampus
Class: Painting-Course.Com
Teacher: Jer
Title: Creating Modern Day Americana paintings in the style of Norman Rockwell

First 6 Weeks
Work Schedule: - 20 hours a week.
Sunday: 5 Hours (Painting exercises)
Monday: 2 Hours (Drawing from Observation at a Cafe)
Tuesday: 2 Hours (Artist Research/History)
Wednesday: 2 Hours (Drawing from imagination/Composition) 1 Hour (Editing photos/sketches)
Thursday: 3 Hours (Life Drawing)
Friday: Free!
Saturday: 5 Hours (Painting exercises)

For the next three months I wish to explore the paintings of Norman Rockwell, how they were received by the general public, and what techniques, as well as ideas he used in the creation of his paintings. I plan on making one final painting in which I will integrate both the research I've accumulated as well as the techniques I've learned about. I also know that Rockwell was a great draughtsman and I must increase my drawing and painting abilities which is why I've devoted a large section of my weekly schedule to painting and drawing.

I plan on making preliminary sketches, and also look for modern day American scenes which would be suitable for a painting. Because of this much of my time will be spent outside of the studio in the public where I can both photograph and sketch from real life. After collecting a wide range of both photos as well as on site sketches I plan on incorporating them into a final painting which I plan on executing during the last month and a half.

Work Schedule for Week 7:
Sunday: 5 Hours (Painting exercises)
Monday: 2 Hours (incorporating sketches into composition)
Tuesday: 2 Hours (Drawing from composition)
Wednesday: 2 Hours (Drawing from composition) 1 Hour (reflection upon past successes and failures)
Thursday: 3 Hours (Life Drawing)
Friday: Free!
Saturday: 5 Hours (Painting exercises)

Work Schedule for Week 8
Sunday: 5 Hours (Begin transfer of sketches/drawings/photos to canvas)
Monday: 2 Hours (finish transfer of drawing to canvas)
Tuesday: 2 Hours (Begin Value Study on Canvas in black and white)
Wednesday: 2 Hours (Finish Value Study on Canvas in Black and White) 1 Hour (reflection upon past successes and failures)
Thursday: 3 Hours (Life Drawing)
Friday: Free!
Saturday: 5 Hours (Begin to match colors to value scale)

During these weeks I plan on finishing the composition as well as creating a finished drawing with a value study to use for painting. I wish to continue increasing my abilities as a draughtsman which is why I've kept the 3 hours of Life Drawing every Thursday. By the end of the second week the value scale drawing will have been successfully transferred to the canvas. I will then begin experimenting with color values which match those that have been laid out in the value study.

Work Schedule for week 9 - 12
Sunday: 5 Hours (Painting)
Monday: 2 Hours (Painting)
Tuesday: 2 Hours (Painting)
Wednesday: 2 Hours (Painting) 1 Hour (reflection upon past successes and failures)
Thursday: 3 Hours (Life Drawing)
Friday: Free!
Saturday: 5 Hours (Painting)

During this last month I wish to finalize the painting and work out the smaller details. I also plan on looking at my work and comparing it to Rockwell's and examine how successful I was in recreating a modern day Rockwell. I'm hoping that the research I did on the artist and his time period will be helpful in making these realizations, and be apparent in the final work.