Writing Your Artist Bio, Statement & Crafting Your Portfolio

Curator and visual artist Ashley MacKenzie Barnes created workbooks for us that detail how to write a strong Artist Bio, how your Bio differs from your Artist Statement, and some tips for creating a strong portfolio.


Your artist biography will be used in media/press releases, catalogues, your website, social media channels, cover letter and portfolio. It’s also essential for potential jobs, clients, interviews, galleries exhibitions and driving SEO (Search Engine Optimization). When it comes to writing your own story, remember that every artist or creative professional has something to share or they wouldn’t be creating. When you take time to credit even the most minute details or humblest beginnings, you can turn them into powerful and impressive stories.

There are a few basics to consider when starting your artist biography:

  • (According to Artsy) audience engagement researchers at museums have found that visitors lose interest in wall labels after 150 words
  • Lead with your power statement. Significant facts about your artistic practice versus opening with personal points
  • Should be short, clear and to the point
  • (According to Artsy) the ideal biography is 120 words, though some sites or submissions require a 80-100 word bio, which is tightly summarized
  • The flow of the paragraphs that follow will organically come together when your story does. How we get to developing your story is what we will be discussing next. Through thoughtful questions and self-exploration we should discover the process of writing an Artist biography.

Click here to learn more and download the worksheet.


When writing your artist statement, you want to the final pieces you are reflecting on and write a statement for either a cohesive body or work, or the individual pieces if they are not a set series.

Suggestions and prompts detailed in this worksheet include considerations to highlight, including: picking out at least two elements that are essential to the work and how to further engage your audience; how to build the experience by guiding the audience to what they should be feeling; and how to structure your statement.

Click here to learn more and download the worksheet.


Once you have a few exhibition venues in mind, you’ll have to focus on preparing your portfolio. This will often be the first exposure to your work, so you want to make the best possible impression. Your portfolio will be seen by many others, especially if you are submitting to a general call for submissions or applying for a grant. Often, it’s the simple things that make up the most powerful work.

A successful portfolio should:

  • Be cohesive
  • Clearly organized
  • Be impactful on the front-page, whether it’s visually or with copy (don’t start with a bio)
  • Include appropriate descriptions of works
  • List or showcase important clients
  • Include high-quality (HD) documentation
  • Be properly labelled
  • Be tailored to a recipient’s specification
  • Be attractive, curated with creativity and visually appealing 

Click here to learn more and download the worksheet.

About the author: 

Ashley Mackenzie-Barnes is a modern-day renaissance woman. She has over 16 years of integrated experience in creative direction, design, curating, cultural programming, teaching and visual art. She has worked in the media/broadcasting, entertainment, publishing, corporate, and non-profit sectors. Most recently, she was one of the 2019 curators for Nuit Blanche Toronto. Her work has included programmed exhibitions, creative collaborations and installations for companies such as Samsung, Indigo, Scotiabank, by Ministry, Aurora Cannabis, Bell Media, Canadian Broadcasting Company (CBC), and Manifesto Festival of Art and Culture.

She is responsible for introducing Toronto to internationally acclaimed artists and art projects like Colin Kaepernick’s Know Your Rights Camp (NYC), JR’s Inside Out Project(PAR), Shani Crowe (CHI), Mr. Cartoon (LA), Ernie Panicciolio (NYC),Vince Fraser (UK) and Dubelyoo (ATL) in a variety of DIY spaces and traditional galleries to major Canadian institutions such as the Art Gallery of Ontario (AGO), The City of Toronto, and Harbourfront Centre.

As a visual artist, Ashley’s own work has been featured inside establishments such as the Royal Ontario Museum, CBC and Toronto City Hall. She’s a part time Academic Professor in the Visual and Digital Arts program at Humber College and has directed the Creative Arts Academy for The Remix Project. She’s been a featured speaker, moderator and guest facilitator across many forums for #MoveTheDial, OCAD, Ontario Arts Council, TDSB, Ontario Association of Art Galleries, FreshBooks, U of T, ArtReach, Nia Centre, Artscape and others. Her designs skills were most recently acquired by Lauryn Hill for her fashion collection celebrating 20 years of the Mis-education of Lauryn Hill.