Creative's Field Guide
+ Articles by Experts
Writing a Biography for the Creative Professional
The creative professional’s biography can be a valuable tool,
a quick guide to factual information that lends a deeper comprehension
of professional experience and expertise. A well-written biography
is informative and engaging, and will always be clear and easy to
The biography is often the reader’s first detailed introduction
to the subject. For both the green and seasoned professional, it
plays an important role in setting tone and moving objectives forward.
If a biography is not working for a person, it is working against
a person. Readers appreciate not having to work for the facts or
having to wade through obvious statements and irrelevant information.
Unclear or rambling biographies often determine a specific outcome:
immediate transfer to the trashcan.
Some basic rules for writing style follow:
• Write in the third person to create
a professional and objective tone
• Write for clarity—beware of abstract or overly-clever
• Stay positive and orient content toward information
that support goals
• Lead the reader with facts, rather than opinion
• One to three paragraphs is often sufficient
in length; always write less than one page
• Use short paragraphs
• Be succinct and remove or rework unclear and redundant
• Keep consistent tense
Each and every person who reads a creative professional’s
biography is a potential candidate to assist in achieving goals.
• Consumers, collectors, fans, clients
• Investors, benefactors, sponsors, donors
• Decision-makers in awarding grants, scholarships and travel-study programs
• Publishers, publicists, agents, art buyers
• Galleries, theaters
• Media, critics
• Professional peers, social networks, bloggers
• Team-workers, associates, advocates
• Potential partners
The “I” Environment: A Basic Overview
of What to Include
• Name and profession
• Goals, works in progress (be succinct)
• Education and/or experience
• Subject matter, professional focus
• Objective-related accomplishments
• Extraordinary or unique experience
• Contact information and Website (this can be a follow or precede
• Resident location
• Hobbies or special interest
Where Do I Start and What Have I Done?
Read biographies by professional peers and mentors in your line
of work. It’s a good way to spark inspiration and can serve
as an information trigger.
A few things to look for, while reading:
and information flow
Make a list, before you compose. Not all of the items listed will
make it into the biography, but this process is useful for content
organization and can often trigger relevant details otherwise forgotten.
Tip: a résumé can be an excellent resource in the list-making
affiliations and organizations
• Press: reviews or interview by newspapers, magazines, radio, TV and
grants and recognition
and articles; include authored articles or art or writing published in books,
magazines, anthologies or other media such as ads, cds or brochures
or assisting roles in workshops or panels
and notable volunteer or pro-bono work
Keep It Real, Keep it Relevant, Keep It Updated
Create action statements that are relevant to the objective of the
biography. It is a common mistake to truncate the importance of a
statement, or to run on for sentences without relaying any actual
information. The aim is to achieve balance in how much information
No: “Jane is passionate about art.”
No: “Jane has always loved art made by women.”
Yes: “Jane’s work reflects her life-long relationship
with women in art.”
Update the biography biannually or annually with new information
as accomplishments build. Outdated or less relevant information can
be removed as new accomplishments are achieved.
Proof and Have Proofed
A seamless biography conveys attention to detail, an asset to any
professional. Ask a trusted colleague to read the biography. An objective
party can often catch an important detail that was left out. An informational
disconnect can occur after sentence structure has been repeatedly
changed or rearranged.
Things to consider while proofreading:
• Spelling, grammar and errors
• Flow and coherency
• Reader engagement
When applying for a grant or a project with guidelines, be sure
to note if there are specific instructions regarding the length or
content of your biography.
About the Writer
Karen Kopacz is a graphic and Web designer living in St. Paul, MN.
Her freelance enterprise, Design for the Arts, provides design, strategy
and consultation for artists, writers and creative businesses of
Karen is director and founder of the monthly-published,
online arts & literature
magazine Mental Contagion, launched in 2000. She was a panel member
of Fostering New Culture on the Internet in SXSW's 2005 Interactive
Festival, and is the founder and curator of Reconnect, a ‘Mobile
Art Gallery’ series that takes place at various locations in
the Minneapolis-St. Paul area to help build connections between local
artists, business owners and the community.
Karen's Web design has been featured in the
design anthology Portfolios Online. She has been on the board of
directors for the Twin Cities Fine Arts Organization, is a former
art director of First Avenue’s
in-house magazine, has been a columnist and photographer for PitchforkMedia.com
and has collaborated with artists, musicians, photographers, copywriters
and editors for more years than she cares to admit.
For more information, visit Karen's Website at www.DesignForTheArts.com.