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Descriptions - Best Written In First, Second, Or Third Person?

Posted by: Dan Carmichael on 09/14/2013 - 12:05 PM

Is it better to write descriptions (to a wide audience) in third person or speak directly to the potential buyer in first?


"This original fine art photograph by Joe Schmoe was enhanced in photoshop to..."


"I began with a traditional fine art photograph then enhanced it in photoshop to..."


Oldest Reply

Posted by: Barbara Moignard on 09/14/2013 - 12:16 PM

How about "Taking a fine art photograph and enhancing it in photoshop..." Without the pronouns.


Posted by: Isabella F Abbie Shores on 09/14/2013 - 12:18 PM

We just had this conversation in a different thread

IF you want to be advertised by others....third party

If not bothered... first

Somewhere I explained just what I meant but do not have time to find it just now :|


Posted by: Val Arie on 09/14/2013 - 12:29 PM

I have been wondering this myself Dan...I find it hard to write in the third person about myself... yet when I write in the first I might write any stupid thing. Barbara that might be a good idea but then it might not be clear who actually did the might just sound like a random person. I need to go through everything and edit and want it to sound cohesive.


Posted by: Chuck Staley on 09/14/2013 - 12:44 PM

I write my bio in the 3rd person, or copy what a gallery has written, but I describe the artwork in the first person.

It's your artwork, so I believe it should reflect the artist's feelings or explanations.


Posted by: Dan Carmichael on 09/14/2013 - 2:18 PM

Abbie - or anybody - a link to that other thread would be greatly appreciated.


Posted by: Dan Carmichael on 09/14/2013 - 2:23 PM

Val and chuck,

Exactly - both valid points and why I asked.

I, too, am uncomfortable writing in the first person. But then again, if written in the third, and if the person reading knows it was written by the artist, it sound odd.

I'm wondering if the greatest weighted factor is that buyers should be personally engaged - getting to know a little about the artist. In that sense, first person directly - when you speak personally to them - pulls them into and/or creates a personal relationship.


Posted by: Janine Riley on 09/14/2013 - 2:32 PM

As far as marketing I am sure Abbie knows best.

Personally, I prefer to read a statement written in the first person.
I don't want to see the works as detached from the Artist. I want to know their personal involvement with it.

If written in the 3rd person.......edit carefully. It looks just a tad psychotic when someone writes it in the 3rd - but reverts back to the 1st person every few lines. Lol
Like a Seinfeld skit.


Posted by: Barbara St Jean on 09/14/2013 - 2:32 PM

I have read lots of Bios and I like third person descriptions of the artist.... it is a biography not an autobiography.... One bit of advice if you choose third person then don't change half way through to first person... or the other way around. Do one or other but stick to it all the way through....

When describing a piece or my thoughts on a subject I speak.... first.

The best way to write is just to write.... once you have finished a few different drafts... leave them alone for a few days and then go back and re-read it with fresh eyes... sometimes it takes a few edits from a helper (editor):-)))

Cheers, Barbara


Posted by: Isabella F Abbie Shores on 09/14/2013 - 3:12 PM

SO annoying that I cannot find it! It is here somewhere

However here is one and Chuck puts it perfectly in the last post


Posted by: Isabella F Abbie Shores on 09/14/2013 - 3:14 PM

I said in my post that I, like other magazine editors, use artists bio's in articles about them,. Most musicians, authors, galleries etc have a mission statement or similar and this is basically for press use. It must always be in the third person for ease of access and press use.

If that is not important to you then use 1st but, if you want someone to promote you, then it is best to have a third party statement

EDIT.. yes, the piece about an artwork should be in your words. It is YOUR description about the work and that is what people want to know about. The biography is what I am talking about...hence Biography...not Autobiography


Posted by: Roy Erickson on 09/14/2013 - 3:21 PM

I often write anything in first person - or no person at all - if it's a description -what it is or where it is. I despise artist statements - just because they sound "foolish" - if it's YOUR statement it should be written in first person - if someone else wrote it or is writing it after an interview or something - ok - But then I don't like "art speak" either. But that's me - you get to choose how you present your self and your work to the world.


Posted by: Mike Savad on 09/14/2013 - 3:22 PM

you should be talking to the person. your not in a museum and you don't have a little push button or snobbo guy talking it up for you. and in actuality i don't say i did anything with photoshop, i try to give it a story so they can get into the picture rather than how i made it. also when writing in the third person - more times than not, people trip over their words and mix them. it's confusing to read.

let it be a third person when it's an article.

---Mike Savad


Posted by: Mike Savad on 09/14/2013 - 3:23 PM

abbie try the search.... ha ha ha ha ..... poke

---Mike Savad


Posted by: Anita Dale Livaditis on 09/14/2013 - 3:32 PM

I wouldn't use third unless it actually was by a real third. If someone asked me and then wrote it down and and typed it up, I would be fine with that - I think. But I am not going to fake it. I think the best artists bios and descriptions written in the third person actually are written by a third person.


Posted by: Isabella F Abbie Shores on 09/14/2013 - 3:33 PM

HAHHHAHA *groan*


Posted by: Janice Drew on 09/14/2013 - 3:42 PM

I write in first person or completely leave "I" out. I feel it's more important for the viewer to understand what motivated me to take the picture.


Posted by: Melissa Bittinger on 09/14/2013 - 3:49 PM

I have both first and third here in my "bio". I put the "artist statement" for the first paragraph because it looked better on the announcement page on my first sale!

For descriptions, I use first person or "no" person depending on what the image is and what I can think up. Here's an example!!

This abstract digital art image inspired me to include the first part of this poem.......

The Spider and the Fly

Will you walk into my parlour? said the Spider to the Fly,
'Tis the prettiest little parlour that ever you did spy;
The way into my parlour is up a winding stair,
And I've a many curious things to shew when you are there.

Oh no, no, said the little Fly, to ask me is in vain,
For who goes up your winding stair
-can ne'er come down again.

Mary Howitt (1799-1888)

inkblot abstract spider by melissa bittinger prints for sale


Posted by: Dan Carmichael on 09/14/2013 - 5:25 PM

I thank all for the replies. But to clarify, as in the OP and the title of the thread, I am asking about image descriptions only.

To me, Bios are an entirely different animal and that is already answered - the apostrophe before the "s" in "Artist's Statement" grammatically indicates singular possession - to the artist. If a bio were written in third person, it would be more properly labeled "About the Artist." But an "artist's statement" reinterpreted is a statement by the artist. And somebody else wrote mine, it's not in first person, so that's a problem I will need to figure out.

Back to descriptions. What Abbie points out is the biggest sticking point for me: when images are shared. Writing descriptions, telling stories, whatever... when read from the artist's site itself, makes sense. But once an image is shared elsewhere, if the first-person description follows it, it becomes odd, and may be attributed to the person sharing the image.

I'm thinking a clinical, non-person description, written to be possession-neutral wherever read, is probably best.

And although a slight bit off the topic of the subject, I also think what Mike points out is good - and that is the point of the description should not be about how it is produced, but rather something engaging about the image itself. I need to change the way I am doing things.


Posted by: Roz Abellera on 09/14/2013 - 7:10 PM

First person works fine for me. Third person reminds me of an athlete like Roy Jones talking about himself. Roy will talk about himself but instead of saying "I'm going to win by knockout tonight," he'll say "Roy Jones Jr. is going to win by knockout tonight."

To me this sounds funny and he has been accused of being a pompous ass for talking this way even if it may not be true. The last thing you want when you're trying to get to know people who like your work is to come across as a pompous ass.


Posted by: Val Arie on 09/14/2013 - 9:07 PM

I decided...not doing bio. All my descriptions need redone...first person... Don't want to be pompous Roz :) I think what Mike said is a very good approach. Might just delete the ones where I can't think of anything to say.


Posted by: Roz Abellera on 09/14/2013 - 9:13 PM

You're not pompous if you do use third person. Just pointing out that Roy Jones talks in third person and a lot of people get on him for it.


Posted by: Mike Savad on 09/14/2013 - 9:16 PM

you should always have something written. at the very least it makes it look like you made it intentionally and it still helps you with google. often if you can't think of anything to say it might not be good enough to sell either (not saying it is, but in my experience the ones i have the hardest time explaining is also hard to market). however that said, i sell flowers and don't know a darn thing about them. so i tend to ramble on and say stupid unrelated things. sometimes i think it's best to just try to make people laugh. in other cases i totally made up stories, people etc- to the point where people were replying to me that they had a family member who was the same way. i had to double check my story to know what they were talking about.

and the funny part is - i didn't do well in english class or creative writing.

then again in the 3rd person can sound funny - like when bob dole did it and he repeated his name each time - bob dole really likes this, bob dole would like a hamburger too. though mostly i find third person talk - tends to show off themselves way too much. modesty goes right out the window.

like - blah blah smith has won the modesty award for the 15th year now, and so on and so on. it would sound funny if they were saying it as an - I - .

keep the info to the point, no more than a few lines. ignore the people that tell you wiki is best. or 50 lines or more - all nonsense. add too much, add your bio to the description, add your copyright concerns, websites, recipes for pork rolls all in that one box - it becomes so heavy with words that people tend to ignore the picture - i know i do.

---Mike Savad


Posted by: Chris Kusik on 09/14/2013 - 9:23 PM

I think biographies are supposed to be in third person and descriptions are in first person. It must be true. I found out about it on the internet!


Posted by: Mike Savad on 09/14/2013 - 9:37 PM

for bio's - unless there is a news article about me - i'm there with the buyer and i'm telling them how great i am - myself. so i keep the 3rd person out of it. otherwise it just sounds weird. like if you wrote a book jacket, the 3rd person sounds right.

---Mike Savad


Posted by: Melissa Bittinger on 09/14/2013 - 9:51 PM

Hey Mike, would you critique my bio?


Posted by: Mike Savad on 09/14/2013 - 10:19 PM

right now it reads like a diary of what things you don't have. you said very little about what you actually have other than having hard time to dabble in things that i don't actually see. the whole thing is in quotes its more like a thought you had but it was written down anyway and it's a bit confusing to have a whole block of text there. it's like someone asked you a question, but we only see the answer.

part two reads as the third person which is also confusing and a bit show offy. if the bio doesn't explain what you have to offer right here and now, then it's kind of pointless to have it in there.

your background, awards, what your goals are, dreams, aspirations, what you do on the weekends, hoping they will like it, etc - leave it all off. you want to give a brief intro of who you are, what you do, how long (maybe) you've been doing this for, what they can expect to find, the medium you use etc. keep it simple and to the point.

then start everyone in galleries.

---Mike Savad


Posted by: Val Arie on 09/14/2013 - 10:28 PM

Mike I tend to say stupid unrelated things as well or tell a totally random I guess you are saying that is ok...just keep it short?


Posted by: Melissa Bittinger on 09/14/2013 - 10:29 PM

Ah, thank you. I did the quotes as I considered the first part my statement and the second part more like professional experience. Well shoot....I'll ponder and decide on a better direction for a rewrite.


Posted by: Mike Savad on 09/14/2013 - 10:37 PM

keep in mind when you buy something. the last time you bought from a salesman - did you care if he won the nice guy award? or that he won the best tie award? or he was employee of the month? and if he told you or guided you to the wall of him - did it impress you to buy from him? i know i would back out and just turn around at that point. i don't know how many buyers would do that. but anything that sounds boastful - unless asked, should be kept quiet. if you replaced she - with I - would it sound boastful?

as for story descriptions you can look at mine. i'll be uploading new stuff probably in a day or two depending what i get done at zazzle. and if i can uncurl my hand. i don't think it hurts to be silly as long as it's on the same topic. i usually don't add more than a few sentences. if i'm really good, i'll proof read it - but you'll see a bunch of syntax errors. i'm trying to get better at it, by writing everything before hand and proofing it when uploaded, but i still find things that make it sound like i don't come from this country.

---Mike Savad


Posted by: Melissa Bittinger on 09/14/2013 - 10:50 PM

Mike, try a different analogy. The bio is the first chance at a personal connection to a buyer. A chance for them to "get" the artist and what they are about. Sometimes that connection is what could bring a buyer in and back again, like Loree's example (okay, that's in a different thread!) But it did happen to Loree, a buyer specifically told her she connected with her bio and that has drawn her back to purchase several times.

Wall of him....that's too funny! I don't know how you did not do well in creative writing. You've been making up for it since then for sure.

edit: my dad sold cars most of his life and had repeat customers follow him to buy again years later. so there was a personal connection made. Maybe it's a personality connection.


Posted by: Mike Savad on 09/14/2013 - 10:58 PM

buyers don't care as much about us as most would want to think. unless they are writing a paper or something. they are getting a copy of the original work - not the work itself.

when i eat at a place and they say - try our award winning such and such. it's a meaningless gesture, because i don't know who the competition was. but more than often the award winning thing isn't that good (referring to the food). so the label doesn't impress me. i would rather the work impress people then my background.

i have lots of rambling thoughts that would make me look like less of an artist - even if they wanted to know my emotional core, it doesn't apply to the images you see. like i can tell people that i've been (well had been) doing stained glass for like 25 years, i can tell them i learned when i was 9. i can tell them i know most of the building trades, and have more tools then home depot. but it doesn't apply to my work. they get no real insight about what they are going to see. i can go on to tell them that i'd like to learn how to draw - but that would make me appear weak and you don't want that ever. you want that confidence, so i compare myself against the masters so they have some kind of starting point.

as for school - they made you write page after page by hand. they got in the way of creativity and they gave you a topic. if you made it silly - you failed. with this the stories are short, usually in metaphor, and i'm not doing it for a grade. though compared who i am today and who i was when i was in school - i did a total 380 on it - yeah i know it's 360, but i did 20 more just to compensate.

---Mike Savad


Posted by: Mike Savad on 09/14/2013 - 11:01 PM

when your selling cars it's more about playing the part of the person that cares about you. i don't think he went into talking about himself or awards he got. or his aspirations about wanting to be a stunt pilot or anything like that. he probably smiled warmly when people were near and didn't give off vibes that a predator might give off. that's usually the mark of a good salesman. but for a bio, keep it general. if your listed on another site, you can boast a bit.

---Mike Savad


Posted by: Melissa Bittinger on 09/14/2013 - 11:18 PM

I saw your stain glass btw, you have several very impressive pieces. I very briefly worked at a stain glass factory, one of my shortest jobs ever at two weeks, felt bad for quitting but grunt work at a stain glass factory leaves you nothing but tiny slices on your hands. Not the same as individually making pieces.

I actually care and am curious about the bios, and feel a bit ripped off when it says biography coming soon.....and they've been here for months or years.

Crap, I want it to be interesting and show a bit of personality. I will continue to ponder.


Posted by: John Ayo on 09/14/2013 - 11:56 PM

Mine is currently 1st person, but I'm considering making it 3rd person plus a 1st person "artist's quote" or two.

Seems like this should be a private thread, by the way.


Posted by: Jane McIlroy on 09/15/2013 - 3:14 AM

I must be naturally contrary - I seem to do it the other way round from most people. My bio is written in the first person because anything I tried to write in the third person sounded too pretentious. For images, I always use the third person and keep to a simple description of what the image shows. I never go into details about how an image was made - I think it's distracting to catalogue every technique used in processing. I'd prefer people to judge the image by the end result, not how it was achieved.


Posted by: Wendy J St Christopher on 09/15/2013 - 8:25 AM

I reserve 3rd person for formal bios (submitted to galleries, used as part of press kit, exhibit proposal, etc.) and press releases.

Informal, online bios (FAA, Zazzle, etc.) descriptions, artist statements, are always 1st person. I prefer to talk to my viewers and potential buyers -- not have them read about me, on my own page.

It's my experience that very few people write well enough to make a 3rd person narrative sound personable. Stiff and formal is not what I'm interested in when 'getting to know' someone before viewing their portfolio.

If someone wants to promote my art, but won't use what I've written or contact me for a 3rd-person write-up . . . well, I'm okay with that. :-)


Posted by: Mike Savad on 09/15/2013 - 8:32 AM

another thought is, the bio should have your basics which include what you do and what you make. and the descriptions - you can reveal a part of yourself. so if people want to know more about you, they would have to look through all your images and read the descriptions. i know my personality leaches into the stories i make.

---Mike Savad


This discussion is closed.