Social Media: Blogging: Get Writing

Now that you have ideas and topics for blog posts it’s time to get started with the actual writing.  Where do you begin?

I like – make that love – to start with various stages of a technique that’s called Free Writing.  In fact, I’d say that I start most of my writing projects – even my blog posts – this way.  If you’ve read The Artists Way by Julia Cameron you’ll be somewhat familiar with this.  She refers to it as “The Morning Pages” – every morning you sit down and write three pages about whatever is on your mind.  Bare your soul and make room for creativity.  Free Writing is somewhat like that but a bit different.  It’s more creative and the outcome is often the beginning of something you will use.

Free Writing, by definition, is really quite simple, as you will see. It can be an amazing basis for inner discovery.  You can find new ideas for your art and yourself.  It can be a great place to gather your thoughts, or (as in the case of the “Morning Pages”) it can simply be a place to unload.  Free Writing is also known as Stream Of Consciousness writing. Here’s how to get started.

1. Get your favorite writing implement(s).  You can even use a crayon if you think it will open your creativity. I type rather fast so I like to use the computer.  Sometimes I start to get inspired in a cafe or on public transportation so I carry my iPhone and something to write on just in case.  You can use a sketch pad, an iPad, paper, whatever you like.  Just make sure it’s fun and comfortable.

2. Get into your most comfortable spot.  An armchair in your living room or den. I know some writers who can’t write at home so they go to cafes and coffee bars.  Some writers create a special place in their homes for writing – even if it’s just a desk in a quiet spot overlooking a beautiful landscape.  It can be a place dedicated to writing in your studio.  It has to be a place that you look forward to going to because you’ll want to do this again and again.

3. Set a time limit – 10, 20 or 30 minutes.

4. Start Writing.

There are two rules to follow. Don’t worry they’re not hard and fast.

• You are only allowed to pick up your writing implement to make space between words.  If you feel stuck say it.  “I don’t know what to write about? What should I write? I’m stuck.” Just keep going and I promise something will come out of it.

• Do not worry about grammar, punctuation or editing.  Don’t let that impulse to self censor get in the way.  Editing will come later.

• No one else has to ever look at it.

You don’t have to have a topic in mind to start writing but in the case of blogging you may want to.  For example: Pull out a painting or drawing and write about it for that set amount of time.  Whatever comes into your mind about it is okay.  Even if you don’t like it – maybe this will help you figure out why.  You’ll be amazed at what comes out.

After you finish and take a bit of a break, read it to yourself (preferably out loud).  This can be empowering because you will see that you can write and write well and that’s the key to great blog content and great blog content is the key to getting followers.

Social Media: Blogging: An Introduction

In 2011, Technorati.com (a powerful blog search engine) was tracking 120 million active blogs. That number has been growing at a rapid pace daily. There is an active audience for blogs and people will want to hear from you. They will be interested in what you have to say and want to hear more.

The word Blog is a combination of the words Web and Log. The blogging format was originally created for a single author to create a daily log of their activities. Almost like a diary. Today major companies and news outlets have what are called multi-author blogs. The New York Times has a Blog called ArtsBeat among many others. Even the Metropolitan Museum of Art has “Met Blogs”.

There are smaller blogs that referred to as Niche Blogs. Blogs that focus on one thing and do it well. Such as a neighborhood, a celebrity, a featured item or an artist. A good example of a neighborhood blog is We Heart Astoria: Delivering the Inside Scoop In and Out of Astoria. They combine this with active Social Media accounts and have 5,842 followers on Facebook as of this post.

The reason that there are so many blogs is that it is easy to start one. The only thing you need is a computer and access to the internet. You don’t need to know fancy internet code such as .html, .CSS or JavaScript. It’s as easy to use as a word processing software such as Microsoft Word. You can use code if you know how but you don’t need to. You can choose a design simply by choosing a theme and customizing it. You can create posts in text, audio, video or post images. There are blogs that are nothing but video and those are called Vlogs. There are also blogs that are nothing but audio and those are called Podcasts.

The difference between a blog and a website is that a blog is interactive and a website is static. People can and will comment and leave feedback on your blog. You will answer and suddenly a whole entire conversation has started. If you use good etiquette your commenters, followers and readers will tell their friends about you, link to your blog and tell other bloggers about you.

Those bloggers will link to your blog and you will link back. This will increase traffic to your blog exponentially. If you link your blog to your website – and you definitely should – it will increase traffic to your website as well. The most important thing a blog will do for you is to increase your exposure and your readers will come back for more because they can see who you are in a wonderful way.

A blog is a unique creative outlet. Remember always that you are an artist because you have something to say visually. Here is your place to put that into words. To let the world know, and those critics that matter, just what that message is again and again. Tell them what you like and don’t like, what inspires you, what you’re working on. You can simply tell your readers what you’re working on today, or what happened in your studio. You can review exhibitions you’ve gone to, giving your readers an artists perspective.  Believe me, that will fascinate them.

There are some things you can do to make your blog really visible and really good looking. In the coming posts I will go into that so please stay tuned.

Writing for Artists: Writing Prompts

I recently came up with these for an exhibition and thought they might be useful to you. The artists were asked to write about their pieces. Several of them asked for help so I wrote this. You will invariably be asked to write again and again about your inspiration for a specific piece, an artist statement, a statement for a particular exhibition, etc. Use these prompts to inspire you….

All of them are free writing. (You can read more about free writing in a previous post). Get your favorite writing materials. Sit down in a quiet place or take yourself out for a Chai at Starbucks….:-)

1. Place the artwork in front of you. Set a time limit of 10 minutes and write, only picking up the pen to separate words. Don’t hesitate to gather your thoughts or get grammar or punctuation right. Write whatever comes into your mind. It’s okay if you stray into different topics. When you realize it bring yourself back to your work.

2. Place the artwork in front of you. Make a list of words that come to mind about the work and the creation of it. Read them out loud and look them up in the dictionary and then pick one, based on the definition in the dictionary write – no holds barred and no stopping – about that word and how it relates to your art.

Don’t edit it right away. Put it away for a day or so and then come back to it. Pick the words, sentences, paragraphs that speak the most profoundly to the piece and put them together. Almost like a word collage. Then through editing merge them – make it smooth. If you still need help, contact The Artists Objective. We have editing services and can sit down with you and get you writing in no time. It’s fun, it’s creative and it will help you become successful!

Writing for Artists: The Resumé: Formatting

“I hope it is a benchmark for what the artist’s experience in the field of art might be. I don’t think it should matter to a gallery if the artist is self taught or has a Master in Art, but the length of time, making and creating should speak volumes. Art seems to be the field where length and breadth of experience is a very important aspect.” Cathy Hegman

Your Resume is the most important marker of your experience that you may have. Getting the grammar absolutely perfect is a mark of your professionalism. This post will show you how to outline your resume. What goes in what order. I will create a list and after each item there will be an explanation with tips.

You will start with your name, address, phone, email, website, blog and other web presences. This is a good time to create a letterhead for yourself. A logo representing your art and a format for every bit of correspondence you send out. There are even ways to add it to an email. If you aren’t ready to do that then I recommend at least putting a piece of your work that represents the majority of what you do. People will remember you first and foremost by your work. You want to get that image in front of them as much as possible.

The items of your achievement come next…

Representation
This means any galleries that represent you or that you have consigned with. You just need to put the name of the gallery, city and state. If it’s outside the United States then put city and country.
i.e.
Laurel Gallery, Baltimore, MD
Shanghai Gallery, Shanghai, China

Museum Exhibitions
Any museum where you’ve had a solo or been part of a group exhibition. You’ll need the name of the exhibition (if any), the name of the museum, the city and the state, or city and country.
i.e.
An Artist in Soho, New Museum, New York, NY.
American Artist in Asia, Shanghai Museum, Shanghai, China.

(Tip: The name of the exhibition should be in either italics or quotation marks. Italics are preferred because it looks more sophisticated).

Solo Exhibitions
Any gallery where you’ve been the sole exhibitor. You can also add a category if you’ve been part of a two or three person exhibition. Any exhibition with more than 3 artists is considered a group exhibition.
For all gallery exhibitions this is how you will list them:
Name of Exhibition, Name of Gallery, City, State or City, Country.

This should also be listed under the year. Like this:
2009
Name of Exhibition, Name of Gallery, City, State or City, Country.
Name of Gallery, City, State or City, Country.
Name of Exhibition, Name of Gallery, City, State or City, Country.

Group Exhibitions
This is any exhibition that you’ve been a part of that includes more than one artist.
I’ve seen artists include the name of the juror because they think it’s prestigious. Leave it out. It’s not necessary and in most cases nobody will care.

Art Fairs
If you’ve been a part of an art fair such as the Affordable Art Fair.
i.e. Affordable Art Fair, New York, NY, March 2014.

Awards and Honors
If you’ve won a prestigious award or honor for your work. List it like this:
• Name of Award, Name of Exhibition (If any), Name of Organization that gave it to you, City and State, Date.

Grants
If a foundation or grant making organization has given you funding for your art, list it here. It’s important because if someone is willing to give you money to make your art, then how can you be refused by anyone else…? Right? This is your place to let them know about it.

List it like this:
• Name of Grant, Name of Grant Making Organization, City and State where grant making organization is listed, Date.

Fellowship
Any time that you’ve been given services or goods for a specific purpose. For example Women’s Studio Workshop gives a limited amount of subsidies to use their space for a Residency or if you’ve been given money or services that allow you to study or create your work.

List it like this: Name of Fellowship, Name of Fellowship Organization (i.e. Vermont Studio Center), City, State, Date.

Residencies
Whether you’re paying for them or not they are usually juried so it is prestigious. For example:

• Vermont Studio Center, Johnson, VT, March-October, 2013
• Fine Arts Work Center, Provincetown, MA, September-December 2013.

Publicity
This includes any part of the media that has included you or your work. Even newer media such as online media. (Tip: Create a Link on Your Website to the Article and Ask the Creator of the Blog or News Media to Link Back to your Website. This is known as Cross Linking and will boost the search engine traffic to your website). You can make separate sub-categories here as well. Such as: Print Media, Television and Radio, Online Media. Always list it like this:

Name of the Article by the author, Name of Publication, Vol. [Volume] No.[Number], Month, Day, City, State [City, Country], Page the Article Appeared on.

i.e.
New York Artists Shows in Shanghai by Chin Me How, Shanghai Times, Vol. 3 No. 4, Beijing, China, April 29, 2014, Page 32.

Education
This is where you’ve studied and with whom. If it’s your college degree, list it as follows:
• Bachelors of Fine Art, Long Island University, Southampton Campus, Southampton, NY 2002.

If you’ve studied with an artist or teacher of note you can list it like this
•Pablo Picasso, Art Student’s League, New York, NY, 2014.

Memberships
These are organizations that you have current memberships with. Such as Allied Artists of America, National Sculpture Society, etc. Here’s how you’d list them:
• National Sculpture Society, New York, N.Y.
• National Association of Women Artists, New York, N.Y.
• American Association of Watercolorists, Philadelphia, N.Y.

Commissions
These are private or public commissions (or public art) – where you’ve been paid to create a work of art for a specific location or reason. You’d list it like this:
• Skecher’s USA Inc., Orlando, F.L.

Public Collections
A place where your work is in the permanent collection of an institution or business. You’d list it like this
• Citigroup USA, Long Island City, N.Y.

Private Collections
The private individuals who have purchased your art and still hold your work in their possession. They haven’t resold it or given it away. You’d list it like this… (Notice the alphabetical order by last name):
• Leonard Baskin, New York, N.Y.
• Miriam Schwartz, New York, N.Y.
• Joan Zimmet, New York, N.Y.

Some artists are shy about listing name of the of their private collectors and this is a huge mistake. Remember that by purchasing your art they gave you the right to do that. It’s also extremely important to list individual buyers if you ever want to be represented or consigned by a gallery. They will not only want to see your art but that you have a following or a record of purchases. It gives you more credibility and that’s important.

If this is overwhelming for you, one of the services The Artists Objective offers is resume editing. Please contact us at: info@theartistobjective.com even if you just have a question. I’m here to help.

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Writing for Artists: A Few More Symbols

It occurred to me that after my last post that I’d forgotten three very important punctuation marks. The bullet point, the slash and the accent (back and forward). These will help you make your writing – and your resume especially a lot clearer.

The Bullet Point (•) – is a typographical glyph used to define items in a list. It is probably called the bullet point because of it’s resemblance to a bullet but it can take several forms. A circle, a triangle, a square, a diamond or an arrow. Bullet points are used most commonly in the following types of writing – technical, reference works, notes and presentations. They will be most effective in a resume where you will be listing items like exhibitions, press, etc. Here is a general example of how they are used:

Paintings
• Drawings
• Photographs
• Collage
• Assemblage
• Sculpture

Compare it to this and you’ll see how the bullet point makes things much clearer by indicating a separation.

Paintings
Drawings
Photographs
Collage
Assemblage
Sculpture

The Slash ( / ) The most general use of the slash is a shortcut for “and”. For example: painter/sculptor It can also mean either/or. Another use is as a line break for poetry. For example:

“The naming of cats is a difficult matter/it isn’t just one of your holiday games/you may think that at first I’m as mad as a hatter/when I tell you a cat must have three different names.” *T.S. Elliot, The Naming of Cats, Old Possums Book of Practical Cats

It is also used in abbreviations. Such as: w/o for without

To address internet issues…
When used in a URL (means Universal Resource Locater or website address) it can mean a separation of a file. Such as http://www.theartistobjective.com/listings/artistindex.html

It can also mean the end of a URL
http://www.theartistobjective.com/

The slash is also used in mathematical type for two things. (I know this is about art but…) It’s used for percentage symbols (5/0%”), in a fraction 1/2″ or to indicate the division symbol (10/2 = 5).

The Accent – There are two major accent marks you need to be aware of . The accute accent and the grave accent.

• The accute accent (´) is a forward mark placed over a vowel, usually an e. An “e” would normally be pronounced “eee” but if an accute accent is placed over it then it would be pronounced as if you were saying “A”. I.E. Resumé.

• The grave accent (’) is a back mark and is usually placed over an e to mean that it is pronounced separately. Ed at the the end of a word with a grave accent would be pronounced separately. (paint-ed vs. painted)

There are other marks that are technically called accents or diacritics but these are the most commonly used. Essentially what they all mean is that there is a difference in pronunciation in the English transliteration of a word.

In the next post I’ll go more into formatting for your resume. Stay tuned!

Maya Angelou

“The idea is to write it so that people hear it and it slides through the brain and goes straight to the heart.”

Writing for Artists: Creating Space

Did you know that your readers need to take a breath? To stop here and there just to absorb what you’re saying. When you read your work out loud you’ll notice the need to breathe. How much of a stop do you want to give them? Punctuation can help. It can also make your thoughts and ideas really clear and effective.
What follows are definitions of the different types of punctuation, along with ideas and examples of how to use each one. Again, just as the tiniest dot of red can change an entire painting, good punctuation can change the meaning of a whole piece of writing – and that’s exciting.

Let’s talk about “End Marks.” This includes the period, the question mark, the exclamation point and abbreviations.

Period: The most important use of a period is to end a sentence. It is also used in the abbreviations such as Mr., Ms., Dr. etc, and  F.B.I., I.R.S., N.Y., and U.S.A.  Periods (dots) are also used on the internet and should only be used as a separation of an extension (smith.jpg, smith.pdf, http://www.artist.com)

Interestingly enough, previously end punctuation marks separated sentences with two spaces, now the accepted convention is to use one space only.

Exclamation Point: These should be used at the end of an emphatic declaration. It can also be used as an interjection or a command. i.e. What a beautiful sculpture! The show amazed me! That’s an unbelievable color! Be aware that exclamation points tend to be overused, especially on the internet. I find myself doing it a lot especially on Social Networking but I think about it before I hit the return/enter button. When it’s over used it can dilute the effectiveness of it. I try to think about it before and after I put it in.

Question Mark: This seems obvious but… A direct question is followed by a question mark. Generally it is used by itself, without other marks but an exception would be “She said what!?” There are times when  a question mark should be used and questions where it should not:

• Direct Questions – a question that you are asking another person when you are speaking to them or when one person in a narrative is asking another person a question. i.e. “Do you know what happens when you mix red with green?”

• Indirect Questions – usually when one person is talking about something that happened. You should not use a question mark in that situation. i.e. “She asked what would happen if she mixed red with green.”

Other punctuation marks are used in the middle of sentences, to break up a thought or concept, or to extend the space between words. I think of an end mark as a dead stop/breath break. A semicolon is a large stop/breath. A comma is a slight stop/breath.

Comma: The formal uses of a comma are:

• To separate elements in a series. i.e. paint, brushes, pastels, pencils, charcoal

• To connect two independent clauses. i.e. The painting was beautiful, but the lighting in the gallery didn’t suffice.

• To set off introductory elements in a sentence. i.e. Despite the lighting in the gallery, the painting was exquisite and the smallest lines were quite evident.

• Parenthetical elements – depending on how strong you want to offset the comment. i.e. The artist was in the studio, creating a painting, when the curator walked in.

• Colon: use this to mean “what follows” in situations as this:

• Before a list of items, especially after expressions like as follows and the following. i.e. The Julian Easel held just about everything: brushes, all of my paints, linseed oil and there was even a place for my canvas.

• Before a long formal statement or quotation. i.e. The Museum Director made a formal speech: The works of art that you will see here represent the period of Post-war Modern Art.

• In certain conventional situations such as:
• The time. i.e. 4:30 P.M.

• Semicolon: The is an under utilized form of punctuation and is something I’ve come to love recently. Using it also makes your writing more professional and intelligent. A semicolon can also break up a run on sentence. There are different situations to use it in:

• To join independent clauses that are not joined by and, but, or, nor, for or yet. i.e. Over 100 artists showed up for the demonstration; it lasted from 5 to 8pm and there was a reception afterwords.

• Between to independent clauses joined by such words as for example, for instance, that is, besides, accordingly, moreover, nevertheless, furthermore, otherwise, therefore, however, consequently, instead, hence. i.e. Artists always seem to just make the deadline for an exhibition; for instance, we always get at least 50 submissions on the last day.

• To separate clauses that include a comma. I find myself using this one often. i.e. The exhibition included Picasso’s Les Demoiselles d’Avignon; Edvard Monk’s The Scream; Georgia O’Keeffe’s Black Iris; Joan Miro’s Moonbird among many other ground breaking pieces.

Tip: sometimes you can look at a run-on sentence and see where it can break up clearly. Decide how much of a break you want to give your reader and place the appropriate punctuation. As I keep saying, good writing is essential to your success.  So please keep following these posts.  It can make all the difference.

*The definitions of punctuation here are adapted from the following sources

Merriam-Webster’s Collegiate Dictionary, Eleventh Edition, An Encyclopedia Britannica Company, 2005.

Warriner’s English Grammar and Composition: Complete Course, Heritage Edition by John E. Warriner and Francis Griffith, Harcourt Brace Jovanovich, 1977.

•Wikipedia.org

• http://grammar.ccc.commnet.edu/grammar/marks/marks.htm

Maya Angelou

“There is nothing more agonizing than bearing an untold story within you.”

The Artist Statement: The Power of Words

Artists are so visual that they often overlook the power of words. Believe me when I tell you that words – the way they are written and/or said – ARE important. You CAN harness that power and use it to express yourself in a unique and effective way. To connect, create a bridge between you and your viewer. A bridge that might just turn a viewer into a buyer and a buyer into a collector.

If you are doubting what I’m saying about the power of words then think of this. Remember the saying “Sticks and stones can break my bones but words will never harm me.” It’s definitely not true. In fact, words can do lasting damage. This sounds negative but have you ever wished that someone had used one word in place of another because it would have alleviated the pain they caused or it wouldn’t have been painful in the first place. Words can go straight to your heart. They can change a meaning of everything you just said. They can change the tone of a whole book – and require the author to go back and revise the entire book. Similar to a painting. One dot of red may change the whole thing and require you to go back and rework the entire piece.

As you can see I love words. Editing has become like a creative crossword puzzle to me. Here is an exercise that incorporates using the power of words….

After you have a solid piece of writing, it answers all of the questions that a viewer may ask and you think you are satisfied then go into a room and read it out loud. Does it flow off your tongue? Does it feel good to say? Are there any words or punctuation that you stumble over? A sentence that doesn’t flow properly or convey exactly, exactly what you mean. One word can interrupt the flow of an entire sentence, an entire piece of writing.

Two of the most powerful tools I have found are the Dictionary and Thesaurus. Look up just one word and read the entire definition and suggestions of other words to use. You’ll be amazed and find things you never thought of before. Here is an example:

Inspiration: in(t)-spe-‘ra’-shan, – (,)spi-/in (14 century) 1.a: a divine influence or action on a person believed to qualify him or her to receive and communicate with sacred revelation. b: the action or power of moving the intellect or emotions c: the act of influencing or suggesting opinions 2: the act of drawing in: specific The Drawing of air into the lungs. 3a: the quality or state of being inspired. b: something that was inspired. 4. an inspiring agent of influence.

This can also be a marvelous tool if you feel stuck. Here is another exercise:
Write a list of words that describe your art and look them up in the dictionary or thesaurus one by one. It opens the doors to your mind and your heart and suddenly the words will just flow. Start to free write about what each word means to you if you’re still stuck after that.

Another exercise is to have someone else read it out loud to you, after you’re completely finished with it. As they read it you will see if they understand the meaning of what you have written. You can also see if they stumble over words or sentences. Listen carefully. Having more than one person read it is also good because it will let you see who your artist statement resonates with.

Remember that an artist statement is never really finished. Your process and technique will change. You really should review it every three to six months and see if it needs tweaking. If you have followed the steps in the previous posts and in this post congratulations! You have completed your artist statement. Getting over the hurdle of writing your first artist statement can be the hardest thing but once it’s complete you know you will have something you can really use. It will be easier to change and keep up with. You will be able to talk and write about your work with confidence. You will be able to write grants, fellowships, residencies, press releases, exhibition proposals and so much more. Galleries like artists who can write and who can talk. This is the second major step to your success.

The Artist Statement: Writing for the Senses

One of the most important questions, that can help your viewer get into your mind and your heart, is how does the act of making art make you feel. Is it a wonderment. an excitement, calming, peaceful. What’s going on in your being? What does it do for your soul?

Someone with a passion for art, who doesn’t have the ability to make it, cannot conceive of why you do it and how you feel. If you can touch them in that way your statement will ultimately be successful. Walk them into the studio with you.

The best way to do this is to bring the five senses into your writing. That is Sight, Smell, Touch, Feel and Taste. Okay, maybe the last one doesn’t exactly apply to art making. Writers will also tell you to show not tell. So describe what your studio looks like, how it smells and feels. Is it the best place in the world for you to be in? Why? If you’re a painter, for example, where are the paints in your studio and why? What do they feel like? How do they smell? What is your surface and why do you use it? What effects are you hoping to achieve?

That said, you don’t want to cross that line of telling the viewer how to look at your art. That’s crossing into the art historical, curatorial description of your work. You want to tell them what you see in it, not what you want them to see.

Try this exercise. Get a piece of paper and your favorite writing tool. Get into that relaxed creative zone. Then write about your studio. Imagine that you are someone else walking in the door and describe every detail of what it looks like, feels like, smells like, etc. You will write a lot, and don’t worry about that. This is primarily to get you in touch with showing and not telling. In touch with the senses.

One more tip, beware of using too many adjectives. Be aware of what adjectives you are using and why. A general rule is to not use more than two adjectives to describe something but rules are meant to be broken. The repetition I described in the last post may apply to this.

As always have fun with this. Espousing freely helps you find your artistic voice, your writer’s voice and can give you a lot of confidence.

Have fun with this exercise.

The Artist Statement: Idea Party

One idea that I really love is to have what Barbara Sher – author of Wishcraft: How to Get What You Really Want – calls an “Idea Party.”  For the artists statement what this amounts to is asking a group of trusted friends to come over and talk about your art.  What you will do is put out some wine and some snacks, your art and having them talk about the art.

It’s interesting to see what other people say.  They may bring up ideas you never even thought about and you may even get a new direction for your work while you’re at it.  You’ll want to record it somehow because you want to be fully engaged in the conversation (and not be stuck writing things down).  Inform everyone, of course, that you will be recording this before they come and it will be absolutely confidential.

You should start by asking a question.  Ask them what they think about a painting, the color in the painting, the shape, the size, etc.  Encourage them to ask you questions and be sure to note what they’re asking.  (The most effective artist statement answers the questions your viewers have).

A few days later, get into that quiet place with a pen and unlimited amounts of paper and turn on the recording.  Sit there and listen and take it all in.  Absorb without writing.  After you’ve listened to it once, listen again and this time write, write, write away. Write down the questions that your friends are asking about the art, write down your own ideas as they randomly come to you.  Be open, be free and enjoy!  I hope by this point you’re beginning to enjoy writing and finding it as creative and inspiring as I do.  Remember, most of all don’t edit, yet.  I’ll give you tips about that later.  Keep following these steps and you’ll be successful because I’m not just training you to write your artists statement, I’m training you to write in general.  To be successful you will have to write, fill out applications and apply for things.  Writing is key to success but it shouldn’t be a burden.  Enjoy it!

Sources
Wishcraft: How to Get What you Really Want, Barbara Sher with Annie Gottlieb, Ballantine Books, New York, NY, 2004. http://www.barbarasher.com/index.htm

The Artist Statement: Second Writing Exercise

Before I get into another strategy for writing your artists statement I want to ask you to watch two videos.  One is of Jackson Pollock talking about his work and the other is Louise Nevelson.  The reason I posted them was not to intimidate you but because I want you to know that everyone can talk about their art in terms that are as accessible as if you’re holding a conversation and that’s what you definitely want.  You want to engage your viewer – as if you’re telling them about your process on an email or a letter or in a phone conversation.
Once late in her career, when pushed by a reporter to say that she intentionally put the sexual nature into her flower paintings, Georgia O’Keeffe said “It’s on the wall and if you don’t get it that’s too bad.”  She got up and walked away.  That was when O’Keeffe was in her 90’s and already an American Icon.  Some people thought she was downright nasty.  My theory is that she was a painting machine and she had to protect that.  The point is that most artists are not Georgia O’Keeffe and don’t have that luxury.  Even Georgia O’Keeffe said “Every artist needs a Steiglitz.”
How did that come to be that she could get away with such a statement at that point in her career.  Words.  Years of talking about her work, of Alfred Steiglitz talking about her work, of critics and reporters talking about her work. Words.  Even that reporter was trying to get words about her art out of her.
Enough about humanizing the greats, now it’s onto the second writing exercise.  I want you to get your favorite writing implement and a piece of paper or a notebook.  That writing implement could be either your favorite pen or a crayon or a quill pen or whatever your heart desires.  As long as you can make words out of it.  Sit in your most favorite place.  That can be on the floor, in an arm chair, or even in a cafe.  If you like Starbucks that will do.
Take 20 minutes and write non-stop. Don’t let your pen stop and don’t pick it up from the page.  This is a wonderful way to get into free writing.  For writers this means writing about anything that comes into your conscious from your sub-conscious.  For you there will be a theme. Writing about your art.  Don’t pick your pen up from the page without the intent of putting it back down immediately and continue for 20 minutes.  Don’t worry about editing, or how it will look to others.  Remember that ultimately you’re the only one that has to see this draft.  You can edit it later.

You may not even use the whole thing but you will definitely get prized nuggets about your art that may indeed blow your mind.  You may be surprised and not even know that you had it in you to write like that.  One of my friends is a wonderful short fiction writer and after this exercise she came up with a marvelous prose poem. We were both blown away.  She didn’t know she had it in her.  It’s an amazing exercise and I hope you find that it is. Remember that the absolute key is not to pick up your writing implement for 20 minutes.

The Artist Statement: Getting Started

When I tell artists about writing and how important to their careers it is I usually get a look of dread. How do you put something so visual into words? Artists are not usually articulate about their work, a lot of times it comes from the unconscious. The language is visual so how do you articulate in speech and writing what you are doing?

Many artists also tell me that their grammar is not good or their writing is not good. However, everyone has a story to tell and this is your chance to tell the story of your art. I’m going to give you, here, a few tips about writing.

I used to confuse the artists statement with the bio. The bio is a narrative version of your resume. Pick a few of your greatest achievements and highlight them in your bio. The artist statement is something that answers the questions your viewer may have about your work. It engages them and brings them into a deeper level of understanding. It creates a relationship between you and your viewer. It’s what can turn a viewer into a collector.

I used to be nervous about making an artist write their artist statement because sometimes the art of making art is not really knowing what your doing. Then someone pointed out to me that it can be an exploration, a process that brings the artist into a deeper understanding of what they are doing, who they are and what their direction is. If you are one of those people that hates writing, think of this as an adventure. A discovery if you will and you will enjoy it.

First and foremost remember that writing is a process. In my last job as the Executive Director of Women’s Studio Center we had many writers and I would see their work again and again in our writers forums. They would revise past pieces and bring them in for feedback. Until they got it right. They loved it and reveled in the details. Think of it as creative as making your art and if you can be articulate you will not only succeed but soar.

I like to start with an exercise called free writing. Get yourself into that creative mode where you are one with the paper and let the words flow. It doesn’t matter what you say or how it comes out, don’t worry if the grammar is correct. Just let it out. You can start by saying “I’m stuck, I don’t know what to write. Writing about art is so hard. What shall I say?…” Keep on going and it will eventually come out. Leave it aside and come back in a few days and look at it. Then piece together the good parts or free write some more.

Another great exercise is to have an “art idea party.” Put out your work and some wine and a few snacks and invite some friends over. Ask them to talk about your art. To ask questions and see what they think. It can be a difficult situation to take notes in so you can turn on a tape recorder. (Make sure your friends know that you will be taping it for your own private use first). Ultimately you will want to answer the questions that the viewer has of your art so this is a good way to get started.

Remember that writing is a process and developing your artists statement is an ongoing process. As your art evolves so will your statement. It’s a work in progress but getting the first one out is ultimately important. You will use it in all kinds of applications – grants, fellowships, residencies – and in catalogs, press releases and more. By being in touch with your art and your direction you will know which opportunities to seek out. In the coming posts I will be talking more about the writing process. I love writing so much and want to share some secrets and tips that I have learned over the years. I also want to make the process easier for you and eliminate the intimidation. Writing can actually be fun and inspiring. Your artist statement can be the most inspiring thing you do.