First, let’s look at why we should even want to write anything about what we do. The main reason is to connect with the people who view your work. People like to feel connected. This is true in all aspects of society and it is a valuable tool when it comes to promoting ourselves and selling our art. When I was working in a gallery, I can not tell you how many times people came in and asked for information about an artist or a particular piece.
If you are thinking, “A connection…thanks for the general and not very helpful bit of information,” let me elaborate.
When someone sees a piece of art that they like, they often want to know about the person that created it. A general bio on file takes care of the basics but often people want to know more.
When someone is looking at a collection of marsh scenes and they know where the artist went to school, how long they have been painting, and what part of the country they are from, that’s good.
If you add that they are paintings of a local spot and the view is from the porch of friends that they were visiting, that’s better. Add that the artist visits these friends and this spot every year and obviously the view and the place have more meaning than “it’s pretty,” and that is even better.
It provides a background, a history. It can make the difference between a looker, a consider-er, and a buyer. People want to know the history of the people they meet and it is often the same with the art that they own.
Something else to consider is what are people looking at? If a piece of art is conceptual or abstract, they very well may not know. It may be obvious to you. It may be obvious to your best friend. It may not be obvious to everyone.
This doesn’t mean that they are unable to appreciate it, just that they may need a little guidance or a nudge in a particular direction. Not everyone thinks the way you do or sees things like you do but that doesn’t mean that they can’t go where you want them to go.
What you say about your work is particularly important if it is going to be viewed online. A computer monitor flattens and strips much from your work. Scale, depth, texture… all are diminished or removed. Then there are the differences in monitors. Colour, light, dark and contrast will all vary. The visual impact your work makes will be different online than in person. This makes communication with your audience even more important.
If your work is online, it is most likely because you want to be found. The more you say, the more likely you are to be found. You have to give search engines like Google something to crawl so when someone types something relevant to you and your work into the search box, your name will come up.
Another good thing about being able to express yourself with words relates to shows and exhibitions. EBSQ shows are not the only ones that require an artist’s statement. Being able to submit with confidence, not only your art, but what you have to say about yourself and your work can only work in your favor.
Now, for the hard part… how do you know what to say? How do you know how to say it? There are several angles of approach that may make things easier.
First, let’s talk about what to say about you and how to say it. Who are you? What do you do? How long have you done it? Why do you do it?These are the main points that you should address. How much or how little you say is up to you.
I would suggest that you go beyond, “I am an artist. I paint in oils. I have been doing it for 20 years. I do it because I like it.” Some feel that it is very important for them to communicate their feelings about art and their life in detail. Others do not and will just touch upon it. A few why’s and where’s will go a long way to fleshing out who you are, but to what depth you go depends on what feels comfortable and right to you
How you say what you say is also up to you. Some people write in a chatty manner. Some prefer to communicate in a more spare way. If you feel comfortable with words, you may write more than someone who does not. Regardless of what you say or how you say it, you are trying to tell a little bit about yourself to complete strangers. Make sure that it is a true reflection of who and what you are.
When you are dealing with the art itself, it can be hard to know what to say. It can be more difficult than describing a nebulous feeling. Just how do you get a handle on it?
One way to start is to describe what it is. If it’s horsehair pottery, tell us a little about that technique and why you are attracted to it. If it’s a painting, tell us if it it’s oil or acrylic and why you like to work in oils/acrylics. Is it a collage? Why do you like to assemble things?
You can also tell us about the piece. It’s a painting of a glass of water on a table did you chose this subject because you liked the way the light played on and became a part of the glass and the water? Maybe it’s a work all in reds. It could be that you were particularly attracted to reds that day and wanted to see what could be done working with that one colour.
Another approach is to describe the meaning of your work. Not everything is created with meaning in mind, but when it is, an explanation can clarify and expand the understanding of those who view it. Tell why you chose the elements that you did, why you put them together the way you did, what it all says and why you felt it was important to say it.
You can also describe how you feel about the piece or the feeling you were trying to capture. What did you set out to accomplish and did you accomplish it? Was what you ended up with where you started to go or did the creation process take you in another direction?
You can choose to elaborate on the subject. Who is that a portrait of and why did you paint, draw or otherwise depict them? Is there a reason that has to do with your subject that made you choose one medium over another?
If you are creating to a theme, how does your piece relate to that theme? What elements did you include specifically with a mind to communicate that relevance and, of course, why?
One more thing to consider is to tell a story about your art. This works well with pieces that are more whimsical and fun because the story becomes whimsical and fun. The big caution with this is not to say too much or go on too long. You don’t want people to think, “all right all ready,” but to take an interest in the piece specifically and your work in general.
Do be sure that what you write is spelled correctly and makes sense. Proof read it. Read it out loud to see how it flows. Ask others to read it. Make corrections. This is important as it will impact how people perceive you.
The things I have said are not hard and fast rules. (Except the proof reading bit) They are guidelines… a place to jump off from. The main thing is that you start to speak up. It is not immodest to speak of yourself and your art. It is beneficial. It is good marketing. It is an effective way to let others enjoy what you have created in a more in-depth and meaningful way.