This post marked the second in our “A Page From Our Handbook” series, featuring excerpts from the Professional Development Program’s Artist’s Tools Handbook, by PDP Core Leaders Jackie Battenfield and Aaron Landsman. Writing about your work (or talking about it) is reflective of its deeper intentions, and requires a clear knowledge of what those intentions are. Use the tips and exercises that follow as a means of enhancing your artist statement, cover letters and project descriptions. And, on Thursday, Oct 16, use Susan K. Schear’s “Values-Based Goal Setting” webinar to hone in on what is at the heart of this writing process. Susan’s webinar will define what values and guiding principles are, and why they are important to and for you. Click here to register.
Writing About Your Work
Many of the materials you produce on behalf of your work—from artist statements to media releases to proposals to simple emails—involve a good bit of writing. In some cases you are writing about a project or series that you haven’t yet made. This is daunting, we know.
What you need to know in a nutshell is this: writing about your work is essential, but you can find a way to make it great, useful, more fun and easier. Remember that you can always get help—hire a professional, barter for services, or ask a colleague or friend. The sooner you start, the better off you’ll be.
A General Tip Regarding Tone
Artists often fall into one of two traps that can be easily avoided: Aggressive writing is language that claims to know what the viewer’s response is going to be (i.e. “the viewer will be forced to reconsider his notions of community, war, poverty, and the color “blue”). The great thing about art is that you can never quite predict how it’s going to affect someone. If you try to override the reader’s subjective response, they will trust you less. Passive writing is when you as the artist are not clear and direct about your own intentions (i.e., “I seek to explore some of the seemingly myriad possible connections between art and the color blue”). Neither of these examples answers the essential questions of what and why, nor do they help the reader get to know your work on their own terms. Instead, write directly and assertively (i.e. “I am making a series of paintings about the abstract and literal connections between war, poverty and the color blue in American history”). Continue reading