Writing an Artist’s Statement

I’ve participated in a few gallery shows over the years, but they’ve all been pretty laid-back.  None of the curators has ever asked me for an artist’s statement or a resume.  This fall, however, I am hoping to participate in a show at the Society for Contemporary Craft.  These folks are the real deal.  They want all the documentation.  I didn’t have an artist’s statement ready, so this week I sat down to write one.

  1. I dreaded doing this.  I am not good at critiquing anyone’s art, and the thought of trying to condense the essence of everything I have ever made into two short paragraphs was daunting, to say the least.  I couldn’t immediately start writing paragraphs, so instead I started with a big, sloppy brainstorm.  Using a few of the prompts on Molly Gordon’s site, I began to scribble out words that I associate with my work.  I had written around 50 terms before my brain naturally started to hone in on the ones that seemed most relevant.  The terms “bright color,” “childhood,” “irresistible,” “immaculate,” and “collect/organize/categorize” were the gems I pulled from the pile.
  2. My next step was to brainstorm a few sentences using the terms I chose.  The sentences were disparate and unconnected at first, and what I wrote was far too detailed.  I was trying to give the most complete picture of my work possible, but then I remembered that that’s not really the point of an artist’s statement.  The point is to tell people who are unfamiliar with your work what your art tries to accomplish, and how you make that happen. You can add some context and personal history to the mix, but that’s really just gravy.  As soon I realized that I didn’t need to list every material I’d ever used, or every art-related thought I’d ever had, my sentences began to cohere.

Before I started working on my artist’s statement, I was liable to describe my work as “eclectic,” and myself as a Jane-of-all-trades.  I had only vague notions about what tied everything together, because I don’t examine my motivations very carefully when I make things.  I just “feel inspired.”  Now that my statement is finished, I no longer wonder why artists are encouraged to write them.  I’ve come to see that I have a unique and coherent style, even when I work with different media or subject matters.  And now I can describe that style confidently in just one or two sentences.  It’s been both empowering and enlightening to write my artist’s statement.  I gained some insight into my process and motivations, and I’m glad to say that I like what I saw.

You can read the full statement on this page in my “About” section.

Note: I also had to write an artist’s resume, which I did by combining the guidelines found at the Artists Foundation and the College Art Association.

Worth It’s Weight: Pen and Paper

Maybe it’s the New York Jew in me, but I often feel compelled and excited to share the objects that make my life better. Today I’m going to start with the two objects that everyone uses on a regular basis: pen and paper.

Pen: These days, I only write using one implement, the Zebra SK Sharbo (scroll to the bottom). It’s a combination pen and 0.5 mm mechanical pencil that comes in a variety of super bright colors (which helps me find it in a mess) and has a chunky rubber grip. I have three pens: the green one for using at home, the orange one that stays in my purse, and a white one that I keep as an emergency spare. The pens retail for about $5, and you can purchase multiple pencil lead, ballpoint and eraser refills for about two dollars each, ensuring that you’ve got something awesome to write with for the next three years for about $11 total. Zebra seems to be replacing the SK Sharbo with the SK Sharbo +1, which includes two colors of ink (black and red) in addition to the mechanical pencil. I’m all for adding an extra ink color, but the Sharbo +1 only comes in black and dark blue (and occasionally white), which is not only really boring, but almost guarantees that your pen will get lost or mixed up with someone else’s. The Sharbo +1 is also more expensive, retailing for about $8. I buy my pens from Kinokuniya or Maido Stationery (same company, two locations) and they don’t seem to have run out yet, but the original Sharbo may be on its way to being discontinued.

Paper: There is no notebook company I love more than Miquelrius. Their spiral-bound notebooks feature thick plastic covers on both sides and plastic binding, rather than wire, so the pages never tear out accidentally. Each color-coded page is a thick, super-smooth writing surface, featuring either fine-ruled lines or 4mm square graph paper and a separate little heading bar on top. Every page is perforated for easy removal and the larger notebooks also hole-punch the pages so that they can be inserted into a binder. These notebooks come in a variety of colors, surface designs, and both European and American sizes, so you’re all set whether you like the fine proportions of an A4, or are filing away notes in letter-sized folders. No matter which way you open them, they lay perfectly flat, which is great for one-handed use. Miquelrius notebooks can be found in most fine stationery and art supply stores, like Blick Art Materials and Flax, and retail for around $5-$15.

I personally like the simpler designs the best. In fact, they used to offer their spiral bound notebooks without any surface decoration whatsoever but stopped about five years ago. I hope they bring the solid color covers back someday. I keep a few of these notebooks around for different purposes. I use the lined, letter-sized, hole-punched ones for things like long lists and note-taking in classes. I like the smaller, A5-sized, graph paper ones for carrying in my purse. I use those for recording potential buyer and vendor information, or for on-the-fly product development. The graph paper and decent page size make it easy to draw and describe things in relative detail so I don’t end up looking at some tiny, cryptic note days later and cursing the elusiveness of my latest bright idea.

Please submit your own favorite pens, pencils and paper in the comments section below!