Writing an artist's statement can be challenging. Below are some suggestions if you're experiencing writer's block. These may be helpful exercises for other forms of writing.
1. If you can’t get a handle on your own work, or are stuck, record a conversation between you and another person talking about your work.
2. Use other written materials about your work, i.e. your mentor’s reports, a review, an article.
3. Jot down quickly everything you can think of about your work. Start with individual words. Do not start with full sentences or paragraphs. Then organize and edit accordingly.
4. Do a draft and ask someone else to comment or edit it for you.
5. Once finished, have it reviewed by a mentor, fellow artist, writer, editor, art reviewer, or a friend. Someone who knows your work is good here, but so is someone who doesn’t and can respond to whether they understand what you are addressing.
6. Make sure you go over it for spelling, grammar and punctuation.
7. Make sure your work reflects the statement you have written.
Writing Exercises to Get the Words Flowing
1. Warming up with short writing exercises is a good way to begin. Select a notebook, paper, or favorite word processing program. Find a place where you will not be interrupted for about two hours. Get yourself a timer, or watch the clock, as you will begin by writing in three minute increments.
2. Writing in short spurts gets you over the overly self-critical hump, reduces censorship and stress, and cuts to the chase. Start by setting a timer for three minutes, and then without worrying about punctuation, spelling, or grammar, begin writing down words and short phrases which describe your work and your process. Work fast and do not edit or erase anything. When the timer goes off, put this piece of paper aside, or save on the computer.
3. Without looking at what you have previously written, set the timer again for three minutes and begin by writing about your work in the way you would tell your aunt Florence or a friend about your work. Do not do any editing at this point. Silence your inner critic and let it ride.
4. If you are having trouble with writing anything at all, write down why you should NOT write an artist‘s statement, and what is getting in the way. Do you fear your writing style or never learned grammar? Do you have lousy spelling? Are you unsure that you can write what you know about your work? Give yourself three minutes, then set this aside.
5. Then, write down every reason that you should and will write an artist‘s statement. Again, you have three minutes. Set this aside. Go back to the three-minute writing exercise about your work.
6. Use your own voice. Consider how you speak to others and write this way. An artist’s statement should be a celebration of your work, a way to share your vision with others, and a connection to your audience.
7. Sometimes you can find great inspiration in the jottings of your sketchbook, or the writing of others who have written about your work. Think back to critiques and conversations you have had and consider using those ideas if they are relevant. Jotting down ideas about your work in text form is a good way to collect ideas that you can use in the future when writing. Your own personal musings that you were thinking about when creating a piece or a project may get you started.
8. Have a conversation with a friend about your work. Or record a conversation or an interview with yourself and another person. Listen to how others describe their work, and go to a number of visiting artist lectures. Read reviews in art magazines and consider how these writers talk about the work being reviewed.
9. Only when you have collected a pile of three-minute quotes and jottings should you then begin to put them in some kind of order and start to edit. Be aware of the tone of voice that you use. You are sharing information, not expecting a hostile reader, so don’t be defensive about your work but generous in your descriptions to a interested and sympathetic reader.
10. Avoid art-speak and overly theoretical language. Keep your statement to one-page maximum. Focus on what is not apparent in your slides or the work itself.
11. When you reread your statement, does it create a visual picture of what you have done? Does the statement reflect the work being shown?
12. Ask others to read your statement and get feedback.
13. Above all, try to have some fun. Silence your inner critic and concentrate on giving your reader a clear picture of what you want them to see through the text.
Excerpted from Get Your Sh*t Together, an artist's professional development series produced by Side Street Projects, Los Angeles. Visit their web site to order the complete series on CD-ROM.