ART-Write, The Writing Guide for Visual Artists, written by Vicki Krohn Amorose, helps guide artists through the process as they write their artist statements, exhibition announcements, press releases, cover letters, blog posts, biographies, social media posts, and much more. Author Vicki Krohn Amorose has a writing background that includes professional positions as Educational Media Writer, Advertising Copywriter, Art Instructor, and Art Gallery Manager.
I read a print copy of her book, which is also available for Amazon Kindle readers and other readers, and found it an excellent resource guide for artists, and much needed! I glided through the chapters, thanks to the no-nonsense writing style of the author. I will return to the book again and again for the writing exercises and prompts.
Author Vicki Krohn Amorose (VKA) agreed to answer questions about her book for the artists who read the Artist Marketing Resources (AMR) blog—
AMR: Vicki, let me share an excerpt from an artist statement sent to me recently —“My work explores the fragility of the human form to delineate cartography of imagined histories and understand the body as a cynosure.” The word cynosure is used frequently in contemporary art writing. Should artists use a word because others use it? Besides those *at the moment* words, I sometimes read exhibition announcements written in a style copied and re-copied from decades past. How can artists avoid extremes–the miming of the latest or staying stuck in the past? What is “Art Speak” and how does ART-Write, The Writing Guide for Visual Artists help artists to write about their work honestly and in “plain language.”
VKA: I am wholeheartedly opposed to artists using “Art Speak” in their written communications, and the word “cynosure” falls into that category. Art Speak is the vernacular of elite Art-Worldlings, often invented and repeated to impress each other. When writing about your own art, the question shouldn’t be, “Do I sound erudite?” Rather, it should be, “Does my writing help the viewer to see, and does it encourage them to look again?” Art Speak tends to have the opposite effect on the reader/viewer; people furrow their brows and walk away.
I think artists continue to echo phrases because it’s difficult to find comprehensive, current instruction on this subject. I wrote my book to help fill that deficit, and my “no-nonsense” writing style was very deliberate. We can write about the complex subject of individual art in clear, straightforward language.
AMR: The writing exercises in ART-Write, The Writing Guide for Visual Artists helped me think of new ways to write about my work. Please explain the purpose of the writing exercise for artists who say “I don’t explain my work” or “I can’t explain my work.”
VKA: It’s so common to hear artists resist in this way, and I believe this comes from confusion about what is required of them. An artist statement is not a full translation of a visual concept into a written document! Of course you can’t do that, it’s a ridiculous idea. The exercises are designed to bring about the thinking required to connect with an audience. Thinking about your own work can spin off in a thousand directions, so the prompts are a way to reign-in the confusion and develop truthful sentences.
AMR: When and how should artists “name drop” in their writings?
VKA: Referencing another artist is tricky, because you always want to direct the viewer’s attention to the work in front of them –your work. If you want to mention an artistic influence, make sure you describe how you were specifically inspired. Don’t just “name drop” to fluff your credibility.
AMR: Do you prescribe a structure for writing an artist statement?
VKA: Yes, structure in writing helps to hold the reader’s attention, and I give examples of 3 different structures. These are not complicated. One structure is storytelling. Both art and storytelling are deeply rooted in the human psyche. People find connection through stories.
AMR: And how do artists know when to put personal details into their statement or instead put those personal details into their bio?
VKA: Again, we come back to what is directly in front of the audience. The artist statement says: “People, meet my art.” The artist Bio says: “People, meet the artist.” Unless the work in front of the audience is biographical or humorous, keep those details out of your statement and put them in your Bio.
AMR: Can artists buy a book directly from you?
VKA: Yes, and I welcome comments at http://www.artwritebook.com. Thank you for your interest in my book, Marie. I sincerely want the information to reach the visual artists who need it.
Seep, painting by Vicki K. Amorose