Tuesday, February 27, 2007

How to Get Into a Rut (And Back Out Again) part 1

Girl Studying -- pen drawing on legal pad at the coffee shop in February.

So, on the last post I promised to discuss my recent artistic slump and what I planned to do about it. This will probably take several posts. Be Warned...

How it all started -- or at least reached it's deepest low --

Sometime last year, Diahn and I decided that we really should at least TRY entering some work into shows, galleries, etc. We had one major hurdle, though -- no Artist's Statements! Yep. That was our biggest problem at the time. Everybody wants an artist's statement to accompany any work that is submitted. Sounds easy, doesn't it!?

The research began.

We read about how to phrase the artist's statement, happy with the advice that the wording should not be too "artsy" or esoteric, but short, simple, and direct. Later, of course, we were mightily confused when we read actual examples of artist's statements. I'm pretty sure now that we just got a hold of a bad batch of the things to begin with, but quite frankly, folks, some of these statements were just weird. Intimidatingly weird. They were about resolving social issues, political revolt, and dangerous furniture. I kid you not. And these people would never kid you -- they are some Serious Artists.

Diahn finally got hers done -- it is a beautifully crafted straightforward piece of writing. Nothing in it makes me worry that I'm not thinking hard enough about how horrible the world is or how I'm just too blind to see the wretched (and dangerous) inter-connectedness between a tulip dying in a vase, genocide in Africa, and my perilous bedcovers. HER artist's statement is happy. It describes her work. IT works. I would have just plagiarized the darned thing, but we would probably be submitting pieces to the same places, so that simply wouldn't do. For the first time I wished she lived in California -- then maybe I could get away with it ...

After six weeks of agonizing over writing my artist's statement, it became apparent that my lack of direction in this area had colored the rest of my life. Everything I painted or drew, everything I had ever painted or drawn, everything that I even considered painting or drawing seemed trite ... petty ... silly ... goofy ... lame ...

At our mid-February coffee meet-up I told Diahn, "I can't write an artist's statement because I AM NOT AN ARTIST." I meant it. Really. It was making me feel like THAT.

Smart girl that she is -- good friend that she is -- Diahn reached over, pulled the legal pad out of my hands, and said, "STOP."

She officially absolved me from writing an Artist's Statement.

I immediately felt better, and I feel better still.

So, here's my Artist's Statement -- not refined and ready for a gallery application, but it IS the truth:

"If I see something that makes me happy -- I chase it down and I draw it.

"When I see something that makes me smile, or makes me catch my breath for a second -- I sit down and paint it.

"Usually I paint the places, people and things that I know.

"Sometimes I paint the places, people and things that I wished I knew better.

"I do it because it's fun, it makes me happy, and BECAUSE I WANT TO.

"Take it or leave it."


Linda ;-)

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Diahn said...

:D That may be the most brilliant piece of advice I've ever given :D
LOVE your artist's statment, friend...and you are most DEFINITELY an artist!

Now - watch out for that dangerous furniture...

Jana Bouc said...

Congratulations! I thought your statement was beautifully worded and really says who you are and what you care about. It's weird how synchronicity seems to travel through the art blogging world.

I too just had to write an artist's statement (for my painting show that I got because I responded to a call for artists). I too researched how to write them because I wrote one years ago that I was told was incomprehensible so was worried about trying again. I found instructions on the web ( but only used her "Step 3" as a template to write mine, which I'd be happy to share with you if you're interested. It basically says the same thing as yours, but with more words.

And I too have been struggling with "am I a real artist" -- I wrote about it on my blog on February 24. Thanks for sharing your issues. It's so reassuring to know I'm not alone. Also, the drawing is terrific--it works great on that yellow legal pad.

aPugsLife said...

What a great story! Heck, I didn't even know about "artist statements". Thanks for sharing that wonderful story. :)

zephyr said...

REQUIRED "Artist's Statements" are, in my opinion, used in the wrong way...for Pete's sake...jury the work and then interview those you accept if you really must require words from an artist to go with an exhibit. Writing about one's work comes naturally to some, not to others. Is it a valuable exercise for the artist...very possibly...but REQUIRING it is simply way for the people hanging the show to make themselves feel more important.

I can see it now:
Intelligent, wise, and all knowing Gallery Owner/show curator: "Thank you for submitting your work for consideration. We LOVE IT! But, I'm sorry to say, Mr. Gogh...oh, excuse us, Mr. van Gogh..., your artist's statement is unsatisfactory. Until you can say who you are and why you do what you do in 100 words or less, (we have publications costs to consider, after all) we cannot consider your work for our show"

Laura said...

Most artists are horrible writers and their statements are big piles of bloviation---if they were good at writing, they'd be writers, right? So sorry to hear you were stymied by this, but glad you got past it. Just do the work. It'll speak for itself. And for the times when you need an AS (almost added a third letter ;D), yours will do just fine! I'm really excited that we'll be seeing more of your work now!

annie said...

Sounds like you've got a good start, Ms. Artist! And how did I miss your second blogaversary?--I think I read the post and meant to come back later, and didn't. Anyway, my congrats to you. I have enjoyed following your progress the last couple of years.

"Maggie" said...

I too dislike writing artist statements and when I read what others write I think "that is so great!" and then I totally have a mind block. I wish someone who was an eloquent writer and who knew me would write one for me. Your statement IS great and I really do like it!

Love this girl at desk sketch. Wonderful cross hatching, something that not everyone can master.

Teri C said...

I'm with the group that never even heard of an artist's statement. That being said, I absolutely love yours. It's simple, to the point and from the heart. What could be better than that.

Love the little sketch too. You are an awesome artist!

mARTa said...

Absolutly refreshing!!! kudos! marta

Karen said...

This is a great post, Linda and I like what you wrote.

Artist's statement? My politically incorrect inclination would be to say "look at the painting" - that's my statement!

Sparky said...

Very strange (and synchronous!:)) that I should trace back to this post from a comment you just left on my blog, because I've hit a wall myself. Everything I start seems like tracing over the same old stuff yet again, and what's the point? I know it passes, but that doesn't make it any more fun when you're slogging through it. Also, artist's statements are stupid and wasteful and pointless. Even if you can articulate what motivates you, why bother? Either the art speaks to people or it doesn't.

janey said...

"Take it or leave it" - Yep that's the part I'd go with.

Linda said...

:-D Thanks to you all! It seems that D and I aren't the only ones a bit bemused by artist's statements! You all are wonderful!

caseytoussaint said...

This is a really good sketch - I wish I could draw like that - really.

Toni said...

Linda I know I am coming to your post a bit late but I think all this artist statement stuff is a bit of a hog wash. Especially those that seem to talk of destruction. So paint, draw, create, play from the heart. Simply just write what inspires you and if it is beauty, spirit, nature then more power to you.

Anonymous said...

I was recently guided with this same project and it was suggested that my goal was to direct people toward my art, not to focus on my life. To do this the most important words I could use were ones that expressed what I love to do. Made sense.