On Saturday, July 30 I judged plein air paintings for Lexington Cityscapes 2011, a paint-out hosted by Gallery B. Over thirty-five artists painted pieces from 9 a.m. to 2 p.m. They had to be thoughtful about what they depicted. There wasn’t time to include every detail they saw. The first prize winner, Marilyn Sadler, used an American flag as the compositional and thematic focus of her painting, “Morning Glory.” The flag anchored her piece and pulled together several disparate elements, resulting in a strong and appealing image.
Now, I am supposed to be working on a blog entry about writing to tie into the “Writing Good Copy” webinar I’ll be presenting on August 10. It’s not an easy task. I’ve spent a lot of years working on my writing. To become better at it I’ve read books, practiced regularly, talked with professionals and listened to critiques. It’s hard to take all that experience and condense it into a few paragraphs that say something meaningful.
It’s like when you have to write an artist statement. You probably have years of experience making your artwork—countless hours spent honing your skills, developing your vision and living the life of an artist. How can you express all of that in a few lines of text.
The fact is that you can’t. Not all of it. If you try to cram too much information into your artist statement it will fail. A large block of text that does nothing but list facts about you is boring, and a group of long sentences full of art jargon is hard to read. If your readers are bored or overburdened, they will stop reading. The effort you put into writing your statement will have been wasted.
So approach your writing as if you were painting en plein air. Carefully select something from your experience to serve as the focus of your piece. Pick other details that can tie into that main theme and support it. Keep your writing focused. Give enough information to intrigue your readers, but don’t try to include all that you know and think about your art. Give them a basis for exploring your work then let them discover things for themselves.
If you follow this blog, you know that I use a quote in each of my entries. This is a habit I picked up from writing my artist statements. As I read about art I jot down lines that capture my attention. When I need to write something of my own, I review these quotes to help organize my thoughts. I then select one to focus my writing as Marilyn selected the flag to focus her painting.
Here are my strategies for painting and writing significant pieces. Select elements of interest and place them within a thoughtful composition. Work hard and let your talent and experience guide you. Be bold and be yourself.
Craig Kittner, arts marketing director