on writing and giving speeches about art

A Creative Life, animals in art, art exhibit, art gallery, fine art, writing

During my art exhibit opening Oct 1st I’m giving a 5 minute talk about my artwork. If you had told me when I was 9 years old that one day I would, fairly regularly, give short public speeches about my artwork during gallery openings I would not have believed you. At the time I was in speech therapy daily and the thought of talking in class terrified me. I had only worn hearing aids for a year or so and had been deaf for far longer. Hearing sounds was still new and scary.

I spent lots of school and recess time sitting with my speech therapist in a tiny area partitioned off by a curtain from the school’s boiler/heater/janitor’s office, wearing my new hearing aids, trying to understand in that noisy space what the therapist was saying and then accurately repeat out loud what she’d said… well, let’s just say it was a stressful time.

After a year or so of that my therapist and I were good friends – and I’m now 10- but still when it came to answering a teacher aloud during class I’d sweat and my heart would pound and my voice would shake. So my therapist suggested that I take acting classes. I did! And over a long time, and lots of acting classes, I became a regular ham, okay, a ham and cheese on wry, and talking in class or anywhere else became relatively easy.

Eventually the only people who said anything about the quality of my speech, like “you talk funny”, were under the age of 6. The kid’s parents usually gasp in embarrassment and try to un-do their kids comment. I typically ignore the grown-ups and talk directly with the kid, explaining that “I don’t hear like you do” and pull off one of my hearing-aids to show the kid and answer questions. After such a conversation I usually have a friend-for-life in the kid (and profoundly relieved grown-ups).

Fast forward lots of writing classes, lots of practice writing and speaking, lots of reading books on writing, books on giving speeches etc. – and here’s what I’ve learned about writing talking about ones artwork:

When writing a speech: write like you talk, avoid jargon (it is usually hard to say anyway), in simple brief terms describe what kind of art you do, how you do it, a short bit about why you do it – ideally revealing a bit of who you are in the process – then sum up with “what people enjoy about your work”/ “how they benefit” from your work.

When delivering the speech: remember to breathe, talk slowly enough so as to pronounce everything, and keep going even if you mangle a word (most people over the age of 6 are not likely to point out the error). Practice your speech out loud. Practice speaking confidently. Practice smiling at your audience. Practice thanking everyone for listening.

It helps to have a sympathetic supporter listening to you while you do all this practice.

Here is a photo of my speech practice partner – Rusty – who has kindly listened – for days now – as I have practiced the short talk I’m to give Oct 1st.  If only my 9 year old self could see me now! Oh wait…

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Sue Clancy’s dachshund Rusty listening as Sue practices her speech for the Oct 1st wine dinner opening for her fine art exhibit via Caplan Art Designs

 

 

quiet books noisy thoughts

A Creative Life, art techniques, artist book, books, handmade books, visual story, words and pictures, writing

I made my first ‘artist book’ when I was about 6 years old. I had become deaf when I was about 4 or 5. It happened in summer and my birthday is in the summer so was I still 4 years old when it happened, or had I turned 5? At any rate the world became silent. This was not a problem for me. It was just my normal life before I got my first set of hearing aids. I lived with my grandmother and life was good. Except for the brief times when I was taken to visit my biological parents. During the weekends at their house an angry yelling adult frequently appeared in my field of vision shouting “BE QUIET!”

This was a mystery to me. What did the phrase “be quiet” mean? I had already learned to read, write and draw. I already knew that the public library was a place full of wonderful magical books full of mysterious things that other people knew. Books were how people collected and kept what they learned and how they made it available for kids like me to see! (Wow!) So after a few weekends of two adults taking turns shouting “BE QUIET” I began my investigation.

I gathered several sheets of paper together and stapled them along one edge. I began to record, mostly in drawings, what I had just been doing when the “BE QUIET” message was delivered at the top of grownup lungs. Between these weekends I went with my grandmother to the library. There I asked a librarian how I would find out what the phrase “be quiet” meant and how someone did that ‘be quiet’ thing.

I don’t recall the exact encounter with the librarian, I mostly remember having a lot of trouble explaining what exactly it was that I wanted to learn. I remember eventually being introduced to the Dictionary and other books containing information about ears, hearing and sound. I wrote and drew, in fat-first-grade pencil, everything I learned into my stapled handmade book. When I was done, and back at home with grandmother again, I created a yellow colored construction paper cover for my book, glued one edge of the construction paper to the staples and titled it, in red crayon, “The Be Quietness Book”.

Long story short I had created my first entry into what, as an adult, I’ve learned is a genre within the Book Arts world: “Books that help you think about and make sense of your experience in the world”

And I’ve been making artist books ever since. You can see some of them on my artist book page here: https://sueclancy.com/artist-books/

Photo of me laughing and drinking coffee while working in my studio.

Photo of me laughing and drinking coffee while working in my studio.