There was a time when I felt that writing words-in-a-row about visual art was rather like using lemon juice to describe honey. But somewhere along the way I realized that being a professional artist out in the “real world” meant I didn’t have to write as if I were in an academic university. That was a relief. And I realized that writing about visual art was like combining multi-media or like a playwright creating a musical theatre piece about a historical event.
It’s genre bending/blending.
So I began practicing writing about my own visual art in an everyday conversational way. When I’m coming up with my artistic ideas I write by hand what I’m thinking and feeling as I’m drawing in my sketchbooks. Later on I use that hand written data to write more formal “blurbs”, or story-clues, about what inspired each of my artworks. I say “more formal” because the blurbs are type-written, the spelling has been checked and the original hand written data has been neatened/edited/condensed. These “blurbs” are often printed and posted near my artwork in exhibits. In my writings I largely leave off the technical points of artistic technique because the majority of the time I’m talking to the general public. (Of course if I’m asked about art techniques I’ll gladly share details!)
In Sept I’m doing a one-person exhibit titled “Story Stuff” at Caplan Art Designs (I wrote more about that in a post titled Cozy Mystery Story Stuff). Here are a few of the artworks and the “blurbs” (story-clues?) I’ve written that will be alongside the art at my exhibit:
Near Forest Park – I enjoy hiking in a large forest in the middle of an urban city (Portland Or). I love it that I can pop out of the dense forest, get a coffee – or boot laces – and then resume my hike.
A Novel Morning – One of my favorite things to do is to go to Powell’s bookstore, find a new-to-me novel and then get something in the café. The “text” in this painting is re-combined and paraphrased from “Death at La Fenice” by Donna Leon.
Good Morning – What constitutes a “good morning”? One of my answers is plenty of coffee and enough leisure time to work the daily newspaper’s crossword puzzle.
During my exhibits I’ll often see people reading the blurbs and then looking more closely at my artwork – and sometimes they’ll approach me and talk about the topic within one of my paintings. It seems that my “multi-media” pictures-plus-words exercise is helpful for starting conversations at least.
What are your thoughts about combining writing and visual art?
9 thoughts on “writing about art”
I like narrative art, and I like stories, so blending the two genres seems natural to me. Wonderful work — I love crosswords, too. I hope lots of people come to your show.
Thank you Joy! Thanks for your kind comment! I hope people come too! 🙂 Do you do the crosswords in the New York Times? I’ve not been able to do those yet… maybe someday!
I try them, but fail more often than not. I do the one in USA today online, and sometimes, I buy crossword books.
Wow! Good for you Joy!!! I occasionally buy crossword books – but most often I attempt the puzzle in my local newspaper.
I really enjoy reading your words that accompany your artwork. It’s like a guidebook to your creative thought processes. I enjoy the insight. But you also leave enough open to interpretation for me to have my own thoughts sparked by your work.
Oh I so appreciate your comment Laura!! I’m deathly afraid of writing in such a way that I impose my thoughts on others. That’s the last thing I wish to do. But yet I want to share what is on my mind – and to show that art can be inspired by ordinary life, that art and artistic thinking is possible and can be accessed by anyone. I’m delighted and made hopeful by your comment! Thank you!!
You are so welcome. You give me SO much encouragement that I am happy to return the favour in any small way I might be able.
I’m delighted to have encouraged you! And I appreciate your encouragement more than words can say!