Tag Archives: artist’s statements

Describing Your Work to Others

Although I believe I am a fairly articulate person, I always seem to stumble when someone asks me what my work is “about”, or what kind of artist I am. I inevitably end up using far too many words to answer those questions.

In the January/February 2014 issue of Intelligent Life magazine  (which is published by the Economist) author Christina Patterson describes how Nobel-prizewinning poet Seamus Heaney used words to create maximum impact. There was a sentence in that article that is the perfect description of what I attempt to do with my work:

“He takes the familiar and makes it strange.”

That sums it up perfectly, particularly in regard to the project that I am currently working on. Here’s an example of my most recent work-in-progress that I feel effectively does that:DSC_2557 V3Now I just have to drill that sentence into my head: “I take the familiar and make it strange.” and use it whenever I’m asked what kind of work I do. If only I could do that to the degree that Seamus Heaney could!

Inventory Database for Artists

I’ve been a pretty organized person over the years when it comes to my art career. But when it comes to keeping track of everything, I finally realized how great it would be if I could keep most records in one place.

I’ve got folders on my computer that contain Word docs, Excel spreadsheets, FileMaker databases, etc., and I’m constantly having to dig through those files in order to cross reference the information in them. In addition, I’ve been using Excel for my inventory database, but have been frustrated by its limitations. The following images give a visual of what I’m talking about: Screen shot 2013-05-20 at 8.52.51 AM Screen shot 2013-05-20 at 8.54.41 AM Screen shot 2013-05-20 at 8.55.50 AM

You can imagine how many files are contained within these folders. Kind of crazy.

I was aware of inventory software for artists such as Flick! and eArtist, but after looking into them further, decided that they weren’t for me.

Then I discovered GYST software. GYST stands for “Get Your Sh*t Together”.

Created by artist and educator Karen Atkinson, GYST does far more than even the most fanatically organized person could ever need, which is one reason why I love it. Here’s a screenshot of an individual artwork record in GYST. Note that you can add detailed information into any of the blue tabs found in the middle of the window: Screen shot 2013-05-20 at 7.40.47 PMAnd if you want to look at your entire database of artwork, it will show up as a list like this: Screen shot 2013-05-20 at 7.33.35 PMYou can pick and choose which features you want to use in GYST. Not only will it allow you to keep your inventory up to date, it will also help you keep track of any proposals you may have out, artist’s statements, your resume, contacts, research notes, billing, etc., and it’s all found in one place on your computer. Heaven!

Check out the GYST blog, as it’s a great resource for professional practices information.

I should add that my only beef with any of the above-named inventory databases is that they are not particularly intuitive or user-friendly, so there is a definite learning curve involved at first. If someone could come up with one that is relatively easy to use from the get-go, I would not hesitate to use it.

Artist’s Statements- Do’s and Don’ts

Over the course of time, I’ve developed a set of “do’s” and “don’ts” regarding artist’s statements. I’m sure that everyone reading this post  will have their own opinions on the subject. Let me hear from you if you have a particular issue I haven’t touched upon and I will add them in another post!


  1. Make it only as long as it needs to be to say what you want to say. No longer.
  2. Write something that adds to the reader’s understanding of your work that can’t necessarily be learned from looking at the work itself.
  3. If you tell a story, make clear how it relates to the work, or to your philosophy as an artist.
  4. Make a point. Let there be a clear reason why you wrote this.
  5. Make the first sentence or two so interesting that I want to read the rest.
  6. Sound like you know what you are talking about. Use words that convey confidence.
  7. Use language that clarifies rather than obscures what you are talking about.
  8. Make sure the writing is free of technical errors (grammar, punctuation, spelling, syntax, etc.)


  1. Don’t make it unnecessarily long. Why go on and on if what you want to say can be said in one or two paragraphs?
  2. Don’t sound like everyone else out there. You are a unique individual with unique experiences and insights. Share them with your audience.
  3. Don’t just write about how much you have loved art since you were a kid.
  4. Don’t use language that is so opaque and convoluted and jargon-filled that only 1% of your audience can understand it.
  5. Don’t use words or phrases that weaken your reader’s confidence in you. Avoid phrases like “I hope….”, “I try to….”,  “I intended to ….”, etc.
  6. Don’t allow technical errors! Bad grammar, spelling or sentence structure can kill your credibility.