How to write about your work ?!
Updated: Oct 8, 2018
The hardest challenge in my career as an artist is learning how to write about my work to apply for exhibits, artist residencies, and federal and provincial grants to fund and create my project ideas. Receiving funding provides time and space to develop work as well as the rental or purchase costs of the required equipment. I have made it my mission to always make the work whether I receive the support or not. It is tough when you receive the email or letter stating that your application was unsuccessful. Feel the feels for a few hours or a day, but keep moving forward, keep making the work!
The process of writing has become one of the most important tools in my studio. When I finish a project or have a new project idea, I usually start by writing automatically and just flushing out my thoughts on "paper" aka google docs. I then read through and highlight what is significant or of value to the particular application or artist statement that I am about to write. I pull these pieces out and begin to ask a variety of questions and explore my answers.
Example Questions (from the Canada Council Concept to Realization Grant Application):
- Describe your proposed activities: What is the rationale for your artistic choices or the inspiration for the new creative work(s).
- How will your activities (project) contribute to your artistic development?
- How will your activities (project) advance your artistic practice?
- What types of artistic risks will you be taking?
- Are you exploring a traditional artistic practice in a new way?
- Will you be using technology in an innovative way or experimenting with new models of dissemination?
- How will your activities build interest in and knowledge of the artists practice?
- Are your activities targeted to a specific public?
By writing applications and answering questions like these, I have deepened my artistic practice and have begun to understand the work I make on a far greater level. Writing has helped me understand where I find importance within each project and individual work, and is helping me grow as an artist.
Additionally, I am constantly scribbling thoughts and ideas, movie titles, artists, books, etc. in my sketchbook. I make a point to go back and investigate these points by watching the documentary, reading the book, or developing my spontaneous ideas further. Many get left behind, but thats ok - they are still floating somewhere in my head and might come forward at some point..
Another great resource that I have in Nova Scotia is Visual Arts NS (VANS)! They offer fantastic workshops and you can sign up for their peer assessment group (usually a group of 3-4 artists) who are writing applications for specific projects and you edit each others work. I have participated in this program twice and found it extremely helpful! Your peers offer questions and insight that help you develop your ideas in a clear and concise form.
And never shy away from asking for help! And ask friends who are not part of the art world to read your proposals so that anyone who reads them can clearly understand your vision!
Books that have been helpful:
- The Artist's Guide to Grant Writing, written by Gigi Rosenberg
- Art Inc., written by Lisa Congdon
If you have any advice, links, or tips on writing grant/exhibit proposals, artist statements, etc., please share them below !!