Imagine you are at a dinner party and you meet another guest who introduces themselves as a lover of art and an avid collector. After an introduction, the collector asks you “What you do?”. You explain that you are an artist and they ask what you make. You do not have time to write an essay or turn this into your grad school thesis, you have a few minutes before the first course of dinner arrives. What would you share with this curious collector? Would you share the concept of your work, the materials, your intentions in making the work, your influences or inspirations, perhaps all of these above?
In order to answer these questions for an interested collector, targeted marketing, giving a guest lecture, or writing your artist statement, it is important to know what you make and why you are making it. Knowing these details about your work and motivations not only provides vital information to interested parties but also helps you in your creative journey by outlining why you are making some of the choices that you do, effectively making your work uniquely yours. Identifying the characteristics of your work can empower your future choices, decisions, and art-making plans which can streamline studio processes, give the direction of your vision, and help prepare you professionally for the expectations of the art markets.
Get Down to the Nitty Gritty
Get a piece of paper, your favorite writing tool, and answer the questions below. Reflect on them as honestly as you can. Be truthful with yourself, doing so will help cut to the core of your work and again, can help with decision making about creative direction. Warning: Be careful when making assertions that are difficult to prove or overtly subjective. Making false or disprovable statements can discredit you and your work, so be mindful in those cases.
Remember this is not an elevator pitch, you do not need to truncate or abbreviate your reply. Take as little or as much time with each reflection as you need.
- What do you make?
- How do you make it?
- What are the materials?
- Do concepts and materials have a relationship?
- How big or small is the work?
- Does the size of the work relate to the concept, how so?
- Why do you make this work?
- What were the goals in the work?
- Were the goals achieved by making it? Yes, no, how/why?
- What are your influences?
- Who are your artistic influences? How is your work similar and dissimilar to theirs?
- Who is the anticipated audience of your work and how does this work speak to them?
- Which branch of the art world does this work belong in?
- Who are your creative peers and how do they share their work?
Once you have answered the questions, I recommend tacking your penned replies up on a wall or board in your workspace or home… Be sure you have access to them so that you can regularly see and remind yourself of the unique qualities of your work, in turn keeping the fires lit and the direction clear…As always, enjoy the journey and this exercise as this is part of the creative experience.
Have you answered the questions? Comment how you identify your work!
Elizabeth Winnel has garnered attention for her vibrant and photorealistic oil paintings of mouths and lips. Her bold, colorful creations are as expressive as they are unique, and her work has been featured in more than a hundred solo and group exhibitions nationally and internationally in New York, Los Angeles, Atlanta, Nashville, Berlin, London, Toronto and other cities. As an accomplished artist and expert of both Fine Arts and Design, she has collaborated on many significant projects with globally recognized enterprises, including VH1 in New York City and Mercedes Benz Stadium in Atlanta. Her work has been featured in numerous publications including Blouin Art Info, Paprika Southern, Savannah Magazine, The Connect, West Elm Catalogue, Juxtapoz, VH1 among others. A native Canadian, Winnel is a Summa Cum Laude graduate of Savannah College of Art and Design (M.F.A., painting, 2013; B.F.A., illustration, 2008), and also studied Fine Arts at Fanshawe College in Ontario, Canada. Winnel held positions as Professor and Instructor of Painting at Savannah College of Art and Design for seven years.