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Scripting an Artist’s Statement: Teaching Students How to Craft a Personal Explanation of Their Art

Artists are frequently expected to write statements about their own work. This lesson has been designed for exploration by all students of the creative arts, to provide a structured process introducing them to the idea. Even in the lower grades, it is wise to provide an environment within which young artists experience the genre before they attempt to craft an artist’s statement of their own.

The polish and feel of a written explanation of artwork is most effective when it is natural and authentic.

What is an Artist’s Statement?

To begin the process, and in the style of a Webquest, ask students to find the “About Me” section of their favourite contemporary artist’s website. Students will use this information to engage in a sharing circle. Here they will explain the selected statement to the class. They may show a picture of the artist and some of the works the artist has explained to accompany the statement.

Students will be asked to pay particular attention to the format of the genre.

They are to look for

  • clarity of explanation of the work
  • evidence of development of a theme
  • adequate description of influences on the artist and thus the work
  • examples of critical self analysis by the artist of their own work

Not only will the students learn about a variety of artists, they will also gain an understanding of the way in which artists engage in self analysis and self critique.

Ask the students to examine whether the artists have supplied enough information to cause readers to feel as though they know what the work is all about. Ask them whether the statement is enticing. Encourage the students to find an example of a statement that causes them to want to follow this artist. Ask them questions like…

Would you

  • subscribe to their newsletter?
  • travel far to see their work?
  • be happy if they designed the cover of your latest album? (visual artist)
  • want them to play or song at your wedding? (musician)
  • pay to see a performance

Student Centred Inquiry

Now ask the students to read the article “What is an Artist Statement?” by Carl Kuerschner creator of the CAKUart website. Ask students what Carl means when he says, “There is something quite alluring about an artist who has a definitive explanation for what they do, why and how they do it. That is why an artist statement could be considered to be the “decoding document” that summarizes your artwork.”

Having set the scene ask students to select their personal best piece of work and analyze it in terms of

  • what it is
  • when was it created and where does it fit within a theme or series
  • where was it created by locating this work through narrowing from country, to place, to community, to school (to give the work context)
  • how it was created through discussion of media, method and technique
  • why they chose to do this particular work
  • who (or what) has influenced them to create this work

Access Artistic Experience through Dialogue

By presenting this material to the class, and through the process of receiving feedback and questions, students will experience the social aspects of being an artist. Peer assessment will inform them about whether they have been clear in their delivery of the material. They can get used to speaking about their work in front of others without fear or embarrassment. The process gives the students a chance to reflect upon the nature of their own artwork, and this may cause them to think a little more deeply about their work.

It would be good for students to experience this kind of exercise at least once a year, so that they can develop the skills both socio-emotional, as well as literary, with which to execute the task with style flair and confidence.