Are you ready to face the judges?

If you want to play with the big girls and boys, you have to be able to articulate what your art is about.

I’ve been hounding you about this for years, but you don’t have to believe me. Just watch the first episode of Work of Art: The Next Great Artist. [BravoTV, Wednesday nights]

The judges didn’t like the response they got from Amanda. She couldn’t explain–to their satisfaction–why her “portrait” of Jaime Lynn looked like falling leaves. Bye-bye, Amanda.

I admit that chances are slim you’ll ever have to account for your art in front of Simon de Pury, Jerry Saltz, Jeanne Greenberg Rohatyn, China Chow, and Bill Powers. That’s not my point.

My point is that curators, gallerists, and critics will ask hard questions. They expect answers, so you need to be prepared to respond.

If you need help coming up with words, you can start with the journaling process I’ve put together in The Relatively Pain-Free Artist Statement e-book.

PS If you missed the first episode of Work of Art, you can watch it on Hulu.

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18 comments to Are you ready to face the judges?

  • Alyson is right on this one. It is hard for artists to put into words what their art “means,” yet people will always be looking for some sort of explanation from us. I used to agonize over how to say just the right thing. But that is changing. One thing that I’ve found extremely helpful is realizing you don’t have to tell all your story- just a piece of it will do. At an opening for a show of your artwork, people want just a little something to hang onto- maybe something that happened while you were working on the piece or some clue about why you chose a particular title,

    This is a situation where trying to say something too profound can easily sound grandiose and obscure. Less is more.

    • Brilliant! Yes, don’t agonize over being profound. Be authentic. Speak in the vernacular, look people in the eye, and listen to them. Listening is actually a more valuable skill than speaking. We LOVE people who listen to us.

  • Recently, I attended a “Presenting for Success” workshop held at the Arsht Center for Performing Arts. I was the only visual artist in attendance, but received A LOT of valuable information. One was an exercise in presenting your performance idea, or in my case, exhibit idea.
    As Philip mentioned, LESS is MORE. Keep it simple, be concise, but explain! I left out why the Gulf of Mexico oil spill is making an impact on me artistically. I was called on the carpet for it – and I only needed ONE sentence to answer!
    As an artist, I have to have writing and presenting skills. It may not be easy, but it is in invaluable to have an “elevator speech,” etc. about your work.
    As always, THANK YOU for a great tip, and the links so I can watch the show!
    Angeline

  • Waa…I can’t get Work of Art: The next Great Artist, in Canada…But Alyson, you are so smart, when I Googled it, ArtBizBlog now comes up as first search result because of this post. smart.

  • I Googled “work of art the next great artist” & this comes up first…
    Starred results for work of art the next great artist
    Art Biz Blog – http://www.artbizblog.com/
    I just tried Hulu, it says “this content is only available in the United States” like all the other sites…Joseph says:” Isn’t it great how international the internet is?”…(he’s a little sarcastic)…
    I just thought of something, are Google’s starred results maybe only on my computer? (Well,if so, at least your tops in my books)…

  • I’m SO looking forward to this show! hopefully can find a replay of the episode once I arrive back in the UK (currently sitting in Newark Int’l waiting for my flight) But I am a Project Runway fan so that might partly explain the appeal.

    And also posting to testify for your statement book – it is BRILLIANT! What I got out of it was much more than writing a statement (which as you teach, should be short) but rather a lot of the purpose and intent behind my paintings and the progression of my artwork. This has really helped me talk to other people about my work in a cohesive and hopefully more interesting way.

  • […] to be prepared to answer tough questions presented to you by the curators, galleries, and critics http://www.artbizblog.com/2010/06/judges.html) (artbizblog.com is a great site […]

  • They have been advertising this show on Bravo in Canada. It was supposed to start on June 9th but it didn’t. I have since seen an ad and I believe it is due to start this week. I’m watching the listings for it and looking forward to it.

  • I just checked the Bravo network in Canada and the show is scheduled to be on this coming Saturday (June 26th) and Sunday, Wednesday and Thursday.

    Here’s the link: http://www.bravo.ca/SCHEDULE/Default.aspx?date=6-23-2010

  • Thanks for this info, Suzette! I just tweeted it.

  • Thanks Alyson! I saw your email about Work Of Art and watched it on Hulu last night – wow – I am so excited for this – Hulu only has the first episode, so I am hoping they will decide to feature more. The show enticed me even further to rework my bio and statement – seeing how some of the artists discussed their art made my skin crawl and hope that I do not sound like them. I have been waiting for a show like this for years – thank you again – have a great week!
    Sincerely, Katie

  • […] Learn to talk about yourself and your art like the pro you are. Spend lots of time writing your artist statement and honing the words you use to define your art. The rest of the world is waiting for you to embrace your role. […]