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How to describe your painting on social media

When artists are asked to write about their work, they often complain: “What’s the point of writing about my art? I’m not a writer, I’m an artist!” The purpose of good art writing is to illuminate your work.

So, how do you begin? Here are a few tips. 

Write in your voice. Use “I” and “me” and “my.” Your statement should sound like you on a good day when you are rested and clear. Artists sometimes think that a statement needs to be full of big words and that it has to sound fancy to be good. The opposite is true. Clear, simple language is always best. 


Can you see the difference between these two versions from an abstract painter?


First try:


“My work is about navigating the spans that divide life’s dualities, such as birth and death, division and union, waxing and waning. I record observations, both from memory and invention.”

It is hard to write well about abstract art, but this artist has written at such a high level that she has disappeared. The reader cannot find her or connect with her art. 

When asked to put aside her first draft and just say what her work was all about, she immediately responded: “Everything!” This honest reply turned into the beginning of a good statement:


Second try:


“When people ask me what my work is about, I can only answer “everything!” My paintings come from my daily life and are attempt to make sense of the world. They express my wishes and dreams for a better world, they celebrate happy occasions, my sadness, and frustration, as I explore life’s dualities ….”


So, how do you write your statement? Here are 7 questions to help you think about what you want to say. You can use them to prepare a new statement or revise the one you have.   


1. What is your intention as an artist? Why do you make art?

2. What subjects or ideas interest you?

3. How do you get inspired to create a new work of art?

4. Describe your process. How do you select and work with materials? 

5. What should the viewer notice when they look at your work? Are there details or techniques that are typical of you?

6. Who are the other artists you especially admire? How have they influenced you?

7. What else would you like viewers to know, to help them appreciate your art?


The first three questions overlap, as they are different ways for you to think about what your art is all about. This is often the hardest part to write, so if you get stuck just go on to other questions and come back later. 


How long your painting’s description be?


Most people simply won't have the patience to read a lengthy treatise and many will be put off before they've even started. Aim at around 100 words or three short paragraphs.


Help! I Find It Impossible to Describe My Work in Words!


It can often be difficult to explain something visual in words – and after all, you're an artist, not a writer! But, as with painting, practice makes it easier and perseverance is essential. You're unlikely to produce a polished artist's statement the first time you try, so be prepared to rework it several times.


Think about how you would describe your work to someone who didn't know you, what other people have said about your work, what you are aiming to achieve in your paintings, your outlook on life. Ask a friend for comments on what you've written (but pick someone you know will give you an honest answer, this is no time for "that's lovely" comments). Write your artist's statement in the first person ("I work ..."), not in the third person ("Mary works ...").


What details to record before making a painting?


Start with the title of the painting, date of creation, measurements and condition issues. Also, prepare a succinct description of work so that you’ll recognize it easily.

Make sure to number each artwork, so that you can give the paperwork and photographs belonging to that artwork the same reference number.

Giving a title to a work of art can be a very complicated process, as it reveals another layer of meaning for the artwork. Conveying the right sense in the right combination of words can be difficult. There is no tried-and-true method of naming a work of art, but there are strategies and exercises that can help you pinpoint the best name to represent your hard work and creativity.


Make a list of themes central to the artwork


Brainstorm a list of ideas that reflect what your artwork is about. It can be simple, such as “trees” or “girl,” but it can also be thematic or subconscious, such as “friendship” or “childhood.” Think about what the meaning of the artwork is, and how the title can convey that meaning.



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