composite glasswork by Maccabee SHelley

Fall ’17 Artist Essay Template

Artist Essays

  • Your Art Activity essays can be casual.
  • Your essays about Artists should be 4-paragraph, college level writing.

The Artists you will meet in the SOA Galleries are mostly young artists just beginning their careers. They’ve typically worked for many months to put up the work we see in the galleries, and you are very likely the 1st person ever to write about them and their work! That’s awesome! But it also gives us the responsibility to be accurate and informed about the work.

Sample 4-paragraph Artist Conversation

The 4 paragraphs for your CSULB School of Art, Artist Essays, and your RL Artist essays will be similar. For the RL Artists you’ll be writing about their entire oeuvre (body of work), and for the SOA Artists it will be about a specific show you see in the SOA Galleries. Before your 4 paragraphs you should put an info block as shown below. The info block only applies to the SOA Artists because it is about a specific exhibition.

Title of Your Document: (if you want to use a different Essay Title inside the document, that’s fine. But make sure I know who you are writing about)


(.doc, .pdf, etc, whatever format your document is)

If I were turning in a doc on Maccabee Shelley’s show, the title of the document would be:

  • Glenn-Zucman-wkB1-Shelley.doc

Exhibition Information

Artist: Maccabee Shelley
Exhibition: No Redemption Value
Media: Ceramics, Glass, Mixed-Media, Installation
Gallery: CSULB School of Art, Gatov Gallery West
Instagram: maccabeeshelley

1 – About the Artist

In this paragraph you can provide a little background information on the artist. Are they a Graduate or Undergraduate student? Which Program from the CSULB School of Art are they in? What are their interests? What ideas does their work explore?

CSULB consists of a number of Colleges.
One is The College of The Arts (COTA).
COTA is composed of a number of Departments.
One is the School of Art (SOA).
The School of Art includes many Programs:

  • Art Education
  • Art History
  • Ceramics
  • Drawing & Painting
  • Fiber
  • Graphic Design
  • Illustration / Animation
  • Metal
  • Photography
  • Printmaking
  • Sculpture / 4D
  • Wood

If a student is studying Ceramics, then you might correctly say that Andrea L. Williams is a student in the School of Art’s Ceramics Program. Or you could also say something like CSULB undergraduate Andrea L. Williams is working toward her BFA degree in the School of Art’s Ceramics Program.

You are probably familiar with the degrees BA or BS, MA or MS, and PhD. In The Arts, like Theatre, or Dance, or Art, the standard degrees are BA, BFA, MA, MFA. (Bachelor of Arts, Bachelor of Fine Arts, Master of Arts, Master of Fine Arts) The BA & MA are sometimes thought of as academic degrees and the BFA & MFA as professional degrees. The BFA & MFA tend to involve more units than the BA or MA degree. You can debate whether the MFA is or is not equal to the PhD, but either way the MFA is a terminal degree, as in you’ve obtained the highest degree in your field. With an MFA you can teach at a university and participate in other professional and academic activities.

2 – Formal Analysis

What is it? Describe the work. The “formal” qualities. The media or materials. The nature of the line, shape, color, rhythm, scale, texture, cadence, and so on. Is it straight? Jagged? Undulating? Sinuous? Staccato? Is it black-and-white? Muted pastel colors? Vivid primary colors? Is it so tiny that you must come in really close to see it? Is is so massive and so much larger than you that you get a visceral, gut reaction when standing near it?

3 – Content Analysis

What is it about? Relate the ideas you get from your conversation with the artist here. What’s on their mind? What are they thinking about? What ideas are they trying to explore?

Good Questions: Bad Questions
Students instinctively want to ask, “where do you get your inspiration?” This is a reasonable and normal question. But please understand that this is not the way artists think. It is a dead end question that doesn’t open up conversation with the artist. You can have a better conversation with the artist if you ask a variation on this question, like “can you talk a little bit about the ideas you’re exploring in this work?”

Real Conversation
Do try to make your conversation with the artist an actual conversation! Often there are a number of us crowded around an artist, but try to slow down, listen to them, and ask real questions. Yes you’re gathering information for your post, and yes it’s about their work, but you can interject ideas from your own life experience that you feel connect to the work you’re looking at.

Try to be on the same level
If the artist is sitting in a chair, try not to stand and talk down to them, try to find another chair and talk at their level. If there’s too many of us and the artist is sitting in a chair, try inviting them into their own gallery so you can look at the work as you discuss it. This way the artist, and all of us, will be standing at about the same level.

Separate Paragraphs
Please do not combine your Formal Analysis and Content Analysis into a single “Formal Analysis / Content Analysis” section. Each of these areas is worthy of one thoughtful paragraph from you. Please take the time to write an honest and compelling piece.

4 – Synthesis / My Experience

What does it mean? In this last section it’s about you! Synthesize the gestalt of this exhibition and how it resonates for you. How do the formal nature of the work and the artist’s ideas resonate with your own ideas, perceptions, and perspectives? Do things from your life experience, your academic experience, and other sources resonate here?


IT IS ESSENTIAL THAT YOU READ WHAT YOU’VE WRITTEN BEFORE YOU CLICK PUBLISH! Almost everyone makes small typos, awkward phrases, and other simple but distracting mistakes. Proofread! Proofread!! Proofread!!!


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