students in conversation with an artist

Fall ’19 Artist Conversation Template

Artist Essays

  • Your Art Activity blog posts can be casual.
  • Your essays about Artists should be 4-paragraph, college-level writing.
  • All essays must include 1 or more photos (of the art in the gallery, or of the artist, or of you with the artist, etc)
  • Please set your Artist Conversation to "Password Protected" and use the password: soa

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

Before your 4 paragraphs, you should put an info block:

C1 – Artist Conversation – Maccabee Shelley

Exhibition Information

Artist: Maccabee Shelley
Exhibition: No Redemption Value
Media: Ceramics, Glass, Mixed-Media, Installation
Gallery: LBSU 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?

  • The California State University System includes 23 campuses. One of them is Long Beach State University.
  • Long Beach State University includes 8 colleges. One of them is The College of The Arts (COTA)
  • COTA includes 6 departments. One of them is The School of Art (SOA)

The School of Art includes 11 Programs:

  • 3D Media (Fiber, Metal, Wood)
  • Art Education
  • Art History
  • Ceramics
  • Drawing & Painting
  • Graphic Design
  • Illustration / Animation
  • Photography
  • Printmaking
  • Sculpture / 4D
  • Studio Art

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 LBSU 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 Film & Electronic Arts, Music, Design, Theatre, 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

We often care a lot about the content of a work of art: what is it saying? When we look at new art or art from cultures we are unfamiliar with, it can be challenging to "read" the content. A nice way to start thinking about a work is to think about the form of the work. Even if you are not yet ready to explain what a work of art "says" to you, you can start by talking about the form: is it large or small? Brightly colored or monochrome? And so on.

For this section 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?
  • 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 a 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?


Almost everyone makes small typos, awkward phrases, and other simple but distracting mistakes.
Proofread! Proofread!! Proofread!!!

students in conversation with an artist
Art 110 in conversation with LBSU SOA artist Aliza Bejarano at her show Peace in Chaos in the LBSU Werby Gallery


21 responses to “Fall ’19 Artist Conversation Template”

    1. Rita Xu Avatar
      Rita Xu

      Apparently you have to create a secondary blog in order to password protect it. I wasn’t sure if I was supposed to put it on my main blog (that i can’t password protect) so I created a second one

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