Spring ’20 – Artist Conversation Template

Spring ’20 – 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 the artist, or you with the artist, etc)

The Artists you will meet in the SOA Galleries are young artists beginning their careers. They have worked for many months to put up the work we see in the galleries. 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:

Wk6 – 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
Website: MaccabeeShelley.com
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, you might say "Andrea L. Williams is a student in the School of Art’s Ceramics Program." Or "LBSU undergraduate Andrea L. Williams is working toward her BFA degree in the School of Art’s Ceramics Program."

You are familiar with the degrees BA, BS, MA, MS, and Ph.D. In The Arts, like Film & Electronic Arts, Music, Design, Theatre, Dance, or Art, the standard degrees are BA, BFA, MA, and 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 Ph.D, 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 take part 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 ready to explain what a work of art "says", 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 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?

Separate Paragraphs
Please do not combine 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 with you. How do the formal nature of the work and the artist’s ideas resonate with your 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!!!

3 Free Tools!

Here are 3 great, free tools available to help with your writing!

Writing well is important because:

  • You should feel proud about writing a clean, coherent essay that tells a compelling story
  • For your future career, developing the ability to Write and Speak well may be the most important abilities you develop here at Long Beach State
  • You are the first person to write about this young artist! We owe them good writing. Imagine if I wrote a letter of recommendation for you. Imagine that I said all kinds of great things about you and your work, but I misspelled your name! You’d feel bad. You wouldn’t want to show this to anyone. Let’s do our best to avoid mistakes.

3 Free Writing Tools

  • Grammarly is a free writing tool that can help with your spelling and punctuation. It is a browser extension that can work as you type. Or, you can go to the Grammarly website and type there and copy/paste to WordPress or another destination when you’re done.
  • Hemingway is a free writing tool that can help improve the clarity and power of your writing. It will help you write simpler, clearer, more impactful sentences.
  • The University Writing Center offers free help with your writing. Grammarly and Hemingway are great online tools. At the UWC you can get help from an actual human being!

The University Writing Center offers:

  • 45-minute one-on-one writing appointments
  • 15-30 minute drop-in tutoring sessions
  • Small-group tutorial sessions for 2-4 students from the same class working on the same assignment (arranged in advance)
  • Workshops on key writing concerns
  • Workshops on the GWAR Placement Exam (GPE)

  • Student Success Center (SSC) – 245
  • Monday-Thursday: 9-5, Friday: 10-3
  • 562-985-5162
  • uwc@csulb.edu

Talking to artists is fun & easy! Honest! 😛

Talking to Artists

Real Conversation
Try to have a real conversation with the artists. If we rush in and bombard them with cameras, like you or I, they can be kind of put off. Take the time to read their Artist’s Statement on the wall inside the gallery. Then ask thoughtful questions. Now the artists will be excited to talk with you about their work. Do gather information about their work. But also interject ideas from your own life experience that you feel connect to the work you’re looking at.

Same Level
At the tables outside the SOA Galleries, we tend to stand and the artist is usually sitting. This isn’t great. It’s awkward and less connected than a conversation at the same level. Try to find a chair so that you can be at the same physical level as the artist while you talk. Or invite the artist into the gallery to chat. In the gallery, you will be at the same level. And, the artist can gesture to their work which is nice for conversation and also makes for nice photos.

Good & Bad Questions
There are no bad questions.

But, artists do appreciate it when you read their statement first! Then you can ask them to expand on what they’ve written, instead of repeating it.

Also, one of the most obvious questions turns out to be a poor question:

Where do you get your inspiration?

This is an instinctive question that we all tend to ask. But, it’s a poor question because artists don’t work that way. When you ask it, rather than opening up conversation it tends to close conversation down. You can ask a fairly question that is better at inviting them to discuss their process:

Can you talk a little about the ideas you’re exploring in this work?

(if they’ve already talked about their ideas in their statement or previous answers, you can ask for clarification or expansion of their ideas and process)

Art Gallery Etiquette

Talk! But Don’t Touch!

Art Galleries and Art Museums have some things in common with places like Libraries, but also a lot that is different. They’re all great cultural resources where you can enrich your life. In a library, except for a few rare items like Special Collections, you can touch everything. And usually, you’re supposed to be quiet or talk in a whisper.

Art Galleries are the opposite. Sometimes people feel like they’re supposed to be quiet, but actually, there’s no such "rule". Talk! Discuss! Interact! Make the space and the experience yours! In Art Galleries and Museums, PLEASE DO NOT TOUCH! The majority of work you will see should not be touched.

Be Careful with the Art!

Also, be aware of yourself in the space. It’d be great if you could leave your backpack in your dorm or somewhere else. Of course, often you will have to have a backpack with you. This means that your back is a foot further back than your body realizes. If you want to take a picture of something, and back-up to fit it in, you could back into an object on a pedestal and knock it over.

Art 110 has had a good experience in the SOA Galleries so far. Thousands of students have been to hundreds of shows and we haven’t damaged anything. Still, keep the safety of the art in mind. Some things may be difficult or impossible to replace. And when you visit art museums, the work displayed there is often worth millions of dollars. At least in Art Museums, there are Visitor Service Associates (VSAs) to remind us to be careful with the work. In the SOA Galleries, protecting the art is all on us!

Comments? Questions? What great art did you see, make, or experience today?

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