Why You Need This Workshop:
Your artist statement probably isn’t as good as it could be. It might even be terrible. Or maybe it's great, but you just don't like it. Maybe it’s filled with jargon. Maybe you wrote it at 11:59 right before the midnight deadline for the last grant or fellowship or residency you applied to. Maybe it doesn’t describe your work or why you make art or who you are, at all. Maybe it describes the artist you used to be but not the artist you want to be. Maybe you have no idea how to write or how to describe what you do or why you do it.
It’s not your fault. And I can help you.
Here are three (out of a million) reasons most artist statements are terrible:
Whose Voice Is That?: Many artists think artist statements are supposed to sound a certain way. They’re supposed to include words like “problematize” and “Borgesian.” As if the more impenetrable your language is the better your art must be. Most artist statements sound like you wrote them imagining what you thought someone else thinks an artist statement sounds like. We’ll shake this off. And we’ll write in clear prose that sounds like the real you, not like what you think you’re supposed to sound like.
Look Back Instead of Forward: Usually we write artist statements (or book descriptions) when a project is finished. That’s kind of boring. Looking back and describing what we just made isn’t nearly as fun as using the statement as an opportunity to point us toward what comes next. The questions we want to explore. The materials we’re just starting to use. The sentences we are dreaming into being. I think artist statements should point not only to the past but also to the future – to next set of questions, the still-in-dream-form paintings, the not yet fully realized books and collages and poems and . . .
Ugh: It’s hard to sit down at the blank page and write something profound, alone and under pressure. That’s where this workshop comes in. We’ll do it together. I’ll walk you through the process step by step. It will be fun– and at the end of our time together, your statement will come into form, and it will feel like magic, because it is.
What You'll Learn:
At the end of this workshop:
You'll have an artist statement written in clear, concise, compelling prose;
You’ll be well prepared to talk about your art with friends, colleagues, gallery owners, journalists, and even strangers on the elevator;
You'll be a better writer and will claim writing as a resource in your creative toolkit; and
You’ll be ready to apply for grants/jobs/fellowships/residencies/exhibitions with confidence.
Why I Teach This:
I’ve been writing about art for almost 15 years. You can read my work in The New Yorker, Ms., The Los Angeles Review of Books, and Oregon ArtsWatch, among other publications. For more than a decade, I’ve taught at art schools and state schools, at private colleges and public universities. I’m the author of four books. And I can help you write a kickass artist statement.
What You'll Get:
Four two-hour online video class sessions
Writing prompts and exercises to develop your craft
One thirty-minute phone solo session with me
I’ll read and edit your artist statement
A community of artists taking the workshop with you
February/March 2019 Workshop: Wednesdays, Feb 6, 13, 20 & March 6, from 5-7:00 pm PST, with a 30-minute solo session the week of Feb 25
April 2019 Workshop: Tuesday April 2, Wednesday April 10, Tuesday April 16 & Tuesday April 30, from 5-6:30 pm PST, with a 30-minute solo session the week of April 23
Nuts & Bolts & $:
The cost of the workshop is $600. For each friend you get to sign up, you’ll get a $25 discount.
Whether you’re an established or emerging artist, whether you’re a visual artist or a writer, this workshop is for you. Sign up now! Workshop enrollment will be no smaller than 6 and no bigger than 12 to maximize individualized attention. I also work one-on-one with artists and can travel to work with students at universities/colleges/art schools.
Q: I hated taking online classes in college. I hate using computers. I try to stay away from screens. Is gathering through a computer weird? Distancing?
A: No, it’s not weird or distancing. It’s actually quite cozy. I taught a few online courses at a university when I lived in Portland, and I wasn’t good at teaching that way because most of what makes me a good teacher is what happens between workshop participants and me -- in person. But this is completely different. You might be surprised, but an incredible sense of community gets created in these workshops. Because I use Zoom, we get to see each other and hear each other. It’s LIVE, not pre-recorded. You’ll grow really attached to the other workshop participants. It feels good. Even intimate. This has been the biggest gift (and surprise!) to me.
Q: What if I’ve never written anything before? What if I hate writing?
A: Then this workshop is just for you! There is a range of writing abilities in the class – from people who’ve published a zillion books to people who became visual artists because they hate words. I break down writing into simple, fun, short exercises that will help you claim writing as something that belongs to you, and always has, no matter what anyone else (your high school english teacher, your inner critic) told you.
Q: If I have to miss a workshop session, are they recorded?
A: Yes. If you miss a class, they will be recorded, and you can watch it on your own time. Of course, it’s better to attend all the session and be part of the real life magic, but I know lives are busy and schedules change, so I try to build flexibility into the workshop by making the recordings available when needed.
Q: I’m about to start a new body of work. Is this a good time to take the workshop? Or should I wait?
A: Being on the brink of a new set of paintings or drawings or book project is the perfect time to take this workshop. The exercises I share with you will help you say out loud the questions you want to explore. I like artist statements to be future oriented, not just about old work. But if you just finished a body of work, now is a good time for you to take this workshop, too.
Q: I’m a writer. Is this workshop only for visual artists?
A: This workshop is for all artists – visual artists and writers and performance artists! I’ve had several writers complete the workshop, and they loved it. Not only did they end up with a fabulous artist statement or description of their newest book, they also learned writing exercises they can use in their own creative practice all the time.
Q: I already took this workshop once. Can I take it again?
A: Yes! Because we use generative writing exercises, your writing will be different every time. I love to teach and to participate in this workshop again and again. The magic is ongoing.
Q: I’m not an artist. Can I take this workshop?
A: Yes. This workshop is for everyone. Especially you. Especially if you have that quiet voice inside you that is whispering to you that maybe, just maybe, you might like to start making things. Or painting. Or writing poems. Creativity belongs to all of us. Let’s ignite it!
What Sarah's Students & Clients Say:
"“[This workshop] was just the thing I needed to refine and focus my practice. Since then, I've re-launched a professional website, expanded into curatorial work, conducted a few studio visits, and . . . published my first artist interview.”
– Kevin Smith, artist
"Sarah led the Artist Statement Writing Workshop with as much grace as grit. On a pragmatic level, her skill as a creative and critical thinker expertly helped me distill themes in my work I had not previously observed. Sarah guided me to find better language to articulate my visual work and my art practice. She kept me to task and did not permit me to escape the discomfort of the prompts and overall inquiry. On an emotional level, her humor and insight provided levity when the going got tough. Sarah teaches with an expansive, open mind and heart. I am so grateful for her and her workshop!"
– Yuki Murata, artist
“This class revolutionized my way of thinking and observing. It was and is one of the most important and influential courses of my entire education. It was invaluable.”
– MFA Student, “Critical Theory"
“Sarah is incredible! Taking her class is like removing your brain and looking at all the pieces.”
– Student, “Ethics & Aesthetics"
"When you are a professional artist, there are many projects that require clear writing about complex concepts: artist statements, press releases, bios, catalog essays, reviews, and applications for grants, fellowships, and residencies. Sarah has helped me with editing and feedback, and I value her input tremendously. Every time she turns the eye of her sparkling intellect to my words, she distills the essence of my sentiments to greater clarity and impact. Sarah brings a deep well of knowledge, experience, and love of artists and artwork. She is a poet at heart, and she understands the artist's brain. Sarah has helped me see my own artwork more clearly. I cannot recommend working with her enough. Please take this workshop. You won't regret it."
– Elizabeth Malaska, Painter
“More than anything, this class really helped me to connect my own thinking about social/ethical issues with my art making.”
– MFA Student, “Critical Theory"