Learning How to Describe your Art: A Must Read for “Self-Taught” Artists

By Clemens Greis in Art Business Advice > General Art Advice

So, you’re a visual artist. . . but for some reason, you seem to have a hard time expressing verbally what your art is all about.

Perhaps this is just because you haven’t had the opportunity to get a formal education in the arts. Or maybe you’re just not used to talking about what you’re creating.

Whatever the reason, when someone comments that your paintings remind them of Picasso’s work, you’re probably flattered, but not totally sure why the comparison was made. Or, perhaps a potential customer remarks that your work seems “cubist” and you wonder if that’s really a compliment.

If any of that sounds familiar, I would challenge you to learn about some of the artists and art movements of the past. This will not only give you more knowledge about who you are as an artist but also how to discuss your art in the future.

Here’s how I would suggest you go about it:

Step 1: Research one or more art movements

Start by looking up several art movements online, or elsewhere. Be sure to read good definitions of these genres and try to grasp what they’re all about. Take note of the key artists, who they are, who they were, who pioneered the movements, and how their work fits into that era.

Step 2: Create artwork in the style of that movement

Next, choose a style you find particularly intriguing. Then, pick a subject and approach it in that style, as though you were an artist of that particular movement. After you have completed the painting, or even during the project, see if you can articulate how and why your appreciation for this genre has grown.

Step 3: Compare your artwork

Try to compare your work to the work of those artists who put it on the map. These thoughts can be extremely helpful in describing the creative process of your work and could be included in your Artist Statement.

Step 4: Continue your education

If you feel the experience was worthwhile, keep going. Choose another art movement and repeat the process. Keep exploring and discovering new styles you love.

Whatever style you choose to work in, you are training yourself to approach your subject with the awareness and focus necessary to express what your art is, and what you are intending to accomplish. You’ll also have a perspective on how your style of artistic expression relates to what others have done in the past.

In the end, when you tell someone you’re a “self-taught artist”, you can do so with the confidence that you’ve taught yourself well!


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