by Stephanie Lindquist & Glendalys Medina
You may think it’s a luxury to be able to talk about what you do creatively, but it’s not. Not only is it vital to your prosperity as a creative, but it’s also your responsibility as a being to share your unique gifts with the world.
So what’s the difference between those tongue-tied and those able to clearly communicate the significance of their art?
Many get caught up in their fears of how others will perceive them and their work. They doubt their worthiness, their abilities, their intellect, etc… Some of us get caught up in being creative or pseudo-intellectual in describing our work and end up sounding unintelligible. One must be able to explain oneself to a fifteen-year-old student, a collector that doesn’t have an MA in Art History and the museum curator. So where does one start? Knowing yourself first and then your audience is key.
In Case You’re Concerned About The CANON, F#8* It
The canon, oh lord the canon. F… the canon, do you! A director of a major museum once told me that the canon is a dot, then there is the periphery surrounding the (dot) canon where most artists dwell, then there is a special spot right outside of the periphery and that’s where you want to be because with time the canon actually moves to you! You might be asking, but how? I was too. The answer is that every artist wants to be legendary, but before making it into the history books one must first have a clear, compelling vision. Move yourself, aim to strike the chord within you when speaking about your work and the rest will follow.
Be Brave and Tell Them Why
The easiest thing to do is talk about the obvious things in your work, like the process and the materials. But that doesn’t hold anyone’s attention for too long. What people really want to know is why. Why are you making this? What compelled you? They want the story and for many creatives this is the hardest part to disclose. That fifteen-year-old wants to relate to you. That collector wants that sense of freedom your story gives her. That curator wants material to get the patron into their museum. So give it up and be vulnerable. You will be surprised to find no one laughing or snickering. Instead, you will find you have gained their respect and they will remember you and your story. So move them. And if they do snicker, you can be sure they’re an asshole.
Best Way To Practice
One of the best ways to practice talking about your work is to start talking about someone else’s work. Can you do it in a loving, uncritical, no bullshit way? If you know the artist personally, you probably know a lot more about their work than most viewers. You probably know all the back story and intricacies of their inspiration. You can also probably clearly highlight the works’ features and gear your description to whomever your speaking to. As you practice talking about other artists’ work, begin to notice what people enjoy learning most. Notice your delivery. Where do people get lost? Where do people look bored? When are they most engaged? Keep practicing. Next time you speak about your own work, you’ll more clearly see your strengths and weaknesses.