How to Write About Art and Sound Like You Know What You’re Talking About

I first met Kyle during his stint at the world’s most amazing art blogazine Hyperallergic and I’ve since fallen insecure and envious of Kyle’s talent as an editor and art writer. His work is the perfect blend of smart and lyrical, void of eye-roll worthy art jargon and filled instead with razor sharp clarity and on pointedness. He is taking this covetous skillset and his recent title as assistant editor of Artinfo and sharing it with you in this Skillshare class. The class is actually TONIGHT and there are a few seats left so if this interview tweaks your curiosity and you’re thirsting to know the secrets to successful art writing, check it.

Why are artists so afraid of/hate writing about their own work and process?

I think it’s because writing about any art is really intimidating, and even more so when you’re so close to your own work as an artist. You have to have that critical distance to help people to better understand the artwork you’re talking about.

Can you share one tip for artists as they write or revise their artist statements?

Avoid “artspeak” whenever possible — that means don’t use generic, overused terms that pop up in every artist and curatorial statement. Offenders include “interrogate,” “explore,” “question,” and more.

What is the current trend or voice that you’re reading in art reviews these days? Is there a stark difference between what you read in the pages of say ArtForum’s review section and a review by Paddy Johnson? Is it possible to gauge relevance between the two?

Artforum reviews may be what critics and curators read, but if you want to communicate with anyone in the mainstream, your review needs to be concise, clear, and powerful, while remaining accessible. I tend to think that the more populist writing is more relevant, with critics like Paddy really reaching out to their audiences and speaking to them.

What is the one thing that you look for in a well written art review? Personal voice? Formal descriptions?

I’d say that both personal voice and formal description are important. You have to have both an interesting angle on the work (your own personal opinion) and the writing chops to describe a show or a piece of work clearly. Having only one or the other makes for a pretty boring article.

What is one way to pitch a story to an editor without getting a cold shoulder? Let’s say I’ve written a draft of a great interview with an underdiscovered artist. Do I write a one page summary of the summary and hope for the best?

One page is too long! Keep your pitch emails polite, to the point, and short. I suggest no more than 2 sentences, 3 sentences maximum, for story pitches, and always pitch at least 3 stories at once. I will definitely be covering this in the class.

I absolutely hate writing introductory paragraphs. Any tips on how not to spend 3 hours writing the same sentence over and over again?

Intro paragraphs can also be called “leads,” and there are a few great strategies for creating them. My favorite is to start with a powerful image or narrative, then return to that image over the course of the article.

How much of my opinion and voice should I keep out of an article? How about a blog post that is not my own blog?

On your own blog, you can be as mouthy as you want. The more august the publication, the more you might have to tone down your writing. Here, the difference between criticism and reporting is very important. Reporting means no opinion, but you can still have a voice if you do it right. Criticism means express your opinion loudly.
Any other comments?

Writing about art might seem like too much work to even attempt, but it can actually present a great creative outlet for writers and a source of income (!!) for artists.


1 Comment

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One response to “How to Write About Art and Sound Like You Know What You’re Talking About

  1. Aches and pains ? this that merely aonnye can write your blog and have as popular as this? Its not like you have stated something inspiring a lot more you’ve colored a fairly snapshot by using an issue that you understand almost nothing about! I dont want to appear imply, in this article. But you don’t feel that you can find out using including several very images instead of absolutely point out nearly anything?

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