The quality of your writing about yourself and your art will have a huge impact on whether you connect with your audience or not. For every unclear sentence, poor transition, typo, misspelling or instance of improper grammar, you lose a potential sale … or you annoy or turn off a juror in a contest. Because Engage Art is so interested in what you have to say about your art, we put together the most extensive module yet of our free Choose Your Own Art-Venture eCourse—Module 5: Reflect & Write. This blog post condenses information from Module 5 about writing, editing, proofreading, and getting feedback on your writing.

General Writing Advice

  • Be direct, specific, and clear—no need for fancy language. Anyone should be able to understand it.
  • Make your first sentence count—get the reader’s attention and draw them into the conversation.
  • You want to tell enough to give the reader insight, but you don’t need to bore them or tell them everything.
  • Keep it as short as you can while still saying everything important.
  • Write in the first person (“I” instead of “the artist”), an active voice (The painting displays X, Y and Z” instead of “X, Y and Z are used through the song.”), and the present tense (you “see” instead of “saw;” the music “is” instead of “was”).
  • Vary your sentences in both structure and length. 
  • Talk about one thing per paragraph.
  • Avoid repetition.
  • Use standard English, but let your “voice” shine through. Keep the tone conversational.
  • Consider 3 editors—one who is excellent at editing/grammar/spelling, one who is familiar with your work, and one who is not familiar with your work. They’ll comment on different things.
  • Specifically, if you are writing for your Engage Art Contest submission, remember that as long as your entry adheres to the guidelines of the contest, your Artist Statement will be publicly available in our online gallery. Don’t say anything you wouldn’t want your Momma or your child to read.
  • This online editing program can help you make your writing more succinct and readable: http://www.hemingwayapp.com/

Editing

After you’ve finished writing and put it away for a couple of days, you’re ready to edit it. First, look for any content or organization you might want to change. Then proofread for any grammar or spelling mistakes, awkwardness, or lack of clarity.

  • Read it out loud. Most people can spot mistakes better when they hear them than when they read them. Are there awkward phrases? Do you repeat yourself? Do you use one word too often?
  • Go over it several times over a couple of days, revising as desired.
  • Where can you make it shorter and still say the same thing?
  • Would someone who doesn’t know you or your artwork understand what you’re trying to say?
  • Are the sentences/paragraphs in a logical order?
  • Can you find any spelling or grammar mistakes?
  • Is it easy to understand? Interesting? Truthful? Informative?
  • There are several free online spelling and grammar checkers, including online-spellcheck.com and grammarly.com.

Editing & Proofreading Checklist

  • Read aloud and fixed errors I could hear
  • Capitals and punctuation are correct
  • Complete sentences with a noun and verb (unless for effect)
  • No run-on sentences
  • Sentences vary in both structure and length. 
  • Spelling checked and fixed
  • Direct, specific, clear & organized—anyone could understand it
  • First sentence gets the reader’s attention
  • Tells enough to give the reader insight, but doesn’t tell them everything
  • Written in the first person when speaking as the artist
  • Written in an active voice
  • Written in the present tense
  • Talk about one thing per paragraph
  • Paragraphs flow logically with transitions
  • Do not repeat concepts/ideas
  • Do not repeat words within three sentences
  • Standard English (except for effect)
  • It sounds like you
  • The tone is conversational.
  • Read through to see if it could be shorter
  • Someone else edited it for grammar, spelling, organization
  • Someone else who is familiar with my work/life edited it
  • A non-artist who is not familiar with my work edited it
  • I wouldn’t mind my mom, boss, kid, friend reading this

Feedback

When you’re happy with your writing—whether it be an artist statement, bio, or anything else—get input from at least 3 people you trust.

#1 should be good at editing, grammar, word choice, etc. 

#2 should know your art. 

#3 should be a non-artist who does not know your work.

Consider your writing a work-in-progress until after this stage. Your editors will all likely have questions or suggested edits, but probably on different types of things. You get to decide how much of their feedback to use. Getting feedback on your writing is an exceptional learning opportunity because you can use the things you learn about your writing to do a better job next time.

Before you ask someone to review your writing (or your art, for that matter), think about what type of feedback you want and if there are some things you do NOT want feedback about. When you request their help, you can let them know what things you are most interested in hearing about. Here are some options:

  • Is the writing direct, specific and clear? (grammar, spelling, capitalization and punctuation, little to no repetition, complete sentences, no run-ons, talks about one thing per paragraph, paragraphs flow logically, effective transitions, standard English conventions)
  • Is the writing active and engaging? (first person, active voice, present tense, sentences vary in structure & length, conversational tone)
  • Do you understand what I’m saying?
  • Does the first sentence get the reader’s attention?
  • Is the content interesting?
  • Does it tell enough without saying everything?
  • Does it sound like me?
  • Does my writing about my art sound like it’s about my art? 
  • Does my writing about my thinking and my life sound authentic?
  • Does this writing help you understand my artwork better than if you just saw the work? 
  • Does it leave you wondering about something you’d really like to know?
  • Did I forget anything important?
  • Are there things I should leave out?
  • Could it be shorter and say the same thing?
  • How could I get the information across better?

This blog post was adapted from the Engage Art Choose Your Own Art-Venture eCourse, Module 5, which is about reflecting and writing about yourself as an artist and your art. The eCourse if free and you can find it here if you would like to explore it further.