Teachable Moment: Writing Artist Statements

Sometimes asking an artist to write about art is like asking a fish to ride a bicycle.  I’m sure that many of my students feel like a fish on a bicycle when I ask them to write about their own creative processes.  Aside from reaching those higher order thinking skills, self-evaluation is an essential skill that will benefit students throughout their lives.  For example, if they can gauge what kind of learner they are, they are more likely to choose better study methods and habits as well as careers that suit their abilities and interests.

At the beginning of the school year I always address the four major points of the critique process (describe, analyze, interpret, judge) and my students look at famous artworks individually, in small groups, and as a class.  Students learn to critique advertisements and other images in popular media.  We’re about half way through this process when Brittany loudly asks in a complaining voice, “Why are we writing in art class, can’t we make stuff instead?

I gently remind her to raise her hand and wait for me to call on her and then continue, “That’s a very good question.  Does anyone think they know an answer?” I pause and listen to the crickets and shuffling papers.  “Well, there are many reasons why it is important to write in art class, but for our purposes I’ll just name a few:

Check out Ms. Curtis' great critique worksheet.

One reason is that as artists, it is important for us to be able to articulate our creative process and explain our work to viewers.  It is also important for us to be self-reflective learners so that we know our weaknesses and strengths and can address them more directly.  Furthermore, we can apply the skills we are learning throughout the critique process to other areas of our academic and personal lives.  Last but not least, many of us in this class have not gotten 4’s on our ELA State Test and so we can use all the practice we can get. Any more questions?”

The way I see it, they may loathe the process now, but they’ll at least know a little more about themselves and maybe if I’m lucky, they’ll thank me for it later.


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