Bridge the Conversation (Keith Bond)

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FineArtViews Daily Newsletter | Monday, August 29, 2011 | Issue 1014
 • Bridge the Conversation  (Keith Bond)
 • FineArtViews Interview: Kathryn Born -- Editor-in-Chief of Chicago Art Magazine (Brian Sherwin), Revisited
How Professional Artists Solve Their Website Needs
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Bridge the Conversation
by Keith Bond
Dear ,
This article is by Keith Bond, Regular contributing writer for FineArtViews.  You should submit an article and share your views as a guest author by clicking here.
There are countless opportunities when you will be asked specific questions about your art (whether by the media – including local newspapers or national magazines; curators; gallery owners; collectors; students; or Joe Neighbor).  I recently learned a few principles that I wish I had realized long ago.
Richard Valeriani once said: “The essential purpose of an interview is to present a point of view or to deliver a set of messages.  It is not merely to answer reporters’ questions.”
I think this also applies to any setting where you are responding to questions about your art.  Sometimes people don’t know what questions to ask.  Think about it for a minute.  Have you ever tried to learn something about a topic foreign to you?  I have.  I didn’t know what questions to even ask.  Many non-artists are like that.  They want to know about your art, but don’t know the right questions.  But they start somewhere and ask whatever questions come to mind.
Don’t be offended by this.  Don’t get defensive.  Don’t make them feel stupid.
Direct the conversation to share your message regardless of what they ask.  Someone once said something to the effect of: “I answer the questions they should have asked.”   Remember, you are the expert - not them. 
So how do you steer the conversation?  How do you take control of it?
Bridges are a great tool to take the conversation from their question to your message.
“…and you should know…”
“…what’s really important (or interesting) is…”
“…to put it into perspective…”
“…the underlying question is…”
“…I think what you mean by the question is…”
“I’m glad you asked, because this brings me to a point that I have wanted to share…”
Yes, I realize that these sound like a politician.  Listen to NPR for a while and you will recognize that any good interviewee (from musician to scientist to philanthropist) uses these types of bridges.  They are not necessarily always trying to avoid certain topics (though there may be times for that), but rather they are directing the conversation to what they want you to know.  Sure the wording for bridges may change to fit the vernacular of the subject.  But the purpose remains the same.  The purpose is to share your message.
Let’s look at a common question artists get:
A client asks, “How long did it take you to paint this?”
How do you respond?  Many artists assume that the client is doing the math in their head; figuring out how much you make per hour.  As a result, some artists get defensive trying to find some way to justify their prices.  But you don’t know if that is really what the client is thinking.  They might just be trying to open a dialogue about how you create your work.  Don’t make assumptions.  Rather, direct the conversation. 
How to Respond (A few ideas):
 “The simple or short answer is X number of hours.  But what you should know is that is only part of the creation process…”
“I’m glad you asked.  I was hoping to share my creative process with you…”
“Do you want the short answer or the more complete answer?”
These are just quick ideas.  Find the wording that is comfortable to you.  The key is to know what you want to say before they ask the question.  Bridge the conversation.  Redirect it to share your message.
Best Wishes,
Keith Bond
Editor's Note:

Your attitude about yourself and your art certainly comes through when conversing with people.  It is certainly important to be confident.  A good source to learn more do's and don'ts of being in the business of art is Alyson Stanfield's book, I'd Rather be in the Studio!  Click here to Learn More (affiliate link)


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FineArtViews Interview: Kathryn Born -- Editor-in-Chief of Chicago Art Magazine (Brian Sherwin), Revisited
Here are the first five comments regarding Saturday's article:
Clint Watson
"Once people start finding, buying and falling in love with art, without experts, critics and tastemakers, will we need art writing at all? Probably not. Art is thriving everywhere, but the system is slowly closing out critics and elite gallerists."
That's a great quote. I think the future is bright for those who adapt, "non-elite" gallerists, one might say. Also, art is thriving, however the amount of choice is now overwhelming - I think critics and writers can find a place in helping people to find great artists - there's always going to be room for people who help to curate - those people help increase the signal and decrease the noise.
Joyce Dade
I loved reading this interview and the comments made about art critics and new and authentic trends as they continue to emerge and "planks leaning against a wall..." Thank you for this one, Brian and thank you for your candor and intelligent, your apparent chutzpah and maverick commentary, K. Born. The "closing out of elite gallerists," sounds like an old schoolers nightmare but, a point very well made and taken to be sure. Thank you for the informed QandA! Others may be timid in making these kind of statements, I'm so glad someone has the courage of conviction, experience and audacity to make it so clear to us all.
Donald Fox
Criticism isn't only for the purpose of reviewing a show or attempting to promote a particular artist or agenda. Critics sometimes express appreciation for an artist's work by placing it within the larger context of a particular time, an entire career, or an even larger historical trend. Some of these pieces don't show up in the regular art press but in other publications like the New York Review of Books, Harper's Magazine, or collected essays. Few art critics could match the art writing of the late John Updike, for example. Criticism can also illuminate the art of a particular historical period by examining the relationships between artists, their concerns, their societies, and their influence on others.
Personally, I think people who appreciate art will continue to write about art. Whether these people will be called art critics, I can't say. My main concern is with the quality of writing. Already there has been a significant decline in literate writing, perhaps partly due to the increase in self-publication via the internet. The rush to publish does none of us any favors. I'm hoping for a pendulum swing away from quantity towards reason, literacy, and quality.
Casey Craig
"The public will want to make their own decisions and be drawn to artwork that has meaning in the work itself, and not the essay behind the desk." ~ Refreshing!!! Thanks, Brian and Kathryn.
Jo Allebach
This was a great interview. What a concept -
"they're leapfrogging high art, and going right to the stuff they intuitively like."
Read More Comments or Make Your Own Comment >>
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