As an emerging artist and perpetual student, I feel that we never stop learning. Regardless of how many times I take classes, workshops, and seminars with particular themes, I nearly always learn something new. It's this thirst for knowledge that prompted me to attend the recent free workshop for emerging artists at Centre A in Vancouver, led by artist Jade Yumang. The workshop focussed on building an artist's package—specifically an artist statement, proposal, and portfolio. A couple items stood out for me with each segment, and I'm happy to pass this information on to those unable to attend the event.
First off, I found Jade an incredible wealth of knowledge: he's a successful artist who has shown internationally, taken on artist residencies, and sat on panels where he has reviewed countless artist packages. Consider the below food for thought: a culmination of my notes from the workshop and pertinent information that Jade included in his slide presentation.
1) When it comes to an artist statement, talk about what you're obsessed with and how it manifests in your practice. Avoid saying that you're "interested in" something. Your work should prove what you're interested in, and the statement should accompany your work for further information. Try to establish context for your work among your influences to help you differentiate from the fifty people before and the fifty people after you who are making similar work. Avoid the use of unnecessary jargon because it rarely clarifies what your work is about. Speaking of your work, define what it is early on. Oil on canvas? Large scale installation? Hand-made bricks composed of recycled rubber and diamonds? No one wants to read an artist statement with no clue what the artist is talking about. Finally, have statements of different lengths on hand. Typical lengths that are required are 250, 300-500, and 500-800 words.
2) A proposal strictly speaks to intent: What you plan to do to a space—in what of length of time, with how much money—or how you plan to achieve your goals. Be declarative and descriptive rather than vague. Relate your proposal back to your artist statement. Similar to an artist statement, keep a variety of lengths on hand. Proposals range from 500 to 1500 words, but they've been trending on the shorter end unless the award is substantial, such as a Canada Council grant.
3) Last but certainly not least, the portfolio. Jade stresses that you should consider getting a decent DSLR camera to document your work and make sure you have images that are at least 300dpi. Never submit your work with iPhone or other mobile device photos—surprisingly, this does happen and quite frequently. The most important thing when it comes to your portfolio is to keep getting in the studio and making work. Most jurors ask for examples from the past 2-5 years and want to see how you've progressed. Avoid using the descriptor of "mixed media" and instead opt for listing all of your materials. There's a huge difference between a sculpture that looks like car tires when it says "mixed media" versus "plaster, paint, sponge, metal, and wire." Don't miss out on an opportunity to showcase your creative mind.
Jessica Molčan is an artist and writer based in Vancouver, British Columbia. She holds a Bachelor of Arts with distinction in English literature and visual art from Vancouver Island University and a Bachelor of Fine Arts with a focus in painting from Emily Carr University of Art and Design. Molčan has participated in several group shows and had her first solo show, Obscure Sorrows, at the Electric Umbrella in Nanaimo in 2012. Her written work has been published in the juried student publication WOO as well as in the Maclean’s University Insiderspecial edition of 2014. Presently, Molčan is working on projects involving androgyny, social issues, and relationships with the body through painting. www.jessicamolcan.com