An art writer is always learning - writers' workshop with Louise Palfreyman writer-in-residence



This week I took part in a weekly writers' workshop at the University of Wolverhampton run by AA2A writer-in-residence, Louise Palfreyman, who is currently based there.

One of my many loves, besides making art and drinking rhubarb gin, is writing about art. So I was keen to take part in this workshop to learn something from someone with experience with creative writing and to improve my skills as a reviewer of art. I wanted to gain valuable insight into what it might be like writing for a living. I already work freelance as an editor and book publishing project manager but I’m struggling to take advantage of my love of art and passion for writing to earn any money.

For the workshop, myself and a number of other students from the fine art department at Wolverhampton, met with Louise at the Wolverhampton Museum and Art Gallery. We were tasked by Louise to spend an hour looking at anything that sparked our interest in the gallery and consider what we might write about it. We were instructed to note down observations about anything that came to mind, however significant or otherwise, that might form part of a review.

Interestingly, the other students decided to consider the Diaspora Pavilion exhibition which is currently running at the gallery. I, however, took myself off to the Clangers, Bagpuss and Co. exhibition to consider my own take on what I might see there. I had seen the Diaspora Pavilion before, and also in Venice, so I quite fancied the challenge of coming up with an interesting angle for writing a review about Zippy and George and friends instead.

After the hour at the art gallery absorbing and thinking and making notes, we gathered together in a coffee shop to discuss our ideas and responses. The fascinating aspect of this part of the workshop was the amount of new ideas that came out of the brainstorming that took place, which Louise said mirrored a magazine or newspaper editorial meeting. We were able to feed off each other's thoughts and come up with some new and interesting ideas. We voiced fresh responses to what we had seen that we might not have come about in isolation and while still in the art gallery. Louise was able to tease out of us some thought-provoking angles that could be used in a review to give it that vital edge that can capture a reader's attention.

All of us, inspiring art writers, gained valuable insight during this workshop into important considerations that need to be made when writing a review of a piece of artwork or body of art, or an exhibition. These included the following: anything goes, within reason; a negative response is just as valid as a positive response so long as it can be intelligently justified; a review can be written with a particular audience in mind; an angle is vitally important and the quirkier, possibly the better; and concision is key.

So, with all the advice from Louise in mind, the group, including me, are all going to write a review which will hopefully be published on the Arts Foundry website which is run by Louise, which is a forum for allowing local people to voice their creative expression.

The main lesson I learnt from today is that the two most important qualities of an aspiring art writer is passion for art and the words in which to express it. If you have both, you are on to a winner.



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