Posted by admin on June 29th, 2011

Silicon Valley’s online visual arts journal,


is a great place to begin a dialogue with the community through your observations and writings on contemporary art.


Hello Writers,


If you question your writing skills perhaps a few writing guidelines will help.  Here are some suggestions for writing to critique a local exhibition, profile a local artist or offer an opinion piece on issues in the arts, and ultimately turn it into a published article on ARTSHIFT:



•  Dare to take on a subject/exhibition/artist that is challenging and provocative to you.  Look for places in the viewing experience where your prior assumptions may be overturned, or where you are truly surprised/pleased/confounded/elevated by what you see.  Give yourself permission to learn something through this viewing and writing experience, and share that with your readers.


•  Visit your artist or exhibition prepared to take thorough notes and take pictures, if the gallery allows it.  Having pictures on your computer will be valuable when you return to specific works you wish to discuss.


•  Expand your research by interviewing the artist(s) and people in the gallery or context of the discussion you explore.  Take away any handouts provided.  Familiarize yourself with the artist’s media. Visit the library or go online for more history and information on the artist’s work or general subject area.


•  Investigate the relationship of your issue, artist or artists’ work to art historical movements and/or contemporary political, social or philosophical issues or in similar media.



•  Describe the exhibition/issue in a general way:  the site, the title of the show, the artist(s) involved, the theme(s), the media, the general impression made by the installation, work, controversy.  Some background on the artist(s)/architects/other may be introduced at the beginning, as well.


•  Describe individual works and why they get your attention.


•  Throughout the paper, you may wish to compare/contrast the formal properties of individual works of art by this artist to other artists’ work in the show or in history.  You may wish to compare /contrast the meaning and success of one work to another in the exhibition, or to other work by other artists in this contemporary genre.  The artist’s own criteria and/or yours should be explained.


•  Tell us why you think this show/issue/artist is worth talking about.  Is it groundbreaking?  Is it the best work done by a particular artist to date?  Is it a scandal? Is it a great discovery in an unlikely context?  Is it a big disappointment?  Does it reveal an as-yet unheralded genius?  Is it the latest thing, a cliché, technically amazing, profound and moving, boring, or shocking?  Any of these conclusions may be simply your opinion, or they may reflect a consensus of viewers — Have you supported your opinion or shown that public reaction goes a certain way?




•  At this point, you should have two or three pages of single spaced writing, at the least. Reread your material looking for typos and anything indicated as spelling or grammatical errors in Word.


•  Look for redundancy.  Repetition of the words work, piece, artwork, show, exhibition, sculpture, and painting are common examples of words that could benefit from rotation or a search through the Word Thesaurus. The Thesaurus is a great way to expand your writing vocabulary.  Sentences can be redundant as well.  Make sure you are not just repeating what you have already said with new words.  Each sentence needs to make a new point.

•  Look at the order of paragraphs in your paper.  Does one idea flow logically into the next?


•  Check each paragraph for its unity/consistency in addressing a single point or series of related points.  Review those very long paragraphs with suspicion.


•  Check the spelling of names and titles.


•  Reread your writing to see what tone it takes.  Does the material you present sound basically factual and relevant to the opinions you offer?  Do you need to make it more interesting or less bombastic?


•  Do you make us want to see the exhibition or get involved in art politics?  Is it great enough work or controversial enough art to compel us to investigate for ourselves?  Or, if the opportunity is gone, have you given us enough valuable information about this lesson/show that we will remember it even though we did not see it in person?


To publish your article in ARTSHIFT, we need to receive it as a Word document, accompanied by at least three jpegs.

Send your articles to

Help build community in the Silicon Valley art community and open channels of communication between you and other artists and exhibition spaces.  Our area is full of wonderful exhibitions and accomplished artists.  I have learned much and felt very rewarded from my own investment of time in writing for ARTSHIFT.  You will be surprised at how rewarding this involvement can be.  To the artists and galleries, a written commentary on their exhibitions is professionally very important.  For documentation of the visual arts history of Silicon Valley, ARTSHIFT is the vehicle for a chronicle and archive of information.


Erin Goodwin-Guerrero, Editor, 2007-2010