The Arts Profile: More Than a Puff Piece

Saturday, June 26, 2010
In the upcoming weeks, I am lucky to be able to interview both an area sculptor and a Christian rock band that's on a nationwide tour raising funds for Haiti earthquake victims. Both artists expressed thanks for giving them the opportunity to promote their work.

When reading art profiles, I often finish with an empty feeling, like the writer barely skimmed the surface and wrote a bare-bones article that doesn't make me want to learn more about the artist or his/her/their work.

I refuse to write fluff.

I want to produce more than a puff piece that barely skims the surface. I want to write an in-depth profile of this artist and group of musicians and showcase both the work ethic and product, as well as the human interest side of the story.

Since I write regularly for a regional publications, I've had the opportunity to interview many artists. During these interviews, I've sharpened my approach to writing the artist profile. Here are my tips for finding the real story, instead of producing a bunch of fluff:

  • Research, research, research. Accuracy should be a top priority for the arts profile writer. Dig into the artist's background, look at previous projects, and familiarize yourself with upcoming launches. Don't simply check out the artist's personal website. Go beyond! Check out databases that cater to a particular art genre, a publisher's website or artistic organizations. Read older articles about the artist you're profiling. You'll be amazed at the new questions you come up with!
  • Make your list, check it twice. Then, interview. I like to come up with a list of simple questions based on background. These basic facts are the first points I go over during the interview. Then, I have a list of 15 to 20 questions that focus on the current project and past work. Look for a pattern and you'll usually find a common thread that runs through their work. Still, some questions may require deep thought. Sometimes, a basic question draws the best responses simply because the answer seems so obvious, but after consideration, the artist digs to find the answer. I once interviewed an author who, at 60-something, hadn't thought about why her main characters aged along with the author. "Write what you know," summarized her response.
  • Search for secondary sources. After interviewing the artist, I like to talk to others involved in the new project. This tactic gives me a new, fresh perspective, and usually, it covers new material not covered in the interview. Plus, I often get fantastic sidebar material.

Remember, the artist profile doesn't have to amount to fluff. Rather, it should engage readers and give them an up close and personal view of what motivates the artist while motivating the reader to discover more about the subject.

What artists profiles have you read that stand out in your mind? What made them unique?

by LuAnn Schindler. Follow LuAnn on Twitter @luannschindler or visit her website to read more of her work .


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