About once every month or two I'm presented with a passel of posts pointing out the publishing potential of my periodic penchant for pompously proud, perhaps petulant, and possibly pithy prose. It's always nice to be appreciated. Some have even suggested these tidy little testimonials might have some loftier educational calling within the hallowed walls of an institution of higher learning. I'm flattered of course, but also realistic. I've attended, and more importantly TAUGHT at some of these bastions of higher education, and let me tell ya, it ain't a gonna happen.
One of the problems with using something like the Arty-facts in an academic setting is that they are not written on a scholarly level. They are written for popular consumption. They are not textbooks which must be approved by an academic committee and they lack the resource references, not to mention photos, and high academic standards so necessary for such learning materials. Not to be overly modest, but in short, they are candy-coated tidbits rather than serious "meat and potatoes" study material. Not to put down my readers, but the Arty-facts are written for an audience that, while knowledgeable to varying degrees about art, legitimately haven't the time nor, for the most part, the tendency for art history in any larger doses or on a more serious level.
Serious, academic art history is full of facts, figures, names, dates, and places that, taken as a whole, are both boring and overwhelming in their minutia. I try to cut through all that. In choosing a subject I first try and learn all that boring stuff myself. Then I ask myself, what can I say to convince the readers in the first line or two that this subject might be important to them? Often that takes most of the first paragraph and most of a half-hour, especially if I find it advisable to PREPARE the reader for what I have to say. Then as I move into the second paragraph, I hit on what I think is the most universally interesting thing about that subject. Sometimes that means the artist's bio. At other times, it's some aspect of his or her work, or a particular work of art. Sometimes, it's pure trivia. Always I try and concentrate FIRST on the artists, and THEN on the work. Moving on, by the third paragraph, if there's nothing more exciting to impart, I wade into the hard stuff, the serious details of the artist's work in general or a particular work, hopefully bolstering whatever initial point I'm trying to make. And finally, comes the last line or two, the icing on the cake, the dessert after a sometimes rather heavy, three-paragraph gabfest, which hopefully ties it all up and decorates it with some kind of profound truth, ironic twist, or perhaps humorous bow. That's the secret formula. Now I guess pretty much ANYONE can write an Arty-fact.