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Sunday, May 12, 2013

On Entering Art Competitions

It's very possible that the painting you entered in that last art competition was a real dog. You know, the one that was rejected. But hey, your mom loved it.
On the other hand, you may have submitted a real masterpiece but unfortunately ran into an incompetent judge.
Either way the rejection was real and you felt the blade of the knife.
Having juried many art shows and submitted work to many more, I've experienced both sides of the coin...rejecting and being rejected.

A New Day Dawning - 12"x 16" - Salon International 2012
(Honorable Mention)

Some people look upon art competitions with distain. They wonder why anyone would allow some stranger to make judgments regarding another's personal expression. They don't like the idea of having some externally imposed standard, or another's personal bias deciding whether their work is acceptable.
Of course, each of us make judgments every day regarding the quality of all kinds of creative endeavors, from the quality of our clothes to the quality of wedding photographs. Yes, fine art should be judged, critiqued, and scrutinized on many levels...and it isn't as if we have no standards of judgment. Let's just look at the last 600 years for starters.

Left Behind - 9.75"x 15" - Outdoor Painters Society, Plein Air Southwest Salon 2013
(Best of Show, Southwest Art magazine award)

Most thinking people will agree that art should, and therefore must, submit to some kind of critical standard. Art competitions are one way artists can assess their growth and see how they stack up.

Dianne Massey Dunbar agrees: "There are two main reasons that I enter art competitions. The first one is to see how I stack up against other artists. Secondly, I enter competitions to hopefully have my work seen by other artists, collectors, galleries, and even magazines."

Marc Hanson uses competition as a yearly barometer for his progress. "Nothing like seeing your work amidst the work of your peers, year in and year out, to see how you're doing."

Winter's Dance - 30"x 40" - 2011/2012 Art Renewal Center International Salon
(3rd Place, Landscape)

A March School Day - 16"x 16" - Oil Painters of America Western Regional - 2010
(3rd Place)

Here are some good reasons to enter juried art competitions:

1.  Creates a healthy challenge.
2.  Forced to critically assess work relative to the judging criteria and to the work of others.
3.  Work is evaluated and recognized by peers.
4.  Helps in evaluating artistic growth.
5.  Chance to win money and prizes.
6.  Incentive to continue artistic growth and to take on newer and greater challenges.
7.  Creates opportunities for gallery representation, invitation to other shows, art sales, exposure to new markets and new collectors, teaching and demonstration invitations, magazine features, and commissions.
8.  Association with respected organizations and with established, recognized artists.
9.  Builds resume and adds to your reputation and credibility among those in the art community.

Cornish Promontory - 30"x 24" - 2011/2012 Art Renewal Center International Salon

Important considerations before submitting work to a juried competition:

1.  Weigh all expenses and time involved versus possible reward. Only you can decide whether reward outweighs cost.
2.  Consider reputation of the hosting organization. Choose those that have an established, well respected identity. 
3.  Is the juror qualified? What style and quality of work does the juror produce, and is he/she a recognized professional...making a living from the work they create? 
4.  Honestly assess whether your work fits the theme, character, and quality of the competition.

Cherished Memories - 12"x 24" - 2012/2013 Art Renewal Center International Salon
Kansas City Southern de Mexico - 24"x 36" - 'Artist's Magazine' 26th Annual Art Competition - 2009
(3rd Place, Landscape)

False assumptions:

1.  Being accepted into, or winning a juried competition, will open the door to greatness and unlimited opportunities.
2. The judge will only select work that is similar in style and subject to his own.
3.  The average art buyer is greatly impressed by awards and resume and will make a decision to purchase based on an impressive resume and awards won.

The Old Mill - 16"x 16" - National Oil and Acrylic Painters Society On-line Open International 2013
(Best Landscape)

Practical advice:

1.  Accurately and honestly evaluate your work. Seek critiques from professionals who will be honest with you.
2.  Do not waste time or money entering national shows that you are not ready for.
3.  Build confidence and establish a reputation for quality work among local groups before launching out regionally and nationally.
4.  Consider on-line competitions while still applying all of the previously mentioned considerations.
5.  Be selective. Only submit your best work, professionally photographed...or its equivalent.
6.  The more prestigious the hosting organization, the more meaningful the award.
7.  Evaluation of art is not a scientific process. Personal taste will always play a part in a juror's selections. Even though you've done your best...carefully evaluated and considered everything...success is not guaranteed. Keep your head up, try again.
8.  Resumes seem to be of little value outside the art community. If an art museum or prominent art collector is interested in acquiring one of your works, or if you've applied for membership in one of the important nationally recognized art organizations, they probably have value. For me, they do provide great material for those introducing me at local art club meetings.

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Blogger Gloria E. Moses said...

Truly amazing and inspiring work!! A recent reassessment has made me "go back to the basic", your blog has reminded me how far I have to go! Thank You for sharing and "Winters Dance", made my breath catch!

May 12, 2013 at 9:13 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

That's a really good article, John.

I have won a couple local art shows but they really don't mean anything. Those shows are unknown, small, and the competition isn't with those I'd really like to be compared against. It was fun winning a ribbon or two and an award at first, but they really mean nothing in the greater art world.

I think it's like anything else: You start of competing in the minor leagues, and if you're good enough, you hope and aspire to make it in the majors leagues. It's a measure of progress.

I've always wanted to compete against the best. Even when you lose, you learn more when you set your sights and competition high. It makes you stretch and reach and grow.

Great article, my friend!

Hope you are doing well and enjoying life!

May 13, 2013 at 9:00 AM  
Blogger john pototschnik said...

Pleased that you enjoyed the blog, Gloria and Robert. Competition is good because it gives us a worthy goal to strive for. Striving for excellence never ends. Making it into the national shows, even winning them, does not mean we've arrived and can now sit back and rest on our laurels. We need to continue striving to improve,or our work will soon become stale and formulamatic. Robert, the idea for starting out locally is to gain confidence and to be encouraged. You may be ready to move up to the next level. I don't believe one needs to enter national shows in order to compete with the best. We first do that in the studio, working to bring our work up to competing level. Then enter the shows. That's when you'll be competing. Entering and being rejected is not competing. Thanks for writing you guys.

May 13, 2013 at 10:21 PM  

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