ArtId Art Blog
!IMAGE138!Decisions made by art competition judges are circumstantial, subjective, and completely different that those made by gallery owners or their clients. They depend on the circumstances of the particular judging process __" who is invited to serve on the jury of acceptance and/or awards, how the judges are asked to make their selections, whether there is a theme or objective established by the organizers, and how the prizes are structured. For example, I have served on juries with people who paid more attention to signatures than paintings because they wanted to reward friends, students, and artists who might someday judge their artwork; I have worked with judges with strong personalities who dominated the decision-making process; and I have been forced to make choices based on the narrow definitions of what can win the award for the ___best realistic still life,___ ___best local landscape,___ or ___best picture of a sporting dog.___ In those situations, the aesthetic qualities of the work being considered had little impact on the pictures selected for the exhibition or for awards.
People who are asked to be art competition judges are usually people who look at artwork all day long as part of their job. They are art magazine editors, art historians, critics, or nationally known artists. They are likely to respond positively to artwork that is unusual or exceptional, not expected or popular. The artwork they select for an exhibition or a prize is probably one that is not very saleable. Collectors tend to buy what is safe, typical, pretty, and comfortable, whereas judges who are rushing through hundreds of slides or digital images will stop to examine pictures that are different and unexpected. Furthermore, subtle and intriguing images are best appreciated when viewers have time to look at them " something that is not likely to happen when a judge can only look at a projected image for 20 seconds. That™s why judges who rush through 1,000+ entries seldom have time to appreciate drawings, soft paintings, and complicated pieces of sculpture.
!IMAGE139!Judges are usually most critical of the artwork that is similar to what they sell in their galleries, write about for publications, or create in their own studios. For example, those who paint oil landscape will apply higher standards when they judge oil landscape than when they evaluate jewelry or photographs; and a dealer who sells contemporary artwork will be more critical of the abstract paintings submitted in a competition than they will be of representational images. Their opinions are more clearly defined, and they worry about endorsing pictures that don__™t meet their high standards.Knowing all this, how can an artist decide which shows to enter and which pictures to submit to the competition? Let me offer a few words of advice:
1. Read the prospectus carefully to make sure you understand what the competition organizers are looking for and how they want entries to be submitted.
2. Review the slides or digital photographs of your artwork as quickly as the judges will see them. Find out how accurate your photographs are, and how quickly someone else can understand and appreciate your work.
3. Ask for the opinion of other artists, a dealer, or a teacher who can be objective in evaluating your work. You may be too close to your own work to select the best pieces to enter in a competition.
4. Don__™t assume that judges will respond more favorably to artwork they collect or create. You may have a better chance of getting into the show if the judge__™s work is completely different from your own.
5. Submit work that is consistent in terms of subject and style. Don__™t make the mistake of submitting ___something for everyone___ because judges will be confused or will think you don__™t have a focus.
6. Enter as many images as you can so the judges have a chance to see that you are consistently good at what you do.
7. Remember that judging art is a completely subjective process and what one judge loves, another may hate.
8. Get the catalog for the exhibition you entered, or visit the website where the selected images are posted. You may get a better understanding of why your work was accepted or rejected when you see all the work that was chosen. That information may be helpful the next time you consider entering an art competition.
More and more art competitions are being judged from digital photographs rather than slides because film and processing services are becoming hard to find. Many competition are also making it possible for artists to upload their images to a website and pay the entry fees online. If you don__™t have a good digital camera, it__™s probably time you bought one or found a friend who can help photograph your artwork and show you how to send the digital files through a computer.
Art competitions can offer a wonderful opportunity for exposure, prize money, and validation. Most art dealers will say one of their challenges in confirming a collector's positive response to a work of art is convincing them that (1) someone in authority believes the artist's work is good, and (2) that the price tag represents a fair and justifiable price. Awards, articles, books, and testimonials all help in meeting that challenge.
American Artist Magazine has profiled a number of artists who said winning an important contest was a big boost to their art careers. For example, Dean Mitchell (from Kansas) said that winning the Arts for the Parks competition brought his work to the attention of collectors who probably wouldn't have otherwise known about his pictures. Other artists have indicated that their dealers were able to use the news about winning an art competition to help sell artwork to collectors. The judgment of experts helps confirm that the artist's pictures have merit and are worth the prices being charged by the gallery. I have commissioned a number of articles on artists I learned about through competitions -- either the ones I judged, or those judged by others that were documented in a catalog or on a website. The published articles became useful promotional tools for the artists and were distributed to prospective collectors as reprints or were posted in their entirety on the artist's website.
Though the results of art contests are hard to predict, don__™t give up just because your favorite painting was rejected. It may win the ___Best of Show___ prize in the next competition you enter.
To enter American Artist magazine__™s 70th anniversary competition, visit the competition page of our website.
M. Stephen Doherty is the editor-in-chief of American Artist, Watercolor, Drawing, and Workshop magazines. Write to him at firstname.lastname@example.org.
The artwork featured in this article is that of Minds Island member Giuseppi Mariotti.