By the Practical Artist
Art competitions add creditability to your portfolio. Entering and being accepted shows that you are serious about your art. It has the added benefit of exposure to the art world. If you are relatively unknown as an artist, an art show is one of the easiest ways to put your work in front of the maximum amount of people in a short space of time. You should pick your competitions wisely, however. Look at the events track record regarding your target market. If you are marketing your art to the illustrative market or decorative items (cups, plates, clothing), you should be entering shows or competitions that are in that industry not fine art competitions. Typically, most art competitions produce an entry form called a Prospectus. Read it carefully to make sure that your work will meet acceptance standards as to hanging requirements and other criteria given on the prospectus. And PLEASE, make sure your frame is clean and in good repair (a dusty, dirty frame shows a lack of respect for your own work!), if your work is under glass, take the time to clean the glass before bringing it to a show! Not doing these things is the equivalent of sending your children to a fancy party in the same clothes they raked leaves in!
An artist is most likely to hear a critique of their work at a juried show. Are you and emotionally prepared to have your work criticized or perhaps not accepted? Entering a juried show means you are putting your art out there to be judged. You should always enter what you consider being your best work to date. Keep in mind though that your art may not be accepted into the show. Does this mean you are a poor artist? Or that your art is “bad”? Not necessarily. A juried art show is a subjective format and there are many reasons your art might not have been accepted. It may mean that the space to display art was limited. Perhaps the art was good, but your presentation (framing/matting) detracted from your art and the judge preferred art that was better presented. Or maybe this just wasn’t your best work. Just because a show is classed as “open” might not mean they are looking for your type of art to represent their show. If you are entering a show that caters to representational art and your art falls into another genre such as abstract or illustration, perhaps you need to look for art shows and venues that appreciate the art you create.
If your art wasn’t accepted by the judge into the show, you might have an artist whose opinion you respect critique the work for you. Informed criticism can be helpful. Please do note that I said “Informed” criticism; the person who does the critiquing should be a more experienced artist with some knowledge of technique and the principles of art. We love them, but the opinions of our friends and family who know no more than we do about art aren’t useful as critiques.
In some local shows, the judge may offer critiques as they judge, and a member of the art group putting on the show will follow the judge and write what is said. If you would like the judge to critique your work, approach the show chair as ask if this is permissible. If the judge offers a critique of your work, please pay attention. This person was highly enough thought of by your local art peers to be paid to make choices and approve or disapprove the art presented to him or her. Above all, don’t take this rejection personally. If the judge doesn’t offer critiques while they are judging, (some of them prefer to do this privately) sometimes it is permissible to privately approach the judge and politely ask them what they liked or disliked about your work. If the judge is gracious enough to do this, always thank him or her, and please, please, don’t argue with their opinion even if you don’t agree with it.
Nationally known artists get rejected from shows as well. Sometimes the judge just doesn’t like the subject or maybe he/she doesn’t care for the colors, or the shape, etc. Above all however, trust your own instincts. If you feel a piece of art is good, don’t give up on it, enter it into another show with a different judge and see if you get a different decision.