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 or one that just had different tastes. 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.

I recently wrote a blog concerning my experiences as a member of a committee responsible for selecting paintings for the 2015 Oil Painters of America Western Regional. There was some controversy raised when I posted a link to that article on Facebook. Some felt that art competitions were a waste of money and were in some way favorable to the “hot” artists. I was also accused of being too harsh for suggesting that maybe the reason one was not juried into a show is because the work just wasn’t good enough. It is in fact a reality that, if we want to grow as artists, we must sincerely consider that possibility.

"Sorrento Harbor" - 50"x 30" - Oil  (Finalist, Art Renewal Center International Salon 2015; Best Building, PleinAir Online Salon bi-monthly competition - 2015)

“Sorrento Harbor” – 50″x 30″ – Oil   (Finalist, Art Renewal Center International Salon 2015; Best Building, PleinAir Online Salon bi-monthly competition – 2015)

 

Some people look upon art competitions with disdain. They consider them only as a means of padding the pockets of the organizers. Others 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" - 10"x 15" - Oil  (Best of Show, Southwest Magazine Award - Plein Air Southwest Salon 2013)

“Left Behind” – 10″x 15″ – Oil   (Best of Show, Southwest Magazine Award – Plein Air Southwest Salon 2013)

"The Red Gate" - 11"x 10" - Oil  (Award of Excellence - Plein Air Southwest Salon 2014)

“The Red Gate” – 11″x 10″ – Oil   (Award of Excellence – Plein Air Southwest Salon 2014)

 

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" - Oil   (3rd Place, Landscape - Art Renewal Center Salon International 2012)

“Winter’s Dance” – 30″x 40″ – Oil   (3rd Place, Landscape – Art Renewal Center Salon International 2012)

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

“A March School Day” – 16″x 16″ – Oil   (3rd Place, Oil Painters of America Western Regional – 2010)

"Brisk Evening" - 14"x 14" - Oil   (PleinAir Magazine Award, Art Renewal Center Salon International 2014)

“Brisk Evening” – 14″x 14″ – Oil   (PleinAir Magazine Award, Art Renewal Center Salon International 2014)

 

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.

"Vermont Barn" - 12"x 16" - Oil   (Finalist, Art Renewal Center Salon International 2015)

“Vermont Barn” – 12″x 16″ – Oil   (Finalist, Art Renewal Center Salon International 2015)

 

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.

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" - Oil  (Best Landscape, National Oil and Acrylic Painters Society On-line Open International 2013)

“The Old Mill” – 16″x 16″ – Oil   (Best Landscape, National Oil and Acrylic Painters Society On-line Open International 2013)

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.

John Pototschnik is an Art Renewal Center Associate Living Master
To view his art and bio, please click HERE