Aug 12, 2009

Entering Art Shows


All righty then…..let’s enter an art show!

Come on have you ever wanted to just give it a try??? I bet you have if you’re an artist. Anytime you enter a show it is a wonderful means of gaining validation and recognition. It is nice that we have our family and friends behind us encouraging us but appreciation from strangers is another thing all together! Another perk to entering shows is it is a wonderful way to of building up a resume. Winning an award will further your chances, and just think of how many people will see your work increasing the opportunity of sales and getting into galleries.
When I started entering shows I started out with smaller shows in my areas and the surrounding states. I found that it was much easier to enter non juried shows first and them move onto the juried exhibits. Unfortunately one drawback to non-juried shows is that they tend to have a wider variety of entries ranging from poor to excellent, making it difficult to evaluate the quality of artwork. The non- juried show will give you an opportunity to get your feet wet, but a juried show will give you the chance to learn what the judges are looking for and to see what your completion is and it always looks better on your resume.
Now after you have spent a few years entering local shows take a leap and start entering prestigious national juried shows. I did exactly this; I took the leap and sent an entry to the largest western art auction and show in the world, the C.M. Russell show in Great Falls Montana, to my utter surprise and delight I got in! My art was accepted and it was auctioned off at an astounding price of $900.00. That was more then I ever expected!
Plus this opened so many doors for me, and my career was launched. Now you need to know that by the time I did this I had been accepted in many shows and won numerous awards so I had a very impressive resume to go along with my entry.

Entering shows on this level are extremely tough. Because I had won so many awards I had the confidence to give it a try. One thing I have to add here is that by this time I had developed what I call a “tough artist skin”. You need this to take all the rejection notices you will get, and you will get them! You’re not going to get into every show, so you need to know from the get-go that just because one show does not accept your work, doesn’t mean it is crap! I once got a rejection on a piece and turned around entered it into another show and won “Best of Show”! So just let the rejection roll off your back…remember it is just one or maybe two judges opinions and they have a hard time accepting art that they don’t like, for instance if they paint real loosely, they sometimes just walk past the photo-realistic paintings that should have won an award, they are only human!

I learned to check out the judges before entering, this way if they were artists themselves I could look up their work and if they painted very differently than I did, I would not enter because I knew they would more likely than not eliminate my work. I look for professional judges who have earned a high level of recognition in the art community and respect from other artists. It is best to avoid of judges well known and involved in local organizations. Nepotism does happen in all walks of life and the art field is not exception.
I was asked to judge a show some years ago. I saw firsthand how hard it is to get past my personal preference and be objective. So I know that it is not an easy task to be a judge.

Choose shows that you would be proud to be entered in. Be a little choosey.
Enter shows that you have a high opinion of and reflect your current level or knowledge, skill and proficiency
Some shows require very high entry fees, avoid these shows, they are usually scams to collect money.
Here are some tips that will help your chances of attracting the judge’s attention.
Your entry should have a lot of “visual impact”, which is a strong use of values, this will make your work actually stand out from the rest of the entries. A strong composition and high contrasts will always grab the judge’s attention.
Judges will be looking for strong compositions. Most jurors agree that artistic composition is the most important criteria for any entry. A mastery of drawing is the next requirement. A complete knowledge of color and technique are a must.
To have the best chance of winning an award paint “big”! A tiny work gets lost too often. Be bold, paint on a large canvas it will stand out!
You may have a great idea but if your values are bad, your composition doesn’t pull the whole painting together then you have a bad painting,every inch of your canvas needs to be painted with the same skill, don’t skip over some areas and pay more attention to other areas, keep all areas equal.


Common mistakes can actually cause you to be eliminated even before it reaches the jurors. Read over the rules of the show.
Only enter “original” artwork. Never enter a painting that looks like it has been copied from a calendar, magazine or another’s artwork
Make sure that your entries are photographed well. The images must be as clear and precise as possible. Don’t send in photos that are out of focus, and where the colors are not bright. Only focus on the art, don’t include distracting backgrounds these things can almost guarantee instant rejection of your entry.
Take extra steps to assure your work is framed well. Never use damaged or used frames, frames that are too elaborate, too big or frames with colors or patterns that distract from the artwork. The frame should compliment the artwork not detract from it!

Finally again I have to reiterate If you’re work is not accepted by a judge or jury, don’t take the rejection personally. Use it as a learning experience. This will help you next time.
Sometimes you will be lucky enough to get a comment sheet from the judge so you can see why your art was rejected. Good Luck!

Sharon Teal-Coray

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