In last week’s blog, I announced the submission deadlines (August 25th) for our annual juried competition Art Comes Alive which will be held on October 14, 2017. Every year we receive hundreds of submissions from talented artists hailing from all parts of North America. Not only do we have Jurors from across the country viewing and ranking the entries, but they are also looking for new artists for their galleries and publications. This is a great opportunity to gain exposure and get into new art markets.
There’s so much I want artists to know about how to select and submit the perfect pieces so they can find success through juried competitions, but I whittled it down to these 5 Guaranteed Tips that Will Get Your Work Selected for Juried Art Competitions:
1. Research Art Contests
If I’ve said it once I’ve said it a thousand times before: you need to do your homework. Google is your friend. One of the first things you need to consider and ask yourself before submitting work to a juried art contest is this: Is this even the right show for my work? Use the web to research the show that you’re interested in. What do past winner’s work look like? Who are the jurors? If a gallery is hosting the competition, look at their website, what kinds of work do they represent? If you’re a conceptual artist, you may not want to submit work to a competition with jurors who represent corporate artwork. Always, always consider your audience.
2. Pick Not Only Your BEST Artworks but the RIGHT Artworks
ACA allows for up to 4 submissions (see our guidelines here), but other competitions may only allow one or two pieces. If you’re selecting just one piece, makes sure it is your strongest piece—and by that I mean it exemplifies your signature style, it shows how you’ve mastered your technique, and it is a piece you feel passionately about. (Little insider tip: If you LOVE something, chances are someone else out there will love it too.) If you’re submitting two or more pieces, makes sure the work is somewhat cohesive. While it’s okay to work in different media and experiment with different styles, you want to show a jury that you are capable of mastering a particular style and technique. Each piece you submit should, in fact, relate stylistically to the others. You’ll make a stronger impact and be much more recognizable if you do this. When jurors are looking at hundreds of pieces you want to be recognized for something—whether it technique, color, subject, style, or media. If three or four of your works repeat some element of style, you’re sure to stand out from the crowd.
Wrong: Including multiple mediums in your entry. If you are a multi-talented artist, create two separate entries so judges can appropriately rank your entry.
Right: Submit a cohesive body of work, so judges can see your strengths as an artist.
3. Follow Entry Directions
While this seems to be obvious, I can’t tell you how often artists refuse to do so. (Ah, Creatives!) Every show has requirements, submission guidelines, and recommendations for submission. Read them! Remember to read the fine print—will you be responsible for shipping (most likely), pick-up and drop-off (again, most likely), and how much are submission fees are per entry. Plan accordingly. This should not be a newsflash: Juried competitions cost money. Expect this as a rule, not the exception. You want to be sure to budget this into your annual business plan as an artist, and set aside money so that you can enter as many competitions as you can while you’re trying to get noticed as an artist. Consider it part of your marketing budget or continued learning budget. (In my book Secrets of the Art World, I go in more depth about allocating dollars spent toward your art business and being sure to record money spent for year-end tax purposes. Remember: every dollar you spend on your art business is tax deductible). You’ll also want to notice size limitations, or a specific way that work should be labeled. Finally, don’t wait until the last minute to submit your work. Plan ahead and be sure to give yourself time to carefully fill out the application.
4. Prepare and Review Your Submission Carefully
Like it is for everyone else when you are an artist/entrepreneur image is everything. You absolutely need to have excellent images. This should be one of your most important expenses as an artist. Do not go cheap when it comes to photography. Your work needs to be photographed beautifully and professionally, not just for juries, but for your website as well. Make sure every piece looks its absolute best. Additionally, make sure there are no glaring spelling errors or mistakes in your artist statements, bios, or other submission materials. Details. Details. Details. Have a friend or colleague review too, just to be absolutely sure. You only have one shot at a first impression. Make it an amazing one!
5. Be Patient, but Persistent
Let me tell you, I know what it is like to put all your work out there and hear nothing but crickets. The good thing about juried competitions is that usually there are posted dates in which selected artists will be notified. If you submitted early, but haven’t heard back, don’t start calling the gallery contact or competition organizer and pestering them about their decision. You will find out when everyone else does. This is painful, I know. Waiting is hard, but you will be notified by the date specified. If you are indeed selected, congratulations! You’ve done something incredible, and can now add this credit to your resume! As with the submission guidelines, be sure to follow all the art competition guidelines to the letter. If by chance, you weren’t selected, don’t lose heart. Remember hundreds of other artists are submitting work as well. If it was easy, it wouldn’t be such an honor to be selected. Just know that art is a subjective field, and what blows one juror away may not work for another. Be patient. Be persistent. Keep working and keep trying. I know many successful artists today who once struggled for years to get into competitions.
Remember: Everyone starts somewhere. Just keep at it. I know you can do it!