Entering Art Competitions

When you are ready to enter your artwork in local art competitions, here are nine art tips that can help make this a great experience.

Art Competition Jurors

One of the favorite pastimes of entrants is trying to predict the kind of artwork a particular juror will accept, based on that juror’s painting style. Sometimes picking your entries in this way works and you get in, but I’ve also seen jurors choose an eclectic mix of styles and subjects, only some of which were like their own.

Art Tip # 1 – My advice is just enter your best work – art that shows skillful use of your painting medium, a well-designed composition and an image that shows creativity. These are three important criteria of most jurors.

When you enter your best artwork, you are showing your strengths. After that, it is up to the juror and his or her viewpoint. And you’ll just have to accept the vagaries of the judging process. As a more extreme example of what can happen, I once had the same juror for two different shows. I entered the same painting in both art competitions and the juror rejected it from the first show and gave it an award in the later one. A nationally known artist told me a similar story about a painting of his. It was rejected from one national show and won Best of Show in another. I’m pretty sure he didn’t have my juror.

Photographing Your Art

Art Tip # 2 – The second most important factor you control, after painting a great piece of art, is taking a good photograph of it. This is what the juror sees to judge your art; it needs to represent you well.

The picture should, of course, be in focus and show colors that closely match your art, so become proficient at shooting your own work or find a professional to do it.

What people who take pictures of their own art may not realize is the lighting conditions affect the color of your picture. Just like the old film cameras, shooting pictures with a digital camera using incandescent light bulbs will turn your picture more orange. Using fluorescent lights can turn the pictures greenish. Shooting outside when the sky is overcast can create a bluish tint, so look at your pictures closely before entering them.

A lot of people make the mistake of leaving their digital camera set on Automatic. To get the color in your picture to match your artwork, you need to understand how to set the White Balance. Every time you shoot under different lighting conditions you should reset the White Balance. Check your manual for how to do this on your camera.

Another award and entry killer is not submitting your entry in the required format with the required information. Always read the art contest prospectus. It’s amazing how many people don’t follow instructions, which instantly converts their entry fee into a donation.

Art Tip # 3 – Film is going away, so my advice is to become familiar with how to prepare and send digital pictures.

Art competitions that require digital entries often want your pictures to be formatted in a specific way. The prospectus will often say your entry should have a black background and be X number of pixels square. If you don’t want to buy software (like Photoshop or Photoshop Elements) that will help you do that, there are free internet sites you can also use to format your pictures.

Framing your art

Okay, you’ve been accepted into an art competition. There is another important decision to make. How well are you going to frame your work?

Art Tip # 4 – Often, the juror doesn’t pick the award-winning art until he or she can see the actual work. Your whole presentation affects that decision.

Matting and framing your art well are very important for two reasons.

Reason 1: If you have a nice piece of art surrounded by a cheap-looking frame or a frame that’s scratched or dented, you’ve just reduced the award-worthiness of your work in the eyes of the juror.

If you also have your art surrounded by gaudy or inappropriately colored mats, you’ve lowered your chances of an award even further. It’s best to be conservative. Use white or off-white mats.

Reason 2: If an art buyer likes your art and would consider purchasing it, he or she often wants to be able to take it home and immediately hang it on their wall. If she feels she needs to spend more money to re-frame your art more appropriately, she is likely to decide it isn’t worth the wait, the cost, or the hassle.

Art Tip # 5 – My advice is to frame your work as well as your budget will allow. If your work doesn’t sell, you can always reuse the frame for other art in other shows…but take into consideration Tip # 6.

Art Tip # 6 – Ask yourself: How experienced are the people hanging the show?

Let me explain. At one time I used to enter some of the smaller local art shows. The problem that changed my mind about this was I had so many frames scratched and ruined because they were badly handled. I use nice frames for my art – not the really high-end ones, but not the cheap ones either. In the smaller shows, what happened at times was the art was stored with the back of one piece of art leaning against the front of another. When that is done the screws on the back of one frame can easily scratch the frame or artwork behind it.

Small art shows and small organizations may have volunteers who have little or no experience handling art. In these small shows especially, you have to make a judgment call as to how expensively to frame your work.

I am much more trusting if the show venue is a professional gallery, since they have experience handling and hanging art.