Art Contests And Juried Exhibitions

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You’ve been taking classes, poring over how-to books and painting your way through seemingly endless canvases or stacks of watercolor paper.

Your work has moved from a beginner’s hesitant, washed out attempts to compositions with bold colors, plenty of contrast and strong focal points.

You feel you are ready to enter an art show.

This is the business end of the art world. There are lots of things to consider, long after the paint has dried, and entering exhibits isn’t something to be done willy-nilly. Research, planning and organization are keys to making your exhibition experience a successful one that you will be eager to repeat.

What Is Your Motivation?

As you browse the call for entry lists, there are a number of things to consider before signing your name and sending in your images and fees. First on the list is determining your motivation for entering a show. There are three basic reasons for entering an art show.

1) Resume Building

Prestigious art shows will do the most for your artist’s resume. However, these are also the most difficult to gain admittance. Consider the number of painters who have previously entered and the number who were accepted.

A watercolorist who exhibits in a national AWS show certainly has a plume to put in his cap. Using prestigious shows to prove your worth is a valid way to increase your street cred.

2) Increase Your Sales

Of course, we all would like to sell our artwork. If this is your focus, look for art shows that are heavily advertised to the public. Sometimes, shows in smaller communities are a big deal, and the residents come out in droves. Metropolitan areas have a larger population base, so there is more potential draw from the public sector.

However, if the organizers don’t promote the event through local marketing venues, the exhibit may not entice the buying public. Do thorough research to make sure exhibitions you consider are spending advertising dollars to increase your selling potential.

3) Winning Awards

One key to winning an award is creating the type of artwork the judges like. Regardless of your skill or innovation, if the jury is biased against your style, subject matter or medium, you are seriously undercutting your chances for going home with the gold.

Research the jury to find out what they do as artists, what shows they have judged and the artists and artwork to which they have awarded prizes.

Issues To Consider When Entering An Art Show

Painting pretty pictures is just the beginning when you are considering entering an art competition. There’s lots of footwork and brainstorming to do to get ready for a show. Some of the work is fun; some tasks are arduous and others are just downright dull. However, it’s important to be a stickler in all these little details. Forget to sign the forms properly, send an inadmissible size painting or neglect to send proper return shipping information can ruin the show experience for you.

Decide Where To Exhibit

There are shows of every size. Local community associations, state or regional shows, national and international shows all have different qualities to tempt the artist. An artist has a better chance of being accepted in a small show, but the prestige and selling potential in minimal. Large shows draw many applicants, so your chance of acceptance is reduced. However, the prizes are generally larger and the event will be well attended.

Fees become an important consideration if you plan to exhibit regularly. Small entry fees are normal and reasonable. However, additional fees of a promotional nature are not normal for a reputable show.

You should consider the venue and the extent of promotions. Competitions that are only promoted in the art community may lack attendance by the buying public and collectors anxious to find the next great, unknown artist.

Check up on the judges. Learn about their credentials, artistic experience as both an artist and a judge. Determine their affiliation to the competition sponsors.

Find out whether the entries are judged from the actual work or from submitted images. If you do not have professional quality images, your chances are severely reduced.

Establish how often the competition is held. In this case, less is more. An annual event will most likely have larger attendance in both exhibitors and visitors, there will be more mass media promotion and it will be a more prestigious event.

Check on prior attendance and sales from a competition. This information may have a deciding factor on your participation.

Submission Guidelines

Be absolutely certain that your work meets all the submission guidelines. Shows may have limitations or restrictions concerning the theme, medium used, weight, dimensions and the manner in which your piece is presented.

Make sure you include any additional information the organization requires. Some shows want an artist’s biography, mission statement or other artistic credentials.
Make sure you don’t miss the submission deadline.

Financial Considerations

The types and sizes of awards should all be clearly stated in the prospectus.
Check on the number of submissions that can be made and how many can be accepted, as you are paying an entry fee and shipping charge for each one.

You may have a painting that you wish to exhibit, but you do not want to sell it. The prospectus should clearly state your option of exhibiting without offering the piece for sale.

Verify the amount of commission that is taken by the organization, and price your work accordingly. In addition, find out if sales tax is collected and who is responsible for reporting taxes on artwork sold at the show.

Make sure of copyright issues before agreeing to exhibit. You may need to sign a release giving the promoter the right to use your artwork’s image in their publications.

Ascertain that the promotion company has insurance to cover your work while in their possession.


When you are entering an art show, quite a few costs go into the proposition that can really affect your bottom line. Use a spreadsheet to track your expenditures to ensure you’re not overspending on this venture.

One substantial expense is shipping. If you’re painting large canvases with heavy frames or watercolors with glass, shipping both ways can be pretty costly. Local shows are best for your gargantuan works. You’ll only incur gas costs for your local pick-up and delivery.

If it is possible, choose diminutive size paintings for exhibitions that will require shipping. Not only will you have the actual cost of the shipping, but the cost of insurance and any cost incurred to construct a box to hold your work. An important piece of art does is not necessarily large. Remember, the Mona Lisa is only 21 by 30 inches.

For any show that you will attend, make sure that you have plenty of business cards, brochures or postcards. Many sales come far after the fact, so send everyone home with something to remember you. Shows that you will not attend are iffy as far as providing promotional literature. The staff may not be willing or able to have them available for guests, so your cards and brochures may wind up in the trash. Check with the promoters before sending a stack of cards.

Entering juried exhibits can be a time consuming process. Use good business practices to make this a positive experience. There are so many resources available online, as well as in print, to direct you to the types of shows that are best suited for your skill level and medium.

Art competitions are the next step in your artistic career and can be an exciting and fun experience. Find a show and take the plunge: You may be pleasantly surprised.

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