A question I’m asked fairly regularly is this: How do I get into juried shows? This question tells me one of two things:
- This person feels ready to start submitting but isn’t sure where to start. They may also a bit apprehensive about being rejected OR
- He/she has already applied to juried shows and experienced the sharp sting of rejection, and wants some ways to avoid that experience again
My response usually revolves around a few thoughts:
- You WILL get rejected
- You need to paint LOTS to build up your skill and the thing that is YOU
- Submit your BEST work
- Don’t paint for a show, just paint
- Don’t try to figure out what a certain juror might pick – they will choose the best work
- If you’ve been rejected, look at your work and see how it could have been stronger
Because this is such a common question, I thought you’d appreciate hearing tips from the experts on how to get into juried shows. So I asked this question:
If you could suggest one thing to help improve a painter’s chance of getting into juried shows, what would it be?
And got 21 responses!
I’m sooooo excited to share their fantastic advice with you! As might be expected, many responses overlap and as we know, repetition is a good indicator of the validity and universality of ideas. So pay attention! Some answers are short, some are longer. ALL will be amazingly helpful! I thank each artist HUGELY for caring enough to share and for taking the time and effort to craft their responses to my question.
(To see more of each artist’s work, click on their name to be taken to their website. Also, if the artist has written a guest blog for HowToPastel, I’ll attach a link below their sample painting.)
And soooooo, in no particular order, a gift to you for 2021: Tips on how to get into juried shows as shared by 21 artists.
WARNING: This blog post is going to keep you busy so grab a cup of coffee or tea or make that a glass of wine, and settle in!
Aside from adhering to any specific guidelines determined by a particular show, first and foremost choose the painting your gut tells you is your very best. This may seem like an obvious piece of advice, but it can be complicated and a little stressful. Jurying is a blend of objective analysis and subjective opinion. So it’s important to put your best foot forward. If you cannot decide what your gut is telling you, here are a few suggestions to obtain additional insight outside of yourself:
1. Ask the opinion of a trusted friend or family member. Although possibly not an artistic opinion, it will be from someone who has your best interests in mind.
2. Seek the advice of a fellow artist with a critical eye.
3. Post images on social media with no prompting or agenda. Simply see what kind of feedback it provides.
These three suggestions may be helpful, but the most important key is developing your own critical eye in choosing artwork. Lastly, remember being accepted or rejected is simply one person’s opinion, the juror, or in some cases a couple of jurors. Rejection is disheartening, but the next show may be more rewarding.
You can read Desmond’s guest blog HERE.
The most important thing I look for when acting as juror for a show, is finding the soul of the artist. If the piece speaks to me through mark-making, energy, story-telling, it often gets high marks, as I feel it reveals the artist’s soul.
Many pieces reveal great skill in replicating photos in perfect detail, but I often feel they haven’t revealed the artist. If the artist works from a photo–which is fine–my suggestion is to use it as a window of interpretation rather than something that dictates direction.
Enjoy Nancie’s blog post HERE.
Zero in on one very distinct visual message about each subject you paint. There are many paintings entered into juried shows that are merely rendered copies of subject matter, and these are usually the ones weeded out, even if they’re painted skillfully and it’s an especially competitive show. It’s when an artist is able to visually communicate a very focused concept that the painting is elevated to a level that grabs the eye of a juror.
Your concept can often come from identifying what initially inspired you to select your subject. To do this, you have to look beyond the “things” you’ll render in your painting. Examples of a visual message could be a specific capture of intense light, or a depiction of great distance, or the sensation of particular tactile qualities. These are just a few general examples among an infinite number of visual possibilities for any subject. Once an artist becomes more proficient with identifying a visual message, composition skills must also become heightened in order to best showcase that concept.
To have a look at Barbara’s guest post, click HERE.
Just keep painting as often and as regularly as you can…..Keep submitting and before you know it you’ll be accepted.
Try to submit the work you feel is your best. Even if it is experimental or different for you. Don’t be as worried about getting rejected. Paintings that are closer to your heart often have a quality to them that speaks to people, including judges. If you have struggled with a painting there is a reason – maybe there is a problem with the composition, the values, or the drawing is off, or simply your heart just isn’t in it. This struggle will show up in the painting. On the other hand, it is the paintings that just seem to flow into creation that are your best – submit those.
Work on your editing skills. This is a lifelong pursuit, one that is necessary for an artist who is putting out their work in competitions. Educate yourself as to which of your paintings look best on the computer or in print. These are not always the same paintings that look best in person. Learn to step back emotionally from your work and try to see it through the lens of the judge. The most important question to ask yourself is: What makes your work stand out?
Check out Liz’s guest post HERE.
Ask for the opinion of a few of your respected accomplished artist friends. Ask what they really think of the piece in question. Have them critique the piece and take the advice like a pro. Remember that the advice and suggestions are not a critique of you but a critique of the artwork. Do not take it personally. Then offer them a chocolate as a gesture of good faith!
The common response to this is “submit your best work.” The problem is that you did that but it still wasn’t accepted. What do you do?
One thing to consider: Look at the type of show you are entering – is it a regional, provincial/state, national, or international exhibition? Being declined from an international exhibition is much different than having work not accepted in a local show. Try to honestly assess your work or ask an artist whose work you admire and respect to critique your body of work. While, in order to grow, you must continually push yourself, keep your expectations realistic. It will be easier to get your work into a small regional show than an international competition that attracts thousands of entries from around the world.
Another tip to keep in mind: What sets your work apart from other entries? As an example, if you are a landscape painter does your painting have something different or a WOW factor that will make it stand out from all the others? Keep in mind that jurors will see many paintings while jurying a show, and may only spend a few seconds on those that don’t capture their attention. Make sure your work has impact.
And lastly remember that a decline is only someone’s opinion. Or it could be that it came down to a numbers game and there just wasn’t enough space. After a decline, take a few minutes for a pity party and then get up and keep going.
Click through HERE to read Kathy’s guest post.
My advice is always to enter what you feel is your best work. That way you will have no regrets if your work is rejected. It’s impossible to read the mind of a judge. One might think if a judge’s work is very traditional or very abstract, that would guide you about what kind of work to enter. However, that reasoning is bound to fail. My experience is that most judges are open-minded and pick what they think is the best work, regardless of style.
Make sure you catch Alan’s guest blog HERE.
Don’t try to paint for the show. It will strangle your creativity and stifle your willingness to take risks. Your best painting is the painting you want to paint, not what you think will impress a juror. At most, set aside a painting that you think is strongly representative of your work and save it to submit to a show you are gunning for. That way you aren’t painting for a deadline, you’re simply saving a painting that best represents you.
Whatever happens, keep it in perspective. While acceptance is thrilling and rejection disappointing, neither defines you.
Two quick stories to illustrate the point: I once set aside a painting that I thought would not only get accepted into the show, I was certain it would be an award winner. I felt it was the best painting I’d ever done. To my astonishment, it was rejected. I was stunned and dejected. Had I overestimated the worth of the painting? I brought it to the gallery, and it sold before it ever made it to the wall, and went on to win more awards than any other painting I have done. I learned that one rejection doesn’t mean I’m a failure.
In another instance, I was invited to partake in a gallery show. This was a gallery I badly wanted to get into. My temptation was to do a river painting, one that was indicative of my work and would be sure to impress. But, I had this spare, subtle stormy painting that was really personal to me. I took the risk and sent it in. It sold, and I have been showing with that gallery for over a decade. Again, paint from the heart, and leave the rest for other people to sort out!
I think the most important thing is mastery of materials. It’s so important to have experience with pastel application and technique. Learn as much as you can and work at continually improving your skills.
The next thing I would say is have a unique perspective and strong composition. When I have judged a show I am always first attracted to a unique subject or a different “take” on a familiar subject. I like seeing a unique perspective whether it be landscape, portrait, or abstract.
So it is the combination of something unique and mastery of materials.
Have a look at Debora’s guest post HERE.
11. Alain Picard
Spend more time planning the design of your painting. Design is the single most influential factor in the success of a painting, yet it is so often overlooked. Invest more time in the design stage with thumbnail sketches at the start of the creative process to clarify your vision as you arrange value-shapes in a variety of ways, exhausting all possibilities for your composition. Consider the relationships of dark, middle, and light value shapes and design an engaging composition that will rivet the viewer’s attention on your focal point. Strong design will separate your work from the pack and gain the attention of the jurors.
12. Tony Allain
What makes a good painting? I believe that all forms of art be it music, drama, or the visual arts should have some important ingredients.
Revelation, Communication, Celebration!
I think it’s simply revealing to oneself through the act of painting and thereby revealing to others, the way you see your world.
Art should also communicate to the viewer. I guess that’s why you do it for yourself first and hope that your ideas will communicate to others.
Finally your art should celebrate your surroundings, nature, and the human form etc. You want your art to raise your spirits and invite the viewer to feel elevated.
Choose an image that offers a good composition that will communicate with your viewer. It should have good range of values. A lead-in will guide the viewer into the painting to reveal an eye-catching viewpoint that will eventually celebrate your chosen subject and medium.
Check out Tony’s guest blog HERE.
13. Corey Pitkin
Focus on composition.
The way that shows are juried has changed over the last several years. Work is hardly ever judged in-person anymore. The juror is presented with a library of images on a computer screen, all of them reduced to about 1-inch square. If your composition still has impact at this tiny scale then you have a much better chance of making it into the show. Keep in mind the 4-4-40 rule: make sure your piece looks good at 4 inches away (details), 4 feet away (rendering and drawing), and 40 feet away (composition).
So how do you improve your compositions? Increase the contrast between lights and darks. Use a limited color palette. Use lines and shapes to draw the eye to your focal point. Make sure your focal point is not equidistant from any edge of the picture plane. Mix up your textures. Render some parts tightly and others loosely. Do something that makes the juror want to see more of your image.
Click HERE to read Corey’s guest post.
14. Michele Ashby
Four years ago I applied to my first ‘Call for artists’ juried exhibition, namely the prestigious Pastel Society held at the Mall Galleries, London. At the Private View I was told by one of the esteemed jurors that ‘We liked your piece, it’s quirky.’ I took this as a compliment and that for me, the jurors are always on the look out for something that will stand out and that is a little bit different in some way.
This in part helps to answer the question set by Gail but of course it is not the whole story.
Do your homework would definitely be my main advice. There is a lot of information that can be found online regarding the accepted entries in previous years’ exhibitions. There are a lot of juried exhibitions out there, so select which ones would be right for you to go for, looking at the ratio of accepted members versus non-members if relevant.
Staying true to yourself and your particular style is something you shouldn’t lose sight of. Be passionate about your work and allow that narrative to shine. Make it the driving force behind your application.
At the end of the day beginner’s luck, chance, fate, whatever you want to call it may also play a part in the final decision. Good luck for 2021!
Check out Michele’s guest post HERE.
15. Lyn Asselta
Be original. In a world full of marsh paintings or sky paintings or horse paintings or portraits, what makes yours stand out?
Don’t try to paint like someone else, don’t use a “gimmick,” but genuinely try to approach your subject matter in a unique way. Perhaps it’s in the composition, or the color palette, or the subject matter itself, but your own personal vision matters.
If I’m on a jury panel, I am always excited to see the paintings that make me look with new eyes at a familiar subject.
Click HERE to read Lyn’s guest blog post.
16. Carol Peebles
I’m honored Gail Sibley has asked me to discuss getting into art exhibitions. Having applied to various exhibitions for years, I certainly have many thoughts on the subject. If you have been rejected from exhibitions, don’t be disheartened! Please consider these ideas.
1. Know the society or organization you are applying to enter. Do not make the mistake of thinking it is an ‘art contest’ and they just pick the ‘best art.’ Some organizations are more traditional, some more modern. Research their past exhibitions and judges. Do they seem to be more or less in alignment with your aesthetic? Even if the exhibition is billed as ‘open to all artists’ it does not necessarily mean it is for every artist. So, you will have to know your work: How does it come across to the viewer? What genre of artwork is it?
2. Never create work IN ORDER to get into a show. Once you have studied different organizations, sometimes artists will try to do what is “accepted” or what has won awards in the past. This is the worst thing you can do as an artist. Instead, simply create your own work then when it is complete, you can see if you want to enter it into a show based on its own authenticity.
3. A general understanding of Fine Art can improve any artwork. A variety in line quality, variety in edges, draughtsmanship, a control of value ranges, a dynamic composition. What are the exit points in the piece? Do they create a variety of negative shapes? What is the gesture of the whole piece, not just the gesture of subject? A strong foundation in classical traditional art can help with this, even if your work is abstract. The subject matter is almost unimportant compared to how the medium and composition are handled.
4. Be true to your authentic self. A beautiful subject does not necessarily make a beautiful painting. My favorite example of this is that scene in the movie “American Beauty” where a character videoed a trash bag blowing in the wind. He videoed it without caring who might like it or what show it would get in. He just stayed true to his authentic self, did what was interesting to him, and wound up creating something beautiful which reflected how he was feeling. Another example is Andrew Wyeth. He painted rusted buckets in his barn. He wasn’t trying to impress.
5. I tried to enter shows for years before I was accepted. You could wallpaper the Superdome with my rejection notices. Who cares? When that happens, don’t take it personally, and just be happy that your submission fee goes to an organization that supports art. How great is that?! If you can’t be in the show, you at least have the power to support other artists in their endeavor. Study the pieces that got in. Do you even like them? If you don’t, be clear on why. Study lots of art, develop a very discerning taste, and respect it. When you know why you like or don’t like other’s work, it can clear your focus on your own work and help you progress. Mind you, I was not so cavalier in the beginning and cried in my soup with every rejection. But it gets better in time.
The great contemporary artist Lorenzo Chavez once said that applying to a show or getting an award is like fly fishing. Many pieces are swimming around and just a few get picked. That does not mean there were not other great fish! The jurors/judges will usually have their own unique curatorial vision no matter how diplomatic they are trying to be. So be it.
The process of creating your work is the greatest reward. Happy Drawing!
Enjoy Carol’s guest post HERE.
17. Lana Ballot
Don’t paint for a competition! Instead, submit your best work done without any pressure to be perfect.
While it might seem like a good idea to paint something for a specific competition, the experience is quite stressful and usually does not inspire creativity, taking risks with color, composition, etc.
At the same time, it might be that those bold decisions are exactly what would make your work more interesting, make it stand out. The same goes for the way you make your marks – a certain freedom and energy might be lost if you try to play it safe.
Have a look at Lana’s guest blog HERE.
18. Michele Mozzone
Getting your work into a juried show is highly subjective. It depends on the taste and mood of the judge(s) on that particular day to a large extent. A rejection is a difficult pill to swallow but try not to take it to heart. Instead, if this has happened repeatedly, I would suggest considering the following:
* Ask a respected instructor/artist to give you an honest critique of your work and be open to helpful criticism.
* Bring something different to the table. If you are a landscape artist, for example, you have a lot of competition and will need to offer a unique voice in your work to distinguish yourself from the pack. It is an advantage to be in the minority as far as style and/or subject matter.
* Always submit your very best work with an excellent photo that represents the painting well.
* A painting with a message will often stand a good chance of getting into a juried exhibit.
* Paint with confidence and it will be noticed. If your style is gestural, for example, proudly leave your expressive marks. As novices, we tend to overwork and “safely” paint everything we see. Experience builds confident, mature handling of the medium – knowing what to focus on and what to leave unsaid in a painting shows a level of skill that will result in acceptances into those juried shows!
Check out Michele’s guest post HERE.
19. Nancy Nowak
Have an intention and paint that one story. By narrowing it down to one idea, you end up simplifying and editing out what is not pertinent. This makes a stronger visual impact.
Make use of everything you have in your artistic ” toolbox,” be it color, lost and found edges, shapes, mark-making, composition, etc. to emphasize that one intention.
Go HERE to read Nancy’s guest post.
20. Clarence Porter
I was honoured to be given the opportunity to be the juror for the Pastel Artist Canada’s 7th Annual Online Exhibition. I quickly came to understand how hard it was to keep my bias out of the process and in understanding that, I realized how hard it must have been for jurors in shows I had entered.
My approach was to I set up an objective criteria check-list. These included the technical qualities I looked for: proportions, values, and composition. There were plenty of technically well executed paintings but for me, there had to be something that told me that the artist felt strongly about the subject matter they were painting and that they were able to convey that feeling to me. In evaluating the paintings, I could not avoid that one subjective criteria – did the painting “feel” complete: Were all of the elements finished in structure and rendering (the technical) and most importantly, did the painting make me stop and pause (the feeling).
If I could make one suggestion to help improve an artist’s chances for getting into a juried show, it would be to make sure that you feel strongly about your subject matter. If you are not moved by the subject matter you’ve painted then neither will the viewer or in this case, neither will the juror.
Clarence was a recent guest. Read his post HERE.
21. Christine Swann
The best way to get into a coveted show? Have something to say.
For me, exhibitions are for one thing: hearing the voices of artists. It is a gathering of stories. A visual array of what drives an artist to paint in the first place.
However, artists can get caught up in the misnomer that if they render an object technically perfect, or slave over copying a photo, that they will be accepted into the show of their choice. This is a misguided ambition. Good art has something to say. The beauty is that we can say anything.
Having judged many national shows, I can tell you that it is nearly impossible to pick out paintings among thousands that don’t jump up catch your attention first. To be noticed in a show, I believe it comes down to what I call the “slap and whisper.”
An artist that aspires to get into a certain show must first “slap” the jurors. Only then can they “whisper” to them. A work has to be able to make them stop and look first. Only after that can a work then slowly dazzle with subtleness or control or, most importantly, the message. Because I have tough news for you: there are thousands of good paintings out there and, until a work has something to say, it runs the risk of becoming pretty wallpaper in a frame. Big shows are looking for storytellers. They do not need wallpaper.
Even if the viewer doesn’t catch on right away to a specific story there will still be an unconscious link to the viewer because the image will have a purpose. It is like hearing music in another language. I can still feel the meaning and intent of a song without knowing the words. A song can move me because it is a creation and story of another soul. And a painting with a purpose may have a shot – a little one – of being gathered up and shown along with other stories from other storytellers.
In the end, I guess my advice is this…. Don’t worry about what will get you into a show. Go inward and find your story. Then find a way to tell it. Make it loud enough to be heard and hopefully, it will be seen.
Have a read of Christine’s guest post HERE.
Soooo, did that get you revved up? Are your ready to enter some shows??
Please let us know what, if any, advice really struck home with you by leaving a comment. Have questions? Be sure to leave those too.
The arrival and settling in of the COVID-19 pandemic certainly changed our world in 2020. One of the things affected were in-person exhibitions – they were no longer permissible. Happily, many of these exhibitions went online and now there’s more opportunity than ever before for you to enter and get into juried shows. You now have a load of tips on how to get into juried shows So let’s doooooo it!!!
Wishing you good fortune!
Until next time,