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How do I know if I should enter art shows/ competitions and what if I don't get in?

Art Blog painting advice personal art journey

How do I know if I should enter art shows/competitions, am I actually ready? Is my art good enough to enter?  If I don't get into that art show, does that mean my art is no good and I shouldn't bother anymore?

Sold at last art show: Urban Autumn Red Blaze

So short answer is yes you should enter art shows, But only if you feel you can handle some rejection because this comes Hand in hand with entering art shows. There is always the possibility you wont get in. It's a world filled with highs and lows and very dependent on what the judges are looking for. 

For example last year one show I applied for wasn't at all interested in any of my work that I submitted.  That same day I a got a phone call from another show saying they were fill but they liked my work so much that they would make room for it. Definitely highs and lows that day.

Sold at the show they made room for me at: The Mystery of Water 

I would advise starting small. Look into your local community art gallery and see what they have going on you can enter. Join an art group, they often do shows that you can only enter if you are part of a group. This way you can get a taster of what it's all about before going further afield. Why would you want to enter art shows anyway? Well if you are a hobby painter and just do it for fun you might not. But if like me you are hoping to sell some work (even if it's just to pay for your materials) and you want to keep improving your art skills, art shows will definitely help you here. They will help you improve because you will be pushing yourself to do your very best work as someone else will be judging it. As for selling, to date I make most of my sales through art shows. (Still working on building my online presence to make sales.) 

When you are figuring out what art shows to enter do some research. Look up what kind of art has been shown in the past. Does yours fit in with the type of show this is. It's no good trying to put your traditional landscapes in an abstract art show for instance. Kind of an extreme example but you get the idea.  Also if possible do a bit of research on the judge or judges if you know who they are as it can give you some insight as to what type of art they may prefer.

 All this just helps to increase your chances of getting into the show. It's no guarantee of cause but doesn't hurt.

Just because you didn't get in doesn't mean your work is no good!

Rejected for a show but sold it later anyway

For instance the last show I entered was a show for all the local art club groups to show their work. They had a theme of Simply Hawkes Bay and all pictures had to be Hawkes Bay related. They also had different categories. eg. about town, landscape, water, animals and an open category. So when picking paintings for this show I chose carefully thinking of what paintings said Hawkes Bay to me. This show has a different guest judge every year.  This year the judges own work was very stylised with lots of bright colour and black out lines. Also had a quirky sense of humour to it. So when choosing paintings for this I went with some of my more colourful pieces. I don't do black outlines so that wasn't on the cards. Interesting to me that the only other paintings there that had black outlines was a category winner. Was good work but just saying I can see why it appealed to that judge. 

Now with saying all that I am now getting to the part about what to do If you Don't get into a show.  When choosing paintings for this show I had no trouble with my first two choices but I was dithering around about what to put in as my third. We live on an estate that used to be an old hospital and a lot of people know it, used to work here or visited here in the past. So I wanted to include one of my Pukeora Shed paintings. I felt people would be able to relate to these. The painting I chose has a very distinctive shed for this area but was in no way full of colour, it had a more natural colour scheme. At the time of painting it I thought I had done a pretty good job on it.

Not shown: The Not So Lonely Shed


Well this one didn't get in and to add insult to injury I was the only one from our art group that didn't get displayed out of the 16 paintings submitted from our particular group.  Now very often when you don't get in a show you will never have any idea why and no discussion on the judges decision is aloud. So there is nothing you can do about this and just move on.

This time I was fortunate enough to receive a written note with the returned painting of why the judge felt they couldn't show it. Now after reading the note my first reactions was " Didn't know there was so much wrong with it" After I stopped feeling sorry for myself, picked myself up and took a good look at my painting and the judges notes. I decided to use this as a learning experience to improve my painting skills.

The Critique was, Lacking tonal variation, muddy colour, unresolved needs a bit more work and final note. Nearly there but not quite for me. Just lacking some finish. 

So did I agree with any of this. Well yes I could see it could do with some more tonal contrast. Not sure about the muddy colours as I felt this would be resolved itself if I upped the contrast anyway. So some repainting to do. Now on a side note; I could only do this painting on top of this art work as I used a vanish that I could paint over. This is exactly why I do as I like to keep my options open about adding something to a painting even after I think it is all done.

 So I worked on this paintings upping the contrast and being careful with my mixes so I wasn't getting to much grey in my colours while still trying to keep that fairly natural look. When I felt I was done I posted it to my Facebook groups with a before and after and asked for any additional advice.

Word of warning here. If you ask for advice on social media about a painting  it can be a case of "be careful what you wish for." You are likely to get all sorts of advice and you will need to sort through and just take that which is relevant to what you are trying to achieve with your painting. I got a couple of other minor but good suggestions out of this and tweaked it a little more. Now I am done, I think. I do like the results. Feel it definitely has more impact and I think I have learnt something about taking on criticism with grace and being more brave with my tones.

 The Not So Lonely Shed : finished work!

So my point being if you are lucky enough to get some feed back try to take it as something to learn from and not take it personally.

Some shows will ask for examples of your work online before sending the paintings and the selection process starts there and others you send your paintings with no idea if they will hang them or not. The shows that don't accept any of your work from online pictures doesn't mean all your work is no good. Just try other shows and come back and try next year as you will be improving all the time and the judges for that show might change of course. For one particular show next year I will be on my third year of trying. It's not putting me off as I am getting into other shows, I just haven't found the right formula for this show yet, and just think how I will feel when I finally do get in. If a show has no theme or categories and you do a variety of work it is very tempting to show bit of everything you do. In my experience so far I don't  recommend this approach. I would pick a body of work or pictures that have some sort of common theme or style that look like they all go together.  Often judges like to see there is consistency in your work and want to see your unique style.  

Some of the entries for a coming show that I have already been accepted for. Went for a flower theme to keep a consistent body of work.

So should you enter art shows? If you want to get known, improve your work and sell some paintings. Yes I think you should. You wont know if your good enough till you try and try more than once and more than one art show.

What to do if you don't get in. Just pick yourself up and try to see it as a learning experience. What can you improve for next time? Do you need to show more consistency in your entries? Are you showing your unique point of view? Are you finding out enough information about what they are looking for in that show? 

Let me know your thoughts and if you found this article helpful, comment below in the "start a discussion" box. Would love to hear from you.

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