Want to get more exposure for your art? Looking to get into juried competitions or contests? These experts have tips for the best ways to do it.
How can artists increase their chances for acceptance? Jean Thompson, who will be selecting the jury for the NICHE Awards, a prestigious competition for fine craft, and jurying the student division herself, has these suggestions for applicants:
Follow the rules.
It may sound simple, but make sure you follow the rules exactly so that you aren’t disqualified, or confuse the judges. Give them what they’ve asked for. For example, if the contest asked for the dimensions of your artwork, provide them.
“Many times I’ve been in a jury room and a judge has asked me to look up the dimensions of an artwork,” Thompson says. “Why? Because a photo might not represent well the scale of a piece. I can remember looking at a photo and thinking that a particularly fantastic sculpture was tabletop size, but when we looked up the dimensions, we learned it would fit in your palm! The judges were very well versed in that craft, and they discussed the precision, skill and time involved in that particular winning creation.”
Choose your contest category very carefully.
Thompson believes that artists should go with the category which has the strongest fit for their creation. She cites an example of a choice between sculptural and functional categories. “Only you can tell the judge whether your teapot is fully functional,” she says, “The judge can’t decide by looking at a photo. So enter the right category!”
Submit the very finest photos of your work.
One of the most critical steps for artists is to obtain the most excellent photographs possible to represent their work. Thompson suggests that artists on a tight budget may consider trading services with a pro, and that students might try to find a photography student to work with. Make sure photos are well-lit, and on a plain background which shows each piece to its best advantage. She cautions, “Don’t shoot it outside unless it is garden art, and even then you want to see it in a clearing where the focus is on the art, not the background.”
To Photoshop or not?
The answer is “no,” says Thompson, who mentions that the NICHE Awards does not permit “cleaning up” images of artwork. In her experience, removing background and shadows from around an image can cause objects to appear to eerily float when they do not have natural shadows. Your eyes are trained to expect shadows, and sometimes the object will look dirty, dingy or discolored if the eye cannot discern that the dark area is simply a natural shadow. Her advice is “Just get the best shot you can with good lighting to reduce shadows as much as possible, and don’t mess with Photoshop.”
What about written materials?
We asked John R. Math, founder of Light Space Time online gallery, for some advice on written materials that artists should submit to competitions. Math juries 2D art competitions monthly, and recently published an article on “Writing an Effective Artist Biography.”
“When I judge one of our monthly art competitions, the quality of the art in relation to the theme is a foremost consideration,” he says, “But to me, prior to making a final determination, I want to know more about the artist and their art. Entries without biographies or titles I consider differently, as my immediate reaction is that the artist is being lazy or really doesn’t care about their art. As a judge, if I have a bio to follow and to review, this information may help me to understand the artist, their motivation for creating their art and I will be able to interpret that artist’s work in a more thorough fashion, rather than making a subjective judgment.”
For artists who want to get into better shows consistently and need multiple strategies for doing so, we suggest Bruce Baker’s CD “Your Slides & The Jury.” Baker goes into depth on superior images, photography layout, working with models, jury psychology, and ways to gain an advantage on being juried in. Click here to get to our CDs and books page, and scroll down to see this product and more information.
Photographs of artwork courtesy NICHE Awards.