Artists: How to Apply and
Get Accepted Into Juried
Art Shows and Competitions
Do you ever wonder how jurors decide whether to accept or reject specific works of art for exhibitions, competitions or themed group shows? Based on my experience as a juror, as well as on conversations with other art show jurors over the years, below are some helpful tips, facts, and pointers about how jurors approach, and decide who gets in and who doesn't.
First off, understand that jurying an art show can be a monumental and time-consuming task. Depending on the scope of a call for artists, shows regularly receive anywhere from several hundred to well over 1000 works of art submitted by anywhere from dozens to hundreds of artists. So let's do some math. Suppose 300 artists submit 1200 works of art to a show and the juror spends one minute looking at each piece. That comes out to a total of 20 hours. If they spend one minute looking at each entrant's art, that comes out to 5 hours.
That's an awful lot of time no matter how you look at it, not to mention the repeated viewings involved in progressively narrowing hundreds or more entries down to a final selection of say 50 to 100 or so. Jurors faced with these kinds of tasks typically do whatever they can to narrow the field in as reasonable amount of time as possible. This means that entries can get eliminated based on technicalities as minor as poor quality images, misspellings, not enough information, inaccurate information, exceeding word count, and so on.
These are among the many challenges you face as an entrant. With all this in mind, your job is to slow jurors down and make them spend more time than less looking at your art. Based on input from other jurors as well as my own, here are some tips on how to keep your art in the running for as long as possible:
* Follow all instructions provided in the call-for-artists application form and check your final entry for mistakes before clicking the submit button. This is really important. Pay attention to word counts, size requirements for the art, maximum allowable dimensions for the art, size requirements for images, and so on.
* Some shows may have options to show oversized or other atypical works if you submit a special application or waiver and get approval. Even when it's allowed, making these types of requests may unnecessarily complicate matters for jurors.
* Spend time and effort putting together your images, application or whatever other materials you're asked to submit. Jurors like to see signs that an artist cares about applying and getting into a show. It's not that hard for jurors to see who cares and who doesn't.
* In most cases, jurors review show entries online. So take good quality photographs, professional if necessary. Make sure the art is well lit, in focus, shot straight on rather than at angles (unless other views are important to understanding the work), and looks as close as possible to what it looks like in real life. Poor photographs greatly reduce your chances of getting selected.
* Image sizes should be large enough to look sharp and detailed no matter how closely jurors look at them. Jurors often have the option to see details or close-ups so make sure your submissions look good enlarged before you submit them. If they blur or pixilate close-up, they likely won't get selected. Jurors don't like to guess; they want to know for sure.
* Submit more than one work of art if you are allowed to do so, and make sure they're related in some way-- by composition, series, theme or other criteria. Multiple related artworks give jurors a better idea of the bigger picture, what you're up to and where you're going with it. I tend to be more favorable toward works of art when I can experience them more in depth and see that they're part of larger narratives I can understand and appreciate.
* Jurors don't necessarily know who you are or what your art is about, even if an application asks for it. Some jurors, like me, don't want to immediately know artist names. That way, I can give each artist and each artwork equal consideration. Submit whatever information an application asks for. But don't automatically assume every juror will read it.
* Read whatever information the call-for-artists or application sites provide about the jurors. Do what you can to find out what types of art they focus on or specialize in. If possible, see what other shows they've juried and what kinds of art they tend to select.
* At the very least, come up with interesting titles for the art you submit. Anything to slow jurors down and make them spend more time looking is good. Interesting titles may also provide jurors with additional opportunities or clues to connect with the art, understand what it's about, and so on. Well-thought-out titles can sometimes add to the experience of a work.
* Spend time on your artwork descriptions if an application requires them. When all else is pretty much equal between several works of art, sometimes deciding which one to select comes down to what the artist has to say about it.
* Be accurate and honest about your medium, especially if it's digital or has digital elements. If it's partly digital, say so. Jurors are less likely to choose art if they're not sure or don't know what medium they're looking at. In other words, they don't like to guess. At worst, some descriptions of medium can be deliberately ambiguous, misleading or even deceptive. And that's never good.
* If you use the term "mixed media" to describe your art, then list exactly what your mediums are. Too many artists use the term to hide certain aspects of their art, particularly digital elements. Again, jurors not knowing what art is made out of can result in rejection.
* Don't crop or manipulate backgrounds of your images. For example, if you're photographing sculpture, show in an actual setting so that the juror can see it in a real context. Cropping and floating it against a single-color background like white or black makes it difficult for jurors to figure out how the work might look in real life... and can reduce your chances of getting accepted.
* Submit recent work. New or recent work is an indication that you're active as an artist. Old work can make jurors wonder how serious you really are about being an artist. I like when artists appear to be actively producing. Of course every juror is different. That's just me.
* Keep it fresh. Don't submit the same art to show after show. This is a good general rule to follow no matter where you are submitting. You take your chances submitting art that's already been shown in other shows because some jurors may recognize it. I go to lots of shows. I might be one of those jurors.
* Sometimes jurors do image searches on artist submissions if they have any questions about what they're looking at. If the results show that you've previously submitted the same work to multiple shows, that's not a good look.
* Submit your best work. This should go without saying, but sometimes I wonder whether all artists do.
* Make sure you intend to be part of the show if your art gets selected. Enter only if you're absolutely sure. Research all particulars in advance. In general, no matter what the situation, offer or opportunity to exhibit your art, it's not good to have too many restrictions on where you're willing to show, especially if you're early in your career or are not actively showing.
* Someone once asked me whether I look at the images on the jury site in order from first to last when hundreds or more images are submitted for a show, and if yes, whether having their images appear at or near the bottom of the list is a disadvantage. I'm aware of this issue and no matter how many images are submitted, I deliberately start from a different part of the list every time I look in order to give every artist and every artwork as equal a chance as possible. But that's just me.
* Jurors are not generally aware of how the order the art appears in is determined on the jury site of any particular show, but just to be on the safe side, best procedure is to submit your entries well in advance of the deadline and not to wait until the last minute.
In case you're ever interested, I'm always available to consult on any aspect of your art or art career. Try me; I'm good. For more information, call 415.931.7875 or email email@example.com
(art by Donald Moffett)
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