Art competitions can be a great way to develop your confidence, your career, and even your own understanding of your art. They are like stepping stones in your artistic journey. You get a chance to showcase your works in front of an esteemed jury and gain recognition for your talent. Even if you don’t secure a position at a competition, there will be a whole lot to take away from this journey that can help one grow and evolve as an artist. But what is the right way to enter an art competition? What are the best ways to make sure that your work is seen among the countless other entrants?
As we gear up for the 32nd Chelsea International Fine Art Competition, we decided to publish material that will be of use to artists across the globe who are looking for such opportunities to advance their artistic career.
Selecting The Right Art Competition
It’s worth putting time and thought into deciding which art opportunities you want to pursue, and this is particularly true with competitions. There are so many varieties of art contests – so which one is right for you?
No one can answer this question better than you. Your ideal competition depends solely on what your goals and expectation are. Before selecting, you need to make a realistic assessment of where you are in your career today, and determine where you would like to be in the future (say, a year’s time). Once you’ve done that, the next step is to work out how to get there.
Break It Down Into Manageable Steps
- If you’re a watercolor artist and want to increase your presence in the national watercolor scene, then you’ll be interested in entering watercolor competitions, or competitions that are connected to organizations which focus on watercolor works.
- Maybe you’ve done well on the local level, and you’d like to branch out to make an impact state-wide. If this is your goal, you’d want to enter a state-centered competition to get your work displayed at a state fair and noticed by local media.
- Perhaps you’re looking to break into a major art market. In that case, you would want to enter a competition which offers opportunities to exhibit in major cities. The Chelsea International Fine Art Competition shows selected artists’ works in an exhibition in New York City.
Entering the right art competitions can contribute to your overall plan – so work out what that is, and find the right competitions to help you achieve your goals.
How To Submit Your Work For An Art Competition
Once you’ve found a competition that looks right for you, how can you ensure that your entry has the best possible chance of being selected? These easy guidelines simplify the process of entering any art competition, making the experience hassle-free and ensuring that your entry gets the attention it deserves.
You can also refer to the infographic at the end of this section for a comprehensive guide to art competitions for visual artists.
Know Your Market First
Different art competitions focus on different things. Your best works may be your abstract bronze sculptures, but what good will they do in a landscape photography competition? Always carefully check the rules and guidelines for every competition before you enter.
Select You Best Works
More than that, re-evaluate your best. You may personally favor some works for sentimental reasons, works that took a particularly long time to create, or works that marked the learning of a new skill for you. The jurors won’t know any of that, and they probably wouldn’t care if they did. What really matters is the quality of the artwork. Ask your friends, or even strangers, to help figure out which one are objectively your best works. Even outside of competitions – a third perspective is always a good tool for helping you develop your work.
Stick To One Style And Medium
You may think that including a range increases your chances of the jurors finding something they like. In actuality, the range increases your chances of the jurors finding something they DON’T like. If you are an artist who produces both acrylic paintings and metal wire sculptures, your entry should never include both mediums (unless it’s a competition that specifically asks for a range of media). Some competitions let you enter more than once, so if you do want to enter both the acrylics and the metal sculptures, then do so separately. In general, you want your art competition entry to give the jurors a good unified sense of style. A mix-and-match submission seems incoherent and undeveloped.
This cannot be emphasized enough. Luckily, we’ve already written a guide to taking high-quality photographs of your artwork to help you with this. Some competitions require you to send in the physical works, but most will prefer that you send photographs. If you do have to submit the physical works, be sure that you can afford to take those pieces off the market for the time, and be sure to ensure that the competition organizers are going to be able to return the works to you in the same condition.
Most competitions will be asking for photographs of your work, so keep in mind that these represent the only access that the jurors will have to your art. If these photographs don’t display your work to its full potential, you’re entering the competition with a serious disadvantage. The jurors simply will not be able to appreciate the quality of your work from a bad photograph.
Provide All The Details And Documents
It sounds so obvious, yet it’s very easy to get lost when there are too many details to take care of. You probably won’t forget to include an artist statement, if one is requested, but you might not remember to include the dimensions of each work. It can be tempting to skip one section, meaning to come back to it later – just be sure not to forget about it. Keep track of everything you still need to add, and don’t consider the entry completed until you’ve gone through it to make sure it’s all there.
Go through your entry before you send it, to make sure everything is correct. Even if you’re positive that you’ve done everything properly, a last check can still help you refine and improve. Worst case scenario, everything is fine and the final check doesn’t take long. Best case, you catch something: a potentially embarrassing typo, a mistake in your contact info, mislabeled artwork, or a failed image upload. Some mistakes can end up costing you the whole competition, so it’s worth the time to check.
Set Aside Time To Do It Right
It takes time and effort to enter a competition properly, and many artists make the mistake of getting through the process in haste. This is understandable, but it’s always a mistake. After all, you’re asking someone at the other end to devote time and thought to your entry, so it’s only fair that you give them the same courtesy. If you rush your entry, or fail to pay full attention to it, you will prejudice your entry, no matter how deserving your artwork may be. If the organizers have to make an effort to ask you to fix an unclear or incomplete entry, you can be sure they’ll remember you unfavorably. You never want to be the person who made the juror’s work more difficult.
Keep track of which competitions you’ve entered and which images you’ve entered where. This will help you track your successes and learn from the past. As time goes on, you can begin to see patterns in the types of competition and works that are most fruitful for you. Additionally, it’s worth saving all the details you usually need in one easy-to-find place, so that with experience entering competitions gets easier and easier.
Don’t Know What To Do? Check The FAQ!
Sometimes, forms are not as clear as their creators hoped they would be, or the guidelines for a competition may leave something out. Always go through the FAQ section if there is one, as there’s a good chance your concern is covered there. If it isn’t, ask the organizers. It’s always better to be sure than to have to guess. You’re helping the organizers as well as yourself, because they’ll learn what needs to be clarified.
Take your time with your submission to an art competition. Do it slowly and carefully, and limit all feelings of being rushed or stressed. Go over the entry before you send it in, but once you’ve submitted your entry, RELAX. Forget about it. Either your work will be selected, or it won’t, and there’s no more you can do about it. If you’re not selected this time, don’t let it get you down. Every selection process is influenced by so many factors, from the preferences of the jurors to the variety of the other entries, as well as the coherence of the final selection. If you weren’t selected this time, it doesn’t mean you won’t be next time, when the conditions are different. Don’t give up – and good luck!
This post is also available in: Spanish