7 tips to get it right for competitions

The annual Chelsea International Fine Art Competition is just around the corner, due to start accepting entries on February 7, 2012. That’s less than a week! That being so, now seems like a good time to review some of the important things to bear in mind when entering a competition. A lot of these points may appear obvious, but often the nerves or excitement of entering can put these things out of an artist’s mind. Remember to stay calm and do your best.

1) Fill in all the details. Yes, this sounds absurd – but you’d be amazed how many artists leave out crucial information such as contact details or the medium of the work they have submitted. Fill in the forms provided carefully, and go back over them afterwards to make sure you’ve given everything that is required. If you know from past experience that you’re prone to leaving things out, get someone you trust to check it for you.

2) Write in the language of the competition. Sometimes this is irrelevant, and sometimes it’s clear that two or more languages are acceptable in context. You have to use your judgment about what’s appropriate, but in general a French competition, for example, will be more amenable to entries in French, while an American one, such as the Chelsea International Fine Art Competition, will prefer English. The easier you make it for the administrators and the juror to understand and appreciate you and your work, the better.

3) Take your time with the entry. Very few competitions have an incredibly small window of opportunity for entering – in general, you’ll have days or weeks to compile all the information you need. Even if the time available is shorter, you can gather much of it beforehand, and give some thought to the images and information you’d like to present. Don’t rush – give it due consideration, and maybe even return to it after a short time to review.

4) Choose your images carefully. The particular pieces you decide to submit should vary depending on the nature of the competition. Some competitions are exclusively for a particular medium; don’t enter a watercolor competition with a work in acrylic! More often, though, you’ll need to consider the style and subject matter that is appropriate. You may consider different pieces for a competition run by a children’s hospital, for example, than you would for something like a corporate contest. Whichever images you pick, make sure that they are high quality; remember that often this is the only representation of your work that the juror will see. Make them clear and non-pixelated.

5) Make sure the work you submit is available. If the juror loves the art you entered with, you may well need to produce it or similar pieces later, either directly for the competition process or because collectors who came across it are interested in that style or work. Don’t submit artworks from fifteen years ago, when your style has moved on since then.

6) Before entering, check out the prizes. It’s always a great feeling to win, of course, but entering a competition takes time and energy. Before you expend that, you should check that the prize is something that will benefit you. If it’s to go to a conference you’ve attended in the past and which this year is on a date you know you can’t make, for instance, then it’s probably not something you want to be concentrating your efforts on achieving.

7) Don’t care about it too much. When all is said and done, it’s only one competition. You’ll enter plenty more in your time as an artist, apply to many galleries and set up at lots of art fairs. You’ll sell work and talk to collectors and touch people with your art. Don’t let a single contest become too important to you – remember to keep it all in context. If you aren’t chosen in this one, it’s no reflection on you or your work; in a different year, the results would be different.

Do you have tips that you find helpful when entering competitions? Share them in the comments!


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