Why entering art competitions can help your career – even if you aren’t selected

At Agora Gallery, we’re thinking about competitions a lot at the moment – we’re excited about the Chelsea International Fine Art Competition, which opened this week. But we know not everyone is always so excited about competitions. Entering art competitions can be a daunting experience – aside from choosing which works of art to include in your entry, and which details about your background to mention, and filling in the relevant forms, there’s also the knowledge that a stranger, someone you’ve never met, will be examining your work.


But there’s really no need for concern. If you’re worried about the actual entry, don’t be; all you need to do is be precise about your own work, contact details and sometimes artistic process – all things you are the world expert in! Take a look at our tips for getting your entry just right, and relax.

Given the natural nervousness that many artists feel, though, it makes sense to remind yourself why it’s worth entering competitions in the first place. Having this clear in your mind should help you maintain the concentration and determination you need to complete your entry.

Firstly, it’s important to choose your competitions wisely. There are so many out there, you need to decide which ones are worthwhile for you. Are you looking to extend your reach into new markets, beyond the local one you’ve been inhabiting so far? Then a local competition probably isn’t for you. Do you want an established, well-known competition? Then look for those which have been running a while. Check the guidelines for each competition you consider to make sure your art is appropriate for it.

Chelsea International Fine Art Competition Exhibition 2013

Once you’ve worked out what you want from a competition, and found those which will support your goals, you know that the competition is right for you. This means that you have the opportunity to enter something that is practically designed for you; it’s worth it because it is what you want. Being selected would be wonderful, of course, because it would put you that much closer to your goals, but even working out what it is that you want to do, and where you’re headed, is valuable. You need to know what you want before you can work out how to get it.

This is connected to one of the other benefits of entering competitions. The fact of entering is a statement about yourself as an artist, your work, and what you want to do with it. It’s a declaration that you are a serious artist, and should be taken seriously. You don’t have to be a professional artist, necessarily – but entering a competition means that art, and creating art, is a vital part of your life, one you’re willing to put effort into developing.

Chelsea International Fine Art Competition Exhibition Reception 2013

There’s another advantage to entering competitions, one which is frequently under-appreciated. It forces you to re-evaluate your work, where it fits into genres, themes and mediums. By imagining how others, particularly strangers, would see your art, you can gain new insight into work that has become so familiar to you that you might have stopped seeing some of its aspects. This can have long-term benefits in terms of both creating art and marketing it.

What benefits have you found in entering competitions? Share them with us in the comments!


  • I love entering the Chelsea Art Show but only have one entry this year. It’s great to see what other people are doing as well.

  • I believe some art competitions can be seen, as being counter-intuitive and counter productive to creativity.

    As a person who has been involved in the art education of children and adults, I have been of the same opinion as, Dr. Viktor Lowenfeld, the father of art education. He purports in his book, “Creative and Mental Growth” that forced art competitions, based on outside standards, as opposed to natural competitions, do little to encourage or foster the nurturing of creativity in children particularly. The reason relates to an externally imposed standard which exists and arises from those who are judging the art and not based on the individual’s standard and achievement.

    Having said this, as adults we are in control of what we decide to expose ourselves to within the already highly competitive art world. A balanced and tempered approach to art competition can have positive affects on reputation, on one’s artistic career, and may give artists cause to evaluate their own work and goals. I think most artists eventually learn to do this regardless, especially if they have been immersed in an art education, academic environment, such as a Fine Art program within a university.

    Competition can be positive in the right context, and we all have to decide for ourselves precisely what is relevant to and for us, within whatever context we choose.

  • As a trained artist and veteran I must say that to meet other artists and experience the elation of exhibiting is a primary factor that inspires anyone to work and produce all the better for it…
    Artists need and must have “The other” or viewer participant, as required for the closer of a creative process and contributes to the overall aesthetic experience. MBV. 4/5/2013

  • As an art teacher professionally licensed , I know how important students work can be to show others and for communicating. Weather or not winning a competition should be a communal adventure and requires us all to invent a standard of criteria that we all need…… to be better artists and succeed with purpose.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *