The Right Way To Enter An Art Competition

These guidelines simplify the process of entering art competitions, making the experience hassle-free and ensuring that your entry gets the attention it deserves.

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 an art 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?

art competion
Guests examining the artists’ works at the opening reception for the 31st Chelsea International Fine Art Competition exhibition.

As part of our annual preparations for the 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 art 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 art 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

  1. 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 art competitions that are connected to organizations which focus on watercolor works.
  2. 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.
  3. Perhaps you’re looking to break into a major art market. In that case, you would want to enter an art competition which offers opportunities to exhibit in major cities. The Chelsea International Photography Competition shows selected artists’ works in an exhibition in New York City.

In short:

  1. Join art competitions that match your art medium.
  2. Once you’re well-known locally, try joining a state competition.
  3. After that, consider joining competitions that let you break into major art markets.

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.

art competition
Previous opening reception for a fine art competition at Agora Gallery

How To Enter Your Work For An Art Competition

Once you’ve found an art 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 art competition before you enter.

Select Your 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 art 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 an art competition that specifically asks for a range of media).

Some art 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 entry seems incoherent and undeveloped.

High-Resolution Images 

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 art competitions require you to send in the physical works, but most will prefer that you send photographs. If you do have to enter 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 art competition organizers are going to be able to return the works to you in the same condition.

Most art 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 art 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 art competition, so it’s worth the time to check.

Set Aside Time To Do It Right

It takes time and effort to enter an art 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 Records 

Keep track of which art 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 art 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 art 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 an art 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.

To sum it up:

  1. Know Your Market First
  2. Select Your Best Works
  3. Stick To One Style And Medium
  4. High-Resolution Images
  5. Provide All The Details And Documents
  6. Set Aside Time To Do It Right
  7. Keep Records
  8. Don’t Know What To Do? Check The FAQ!

Looking to enhance your career and build a presence in New York? Enter your portfolio to us and get the opportunity to present your work to a broad range of national and international art collectors and buyers. Visit our Gallery Representation And Artist Promotion page for more information.

The Chelsea International Fine Art Competition accept entries here. Enter the art competition for a chance to be selected for one of our valuable awards, including cash prizes, PR exposure and much more.


Take your time with your entry 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 entered 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!

And in case you didn’t know, we have run our own art competitions too. Have a look at Who knows? We just might have the right art competition for you.

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  • I am a professional artist and I m honestly , loving what I m doing

  • Hello and thank you for this article! I’m wondering it’s alright to submit a work to two different competitions at the same time. I imagine if the competition says the work needs to be available to show physical show then it’s best not? But if the competitions are digital only, then is there a reason not to try multiple competitions that overlap with each other? I find it somewhat surprising that competition guidelines often don’t mention anything about a work having won other competitions before…

    • Hi Marybeth,

      It’s best to reach out to the coordinators of the competition to see if you can submit the same artwork to different competitions. Most are flexible and will allow you but it’s always best to double-check.

      Best of luck!

  • I have Some Art drawings, I want others to See. How dose that work/ Rosemary gutierrez

  • Hi guys
    Thank you for the informative article!

    I have a question :

    I’m entering an Australian art competition and the piece is large 1.8 x 1.5
    Should I just enter with a photograph of the piece up close or get a photo of it framed to submit.

    I ask because framing will be $800 and if it’s not accepted it seems a waste of money

    Thank you and I’ll be looking to enter your New York competition

    Samantha beau

  • Question: I’ve just submitted images of two paintings for a juried show yesterday to meet the deadline. Today, I’ve a potential buyer for one of the pieces. Should I pull the painting from the competition altogether? The call states that each piece must be listed for sale. In the event the work is chosen, is it terribly uncouth to ask that the piece be able to compete without being sold and hold the sale for the show? This is a first for me, so I am unsure of how to handle the situation.

    • Hi Tracey,
      You should pull the painting from the competition in case it is sold, yes.

  • Question: When giving the dimensions of a 2D work, do you give the image size or the framed size?

  • Great article – thanks for the guidelines, it helps artists make the right decisions regarding art competitions.

    BR Michael

    • Hi Michael!
      We’re glad that you found our article useful. If you have more questions, don’t hesitate to contact us!
      Best regards,

  • Great article! I am going start utilizing this information when entering the 32nd Chelsea in February.
    Thank you!

  • Good article. I’ve won many competitions and have judge a few as well. The mistake that I see with artists is in choosing the work to submit. I’ve seen skilled artists submit beautiful pieces but those pieces didn’t show their range and ability. Choose pieces that follow objective rules of skill, composition, color etc. When a qualified judge is looking through hundreds of submissions, they quickly narrow it down to the ones that grab their attention.. Then they begin to narrow that list further but the pieces that make the final list are also pieces that can be analyzed and articulated as to why it won. For example, painting a simple tree shows that you can paint a tree. A painting of a tree that also shows your skill and knowledge with composition, perspective, color, pattern etc will set you apart because the judge can critique those skills. One successful tree, no matter how beautiful, doesn’t show the judge your skill level. The pieces I hang in a commercial gallery are, at times, very different than the criteria I use in creating a piece for competition. I also teach piano and take students to music competitions. I use this same guideline when choosing piano repertoire. We don’t choose pieces familiar to the judges nor do we choose popular trendy pieces. We choose pieces that have the kinds of requirements that show the judge the pianist’s skill. I’ve taken this same strategy to art competitions and have found it to help with success.

    • Hi Kris,

      Thank you for your thoughts! We are sure some of the artists will really benefit from this.

  • Hello Agora!

    I was wondering. when I give the dimensions of my framed piece (I do collage ), do I give the dimensions of the size of the piece itself or the dimensions that include the size of the frame it is in.

  • I am going to enter into the 32nd Chelsea International Fine Art Competition in February. This will be me first entry into any contest or event. I was so happy to come across this article, as was feeling a bit lost and unsure. Thank you for providing a guideline for emerging artist!

    • Dear Mike,

      We are glad this helped you! Do let us know if you have any more questions.

  • Great article! I’m helping an emerging artist from El Salvador and just entered him in your competition. He’s very excited about the prospects of exhibiting his work in New York! Thanks for all that you guys do to promote artists from all over the world!

  • I exhibited with you twice in New York , it gave me confidence.
    Since then I have sold over 130 Paintings manly in Europe , Germany
    Italie , Paris and South Africa and Miami. I found your article quiete
    Helpful and would have like to see at my time (I was very nervous )
    All the Best I love New York
    Truly Jutta Rakoniewski geb Padberg

    • Dear Jutta, your artwork is magnificent and we’re not surprised that you have fans all over the world!

      We’re glad you enjoyed the article and found it helpful.

      Please keep in touch!