Why Enter Juried Shows Anyway?
There are juried art shows out there for all experience and skill levels. Entering a juried show can take some courage, as not everyone who submits work will have their work accepted. Knowing and accepting that going in, juried shows can be a great way to get exposure for your work. Juried shows can offer:
- Exposure to galleries, collectors and the media (all but one of the galleries I
have ever been represented by found me through a juried or invitational show.)
- Discounted advertising opportunities with show media sponsors
- A way to build your resume
- Awards and recognition
- Sales potential
If any of these are part of your career goals, then juried shows may be worth your time and money. A word of caution: you will not be accepted into every show you enter. You will face rejection (in fact more often than acceptance usually) and must be prepared to accept that it is a part of the process and your growth as an artist. More on that later.
How to choose which shows to enter
Choose shows that are appropriate for your skill level and quality of work. You may be ready for national shows or you may want to start with more local or regional shows. National shows are normally much more competitive than local or regional ones.
Make sure your work fits the show’s criteria (examples: plein air, impressionism, a specific medium such as oil or pastel). If you enter an abstract or non-representational piece in a show which is for realism or representational work, your work will be disqualified for not adhering to the show criteria.
Check out the reputation of the organization or organizer sponsoring the show. Beware of scams – talk to other artists who have been in the shows you are considering. Larger shows often have online catalogs of previous years’ shows so you can check out the type of work that is accepted. This will really help you get an idea if your work is a good fit for a particular show.
Check out the number of entries vs the number of accepted works (if that information is available). Some shows may accept up to 50% or more of the submitted entries. Last year, OPA had approximately 2200 entries with 200 accepted for the national juried exhibition (just under 10%). The higher the percentage, the better your chances are of being accepted…if you enter your best work!
On Judges and Jurors: The judges (who give the awards) are nearly always publicized. The juror or jurors (who score the works and whose scores determine the pieces accepted in the show) are usually anonymous in the larger, national shows. There are several reasons for this. When jurors’ names are publicized they are sometimes contacted by artists who are not accepted into the show, expecting to get an explanation or a critique. Occasionally they are openly criticized on social media (please don’t ever do this!). Jurors are sometimes paid a small stipend and sometimes volunteer their valuable time to jury… they are not paid to do critiques in addition to jurying. Some people enter shows based on who the judges and jurors are…they try to “paint for the judge” thinking if they paint the subjects or style the judge does it increases their chances of acceptance or awards. This is just usually not the case. If a judge specializes in portraits for instance, they know that subject extremely well…they will see every flaw in portrait entries. Same goes for landscapes, figures, etc. In my experience, you have a much better chance of acceptance if you enter your best work regardless of who the judge or jurors are.
You’ve chosen a show to enter…now what?
Read the show prospectus carefully. Note deadlines and follow the instructions to the letter. Avoid having your entry disqualified because of careless errors or omissions.
Nearly all shows use digital images for their entry submissions. You will need high quality photos of your work…use a professional photographer if necessary. Your photos must not show frames or any extraneous backgrounds…only the image of the artwork itself. They must be in focus and oriented correctly. The jurors have a very short time to view each image and they have to score your work based on the image you submit. If they can’t see the work clearly, it will hurt your score or could even disqualify your work. Make sure your image is sized correctly according to specifications for the entry system.
Fill out the application and make sure all your information is entered correctly.
If you are entering a show sponsored by an organization, where membership is required to be eligible to enter, be sure to pay the membership fee before submitting your show entry. These type of shows usually require a show entry fee in addition to membership.
If you are entering a show that will be held in a gallery, work will almost always need to be for sale and must be priced according to your established sales prices. Do not overprice your work because you don’t want it to sell. That is not fair to the hosting gallery or the organization sponsoring the show and can put you at risk of disqualification. If you sell a painting that’s been accepted into a show and then pull out of the show, you risk being declared ineligible for subsequent shows.
Submit your entry well before the entry deadline. The majority of entries for juried shows usually come in during the last week prior to the deadline, many on the very last day. For shows using online jurying systems, once the deadline has passed and the system has closed, it cannot be reopened to accept late entries. Inevitably problems can and will arise at the last minute, so it’s best to plan to submit your entries a few days ahead of that final deadline.
Enter your very best work and again, double check your entry before you submit to make everything is complete and correct.
Jury Results – Elation or Deflation
This is the nerve-wracking part of entering juried shows. The waiting and anticipation is hard! Every show will list notification dates for the jury results. Mark that on your calendar and note if the results will be posted online or if you will receive an email notification. Do not enter your entries into any other exhibition until you know if they have been accepted or not. Again, if you do and they get accepted into more than one show at the same time you risk being disqualified from subsequent shows.
If you are accepted:
Note shipping and delivery instructions and dates on your calendar. If you don’t ship your work to the show on time, you risk disqualification from that show and subsequent shows.
Make sure to include any crate fees, return shipping labels, bios…whatever is required.
What if your painting sells before the show? Usually the gallery hosting the show will handle the sale and take their commission according to the show prospectus. Normally, you will be required to send the painting to the show regardless. Again, adhere to the rules as stated on the prospectus to avoid possible disqualification from future shows.
Try to attend the opening reception if at all possible. This is a great opportunity for networking, meeting gallery owners, collectors and other artists. There’s a higher chance of selling your work if collectors can meet you and connect with you.
If your work is “declined” – the dreaded “rejection” letter
This is the hardest part…hands down. I once heard OPA Master Neil Patterson say: “If you’re accepted, you’re not necessarily as good as you think you are, and if you’re rejected you’re not as bad as you think you are. Just keep painting the best paintings you can and eventually you will be accepted”. It’s true!
Don’t give up. It took me 13 times entering the Oil Painters of America National Juried Exhibition before I was finally accepted. Persistence, hard work and perseverance do pay off. The only way you will never get into a show is if you quit trying and not enter. The only way your last rejection will be your last is if you never enter again.
Personally, I take each rejection as a personal challenge to try harder, to make my next painting even better than the last. Do I get down and discouraged? Absolutely! Go ahead and have a pity party for a few hours or a day, but don’t let it overwhelm or defeat you. Above all, be gracious and be professional…refrain from complaining to or about show organizers, judges and jurors about not being accepted.
Know that in EVERY show, there are always a lot of deserving works that do not get in. Every show has limits as to how many pieces they can accept. Every juror or panel of jurors is different. In every show you enter a particular painting in, you are competing against an entirely different group of paintings. Most artists, myself included, have experienced having a painting rejected from one show only to win an award with the same painting in another show.
Bottom line…juried shows can be a great way to get your work out there. It takes courage and you will have disappointments along the way, but it’s all part of the process of growing in your work and your career. Be patient, keep trying, keep working hard and growing…and don’t give up.