When your art reaches a level of competency and pride, one day you decide to venture forth and enter a juried art exhibit. Surely you've submitted the masterpiece guaranteed to garner you an award. At the exhibit, you study your competition, and while some pieces are obvious winners, and will send you back thoughtfully to your painting easel, you have some question about other choices, still confident that your piece was award-worthy.
The above painting, one of my best in my humble opinion, was submitted to four major watercolor shows. It was not accepted in either the 2012 or 2013 Transparent Watercolor Society of America exhibit, the National Watercolor Society show in 2013, or the 2013 Illinois Watercolor Society show.
What was the judge looking for? What didn't capture his or her attention? Was it colors, style, subject matter?
If you know who the judge/judges will be, visit their website to see what their work looks like. It can give you insight to their own background and expertise. While it doesn't always reflect their choices for acceptance, it can sometimes offer a clue to what they may be looking for. With some research you can find shows they have judged in the past to see what they accepted and awarded as best paintings.
I recently judged the 2013 Illinois Watercolor Society's Members Show at Mayslake, Illinois. At the reception I discussed what I was specifically looking for with the artists who were present.
If the painting is done in a representational or realistic manner, I judge first on drawing. If the drawing is solid, I then look for good values or form. Next I look for good composition, and use of color. And finally, creativity. Showing your competency in the media is crucial, but creativity, that spark of individualism that sets you apart from everyone else, needs to shine through.
I also believe that many of the same elements that are used in a representational painting also apply to a non-conceptual or abstract painting. I look first for unity. Do all of the lines, colors, values, textures convey the same message or idea? Then I look for center of interest, movement, and space.
I submitted a painting in one show, and it was not accepted. I submitted the same painting into the same show the following year, and it was accepted into the exhibit. Every judge has his or her own criteria for judging. If your painting is not accepted into a show, it doesn't necessarily mean that your painting was not good -it just didn't appeal to that particular judge.
Persistence pays off.
I chose the painting on the left, “Echo“, by Ken Call as best of show.
It met all the criteria that I feel is important –good drawing, good composition, use of color, etc.
Below are all the winners who were present to accept their awards.