8 Tips for Stronger Art Show Submissions

Guest Blogger: Michelle Davis Petelinz

I have served as juror two times for a local art show. Most recently, there were over 250 applicants for 170 spaces across ten categories, including wood, ceramics, jewelry, glass, 2-D, 3-D and photography.

Each applicant was asked to submit five images, including a booth shot. We four jurors were asked to rate each entry on a scale of 1 to 10, as we viewed each submission in turn, with all five images projected onscreen at once.

Here are eight things to remember when you’re applying to art shows similar to this one.

1. Follow instructions for size, DPI, and dimensions. All of this matters!
There were many, many entries that were too small a size or too low a resolution for projection. These stood out (not in a good way) as it was virtually impossible to see details of the work due to too much pixelation. As a result, the artists who submitted work that wasn’t sized correctly suffered in ratings.

If the jury can’t see the work clearly, it will not score well.

Michelle Davis Petelinz

Michelle Davis Petelinz, Sabiha "Ancestress of Grace." Mixed media on 10 x 12 x 7/16 inch wood panel. ©The Artist

2. Be sure your images are in focus.
This should go without saying, but clearly some artists need to be reminded. Again, if the jury can’t make out what you’re showing because the image is blurry, you’ll get a low score. Be aware of focus and resolution and the impact they have once your images are projected onscreen. If you need assistance with this, one place to start is at an online application site, such as ZAPP. You can read about their requirements for online image submission even before you register.

Keep in mind the visual overload to which jurors are subjected. We saw 266 entrants times 5 slides each, over a 5-hour time period. That’s over 1,300 images (now I know why I had a headache the next day!). If you want your images to stand out, make sure they’re in focus!

3. Speaking of standing out, be sure your images are well lit.
Once your image in focus, at the right size and DPI, the lighting of your object becomes vital. Yes, you can have a dark background, with a well-lit piece upon it. That can work just fine. What doesn’t work is a dark background, dark object, and poor lighting.

You want to wow the jurors. Great lighting will do this.

4. Minimize distractions!
I won’t say you can’t set your artwork upon an interesting background pattern. One artist whose work we viewed showed bracelets on a bed of raw white rice, which worked because the pieces were dark beads. What I will say (again) is that you want the jurors to be wowed by your work, not distracted by what it’s sitting on. If you’re spending more time looking for interesting backgrounds for your images than on the work itself, go back to the basics. Minimize distractions.

Remember: the jurors want to see the best examples of your work in your images. Your display flair can and should be shown in the booth image.

5. Understand why jurors want to see your booth image.
If it says you shouldn’t show your company name or yourself in the booth image, don’t. This jury process was supposed to be blind; in the cases where we saw names or people, it clearly wasn’t.

Jurors want to see how well you present your work in a show setting. And, sometimes, if they’re “on the fence” about your work, the booth image can sway them. I rated artists with good-looking work and sloppy or unprofessional looking booths much lower than those with good looking work and well done displays. Having done it myself, I know it’s a challenge to come up with an attractive booth set up, but I believe if an artist hasn’t spent the time to show off what she’s created, it says she’s not serious about her work. And, if she’s not serious about her work, she can’t reasonably expect others to take it seriously.

6. Be sure you’re showing consistent work. Don’t confuse the jurors!
If you mainly create bright, abstract paintings, don’t show 2 images of those, 1 of a more muted palette with representational objects, 1 with your semi-realistic depiction of a well-known painting of an ocean wave, and a booth image with indistinct, blurry work in a well-designed tent display. I can’t make this stuff up! When faced with this entry, we asked: What is this artist’s focus? Unclear. What is he or she best at? Up for interpretation. You do not want to leave jurors with the impression you’re not sure what you’re good at or what you’re focused upon.

7. If you’re asked for an artist statement, provide it, but read it aloud before you include it with your application.
Yes, I’m serious; read it out loud, preferably to someone else. If it doesn’t read smoothly, make sense, or contain complete sentences, edit it until it does. There were several laugh-producing artist statements (they weren’t meant to be funny), which revealed the artists had been careless with their statements. If you’re asked to describe your techniques, inspiration and/or motivations as they relate to your work, take the time to write a well-constructed paragraph and write legibly! The show director had a tough time with some of them, unable to read the ‘chicken scratch’ on the applications. Inexcusable.

8. Your images, artist statement and application are the only things the jury has to evaluate your work.
Make these the best they can possibly be, even if it means having professional photographs taken of your work, studying and mastering online/CD submission requirements, writing and rewriting your artist statement, and having someone else proofread your final application. If you do all this, you’ll have a better chance of having your work accepted to shows. Trust this one juror’s opinion.

Michelle Davis PetelinzMichelle Davis Petelinz is a mixed media artist, part time art teacher and enthusiastic supporter of artistic endeavors. Her wall hangings, mirrors, clocks and shadow boxes are a fusion of art, spirit and culture, and can be seen on her Kindred Spirit Studios website, Artventuring blog and Facebook Fan Page.

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