You know, even if they don’t lead directly to sales (which they sometimes do when someone decides that they *must* own your piece after seeing it promoted), awards have given me a higher level of confidence in myself as a maker. “See? I really am a grown up and really do know what I’m doing! Other people like my work!”
I think in the fiber field awards – or at least acceptance into juried shows – give you legitimacy. It’s like you’re not a hobbyist, you really are serious about your work. That said, acceptance was important to me early on in our business. Then I realized, as our business was growing, that I didn’t want to “play with the big girls,” I wanted to make art that I wanted, and make fabric to sell as needed. We’re still succeeding, and I’m happier. But I will confess to working toward “acceptance” at a major fiber show – just to see if I can actually produce work of that quality that is unique. This is more a challenge for me, and it I get accepted, great. If not, well…their loss!
Once upon a time I would have said that they were very important but now I would say they don’t really matter. I find in small communities they matter even less. What seems to really matter is simply getting your work out there for as many people to see.
Awards in my opinion and experience really aid in self acceptance and confidence. Once and a while you may get a very serious art collector who is actually knowledgeable about the various awards out there but that is seldom the case.
Just paint and be seen, awards are just a bonus
We have always felt it is important to put your work out there in front of jurors, peers,art critics and curators in order for you work to be seen by a broader audience. The awards are secondary to the exposure. It is important to not pay absorbent fees for this exposure and chose shows that are appropriate for your genre. Be sure to investigate the history of the show and their jurors before entering. The awards do help cover the cost of shipping 🙂
I review art competitions for my blog and have met and interviewed many winners. Awards can have importance – but in general their impact on artists’ careers relates to the status of the prize.
Winning the £25,000 BP Portrait Prize (which attracts entries from all over the world) is very different from winning the prize for portraiture at the local art society.
The awards associated with the major and prestigious art competitions can have a very significant influence on an artist’s career. They open doors. They’ll get you in front of those who decide whether or not an artist can be taken on as a gallery artist. My personal observation suggests they can be very influential to becoming a gallery artist at some of the more prestigious art galleries. That’s because an award adds to the artist’s cv/story, gives the gallery something more to talk about to clients and lends credibility to the prices the galleries might now want to charge.
Winning a major competition also seems to help an artist’s chances of getting selected for other competitions – and winning other prizes.
However, at the end of the day, what happens next essentially depends on the artist. I’ve lost count of the number of artists I’ve met who had no expectation of winning the prize (even when shortlisted) and had no thoughts at all about how they might now use the award as a stepping stone towards greater things – or even selling art! For some I think winning a prize can end up as a missed opportunity.
Sometimes winning awards prompts questions. I look at an awful lot of artists CVs. With some I note they’ve won lots of prizes – and then look again and realise they are all local shows. That just makes me wonder why that artist hasn’t gone on to try juried exhibitions and art competitions further afield. Are they happy in their comfort zone or do they want to stretch themselves and see whether they can be successful within a bigger arena?
I completely agree with that. Especially your point about the “cachet” of the competition in question. I think it serves an artist to spend some time researching the competition before they enter.
I recently won a people’s choice award here in Burlington, Vt. It did amazing things for my confidence as an emerging artist .A feather in my cap, it meant a lot to me to receive it and was an affirmation for the emotional work that went into it. Not sure how or if it will amount to amazing sales… but as someone just coming out on to the scene it’s very special and important to me.
It’s nice to receive an award, if only for affirmation that you’re doing something right. Plus, when I had to submit a resume for a fairly well-known venue, it was really good to have those awards on the piece of paper. On the other hand, I have also become much more selective in what I enter as I gain experience.
I realize that this is not the point of your question, but we do a significant amount of business making awards! Our work lends itself to the creation of colorful and joyous awards that bring joy to the recipient beyond the joy of receiving an award. For example, our local arts council gives out about 4-6 awards per year at a big annual event, and our pieces have been used for about 8 years now. Not only are the awards themselves a nice piece of business each year, but our work is on display at many of the local arts organizations and artist studios. Since we work with a laser, we can easily etch names, dates, etc. on small plaques attached to our pieces. However, I would think most any type of art could be adapted to awards and gifts, with the addition of a small tasteful sign. A small step to rid the world of brass plaques, plexiglass awards, and “bowling” trophies! We also create gifts for donors and volunteers, and unusual versions of the “wall of little brass signs” with donors names, etc.
Winning anything for me is the bees knees, the cat’s pyjamas- even the teeny tiniest win pushes me so far along…The happy energy that creates brings in more gifts, friends, sales…Happiness is so infectious…(I’m also the one who used to love getting those reader’s digest things that constantly told me I won something- I didn’t care that it wasn’t real, it helped me to practice for real successes…)
I don’t know.
I think awards don’t really bring opportunity but they might prevent it. By that, I mean, if you have been showing your work for a while and have built-up a bit of a C.V. and you don’t have any awards, it looks like maybe you’re work isn’t as well-received as it could be. I think most folks scan an artist’s C.V. and they look for certain things like education, shows, and yes even awards. If you have one or two awards, it looks fine. If you have a million “won 3rd place in xxx” and it’s all local stuff, maybe it doesn’t do much for you. If you have won a large, major award in a major market, yes that might help you out some.
A lot of the awards at juried shows favor certain media. Photographers, for example, almost never win them for multi-media shows, rather they go instead to sculptors or painters working in large scale. I think this is because the cost of working in certain media can be prohibitive and the jurors try to help by granting the awards to those working in expensive media. Of course, if you win an award, the money always helps, so there’s that aspect of it too. Winning $1500 or something for your work goes a long way towards helping to pay for supplies and it does usually help the piece sell at exhibition time.
I think awards also make shows harder to get into. If there are some high dollar awards, it attracts more established artists to enter and makes it harder to get into the show. Maybe those looking to build up a show record might not want to enter a lot of shows with awards to start out with, since they would be knocked out by more established artists looking to get their hands on some prize money.
With respect to the last comment about more established artists trying to get their hands on the prize money
My personal view is that those who enter the prestigious art competitions do NOT do so with any particular hope of winning the big sums of prize money on offer. They enter because getting selected for these juried competitions adds an exhibition with clout to their CV!
For example, 2,372 people entered the BP Portrait Prize – and 728 of those entries came from people not living or working in the UK. Of this total just 55 works were selected for exhibition and just 1 person won the £25,000 First Prize.
So one artist did very well.
But 54 other artists also had their work seen by 325,000 people (and various art gallery owners) and are now able to include “selected for the BP Portrait Exhibition” on their CV. That makes quite a lot of difference to the prices portrait artists can charge for their commissions. I’d call that a decent return on the investment of entering the competition – even if the chances of getting selected are only just over 2%! Hence why this competition attracts so many overseas entries.
Awards are important in that they help the artist gain confidence, get the artists name out there and force an artist to improve their craft. Competition in juried contests gets the juices flowing and helps stimulate creativity. Getting an award certainly can lead to sales and name recognition.
I have not concentrated on trying to win awards throughout my long career as an Artist. I instead, always preferred concentrating on the improvement of my craft & the actual selling of my Fine Art rather than the acclaim.
Any notoriety, especially a first place award, is a benefit. Like Katherine said, the opportunity should be taken to enjoy the award, and present it in one’s resume, one sheet and other ways. But, I agree that the personal challenge is the thing. How and why did you get the award, and now what are you going to do about it?
It can be disconcerting to have to “live up” to any status. Just paint and draw, and be happy if someone sees it in a good light.
I should add that I think when someone hands you money for your art work it is like an award…When you get a compliment it is like an award…When you get accepted into a juried show, a gallery, a society, it is like an award…Each time, I celebrate…In the art business, any positive reception is like an award, so treat yourselves well when those things happen…