A friend recently asked me how I choose which art competitions to enter. I have a complicated set of criteria that I look at. In general I consider the Risks vs. Rewards. I believe that most of us are our own worst critics. Entering shows sometimes feels risky, yet competitive exhibitions are just another venue for sharing your art. James Clear writes about that risk:

“You can either be judged because you created something or ignored because you left your greatness inside of you.” – James Clear

First, my 5 Important Criteria for avoiding risk:

1. Do I respect the juror?

This is my most important question. I ask myself if I’ve:

  • met them
  • heard them speak
  • taken a workshop from them
  • seen a show that they have juried
  • been rejected by them in the past
  • watched them conduct a critique
  • read one of their articles or blog posts

Furthermore, I consider whether or not I find the juror’s work exciting. I usually enter competitions if I respect the juror. Conversely, I might also enter if I don’t know much about the judge. If I don’t respect the juror, I probably shouldn’t enter. Acceptance or rejection would mean less coming from someone I respect less.

2. Is the show very competitive?

While I want to enter a show that stretches my ability, I’m not interested in wasting my entry fee. However, this can change over time. As you enter more competitions, your name recognition increases and skills improve.  Also, because artists who enter generally attend or receive a catalog, a widely entered show can give you broader exposure.

3. Does the organization offer Signature Membership?

Non-artists often ask what a Signature Membership means. Simply put, Signature members of an art group can sign initials after their name. It is an acronym that stands for professional status, similar to that used by doctors or lawyers. Art groups have varying standards for achieving Signature Membership. Most groups include acceptance into more than one show or sending multiple paintings to demonstrate consistency. I just found out that I can add a new Signature Membership to my list: San Diego Watercolor Society!

4. How much will I invest?

Entry fees, shipping and handling can really add up. Do I think the fees are average? Do they seem reasonable? It depends on your goals for entering a show. One reason I enter quite a few shows is that I would like to do more jurying and workshops out of state. So, I often choose to enter shows in areas that I think might be fun to visit. I’m always hoping that artists in that area might be intrigued by my work and invite me to jury. Additionally, I must consider my investment of time in managing my inventory, delivering work, preparing the work for exhibit, etc.

5. What other benefits might I see?

Will I see my work published in a book or magazine or receive prize money? Although this is kind of crazy, I sort of weigh what my chances might be to win an award or gain publication. If I hit my head against a wall too many times, then I generally take a break from entering. I consider whether I’m not ready or if maybe my style is not a good fit. Am I likely to see sales from the show? Will more students be motivated to study with me? Will I win a purchase award?

The specifics:

I’ve listed below some of the shows I’ve entered in the past. Click to View my Resume and see which ones I’ve actually been in! This year I tried to stretch a bit and entered a show for works on paper at the Brand Museum in California. Unfortunately, I didn’t get in. In addition you can read my philosophy on rejection here: Rejected Again – Hooray!

  • American Watercolor Society
  • National Watercolor Society
  • Artist’s Magazine
  • Watermedia Showcase
  • Splash
  • Western Federation of Watercolor Societies
  • Northwest Watercolor Society
  • Louisiana Watercolor Society
  • Texas Watercolor Society
  • Rocky Mountain National Watermedia
  • Signature American Watermedia, Fallbrook, CA
  • Adirondacks National Exhibition
  • Pike’s Peak National Watermedia
  • California Watercolor Association
  • Watercolor West
  • San Diego International Watermedia
  • Georgia Watercolor Society
  • Watercolor Society of Oregon
  • Red River National Watermedia
  • Watercolor Society of Alabama
  • Hilton Head International Exhibition
  • National Watercolor Oklahoma
  • Taos Exhibition of American Watercolors
  • Kentucky Watercolor Society
  • Expressions West, Coos Art Museum

Finally, Thanks for sending me questions that might serve as possible blog post topics! I love to hear your comments on how YOU choose what shows to enter; join the conversation below!

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