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Should You Enter Juried Exhibitions?

by Patrick Faile on 10/11/2017 9:12:13 AM

This post is by guest author Patrick Faile This article has been edited and published with the author's permission. We've promoted this post to feature status because it provides great value to the FineArtViews community. If you want your blog posts listed in the FineArtViews newsletter with the possibility of being republished to our 50,500 subscribers, consider blogging with FASO Artist Websites. This author's views are entirely his own and may not always reflect the views of BoldBrush, Inc.




I can't tell this story without some brief personal background. So, here it goes. When I retired a few years ago, I decided that I would spend more time on my artwork. I have remained passionate about my artwork for a very long time, having been painting in watercolor for the past 50 years.  After retirement and giving up a very good income, I had hopes of supplementing my retirement income through my artwork. To be a successful professional artist requires excellent marketing and name recognition. Juried exhibitions are an excellent method of making contacts, getting your name out into the marketplace, and most important, exhibiting your work.


In the early 1980's I was fresh out of the United States Air Force and recently married.  I certainly had more time for painting after leaving the Air Force. I had decided to enter my artwork in some local and regional juried exhibitions. I was met with some success with gaining exhibition acceptance and awards, but I was mostly met with rejection and criticism in the larger exhibitions. I would go to the exhibition openings, view the art in an exhibition that I had been rejected and couldn't understand why.  Like I imagine most artists would feel, I was hurt and disillusioned and quit trying to enter juried exhibitions and the years rolled by.


This past week, I read a Facebook post on a watercolor site where a lady had posted a skillful and attractive painting. Her comments were on how she had received criticism of the painting posted by someone she described as a professional artist stating that her work would never be accepted into a juried exhibition. This professional artist was obviously someone the lady looked up to and admired his work. This lady was obviously hurt by these comments and was seeking to find out what was wrong with her painting and whether she should enter the painting in a juried exhibition.


The reading of the comments to this Facebook post is what has prompted me to write this blog on juried exhibitions. I feel she received a whole ton of bad advice. Almost all who commented on her post, quickly sympathized with her and recommended that she not worry about exhibiting her work. That her critic was an SOB and should be ignored, doesn't know what he is talking about, juried exhibitions are a waste of time, etc., etc.  I quickly wrote a response, as her hurt and disillusionment struck a familiar personal note.


After retirement in 2010, I applied to a few national juried exhibitions and was accepted. Since 2010, I have entered 75 national or international juried exhibitions and have been accepted into 26 or 34.4% of those applied to. This may not seem like a great percentage until you consider your work is in competition with the best contemporary watercolor artists in the world. I find it extremely gratifying to know that I can successfully compete with the best. If I had continued to let my hurt and disillusionment with juried exhibitions continue, I would never know how my work stacks up to the best. I would never have achieved 3 signature memberships with various watercolor societies in the last year. I sincerely regret the wasted years between the early 1980's and 2010 and I absolutely hate to see someone else make the same mistake. I'll never get those 25 years back.


So here is my advice to the lady on Facebook and all of you aspiring artists:


1. Yes, you need to have thick skin to take criticism. Expect criticism.

2. All criticism must at least be considered. It may improve your artwork.

3. Not all criticism is valid, but keep an open mind.

4. Art is very subjective and the viewers taste widely vary. You can't and won't appeal to everyone.

5. If you believe in your art, you need to exhibit your art. You need to understand how you stack up to the best and it's also a great
    marketing tool and source of inspiration.

6. Continuously try to improve your artwork. Artwork produced today will look like child's play five years in the future. Try to make it so.

7. Be yourself, don't copy or try to paint like the juror. Develop your own style.

8. Don't waste time. You never know how much you have.


Just last week my wife and I celebrated our 41st wedding anniversary and the point of my blog is, don't wait to pursue your dream. No matter whether your goal is a juried exhibition, a galley exhibition, a signature membership, etc. time is precious. On our artistic journey we all meet criticism and obstacles of every kind. Keep an open mind and an attitude on self improvement and quality of work. The journey is not easy. If it were, it wouldn't mean anything.


My best wishes of success,

Patrick Faile

You can view Patrick's original post here.

Editor's Note:
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Related Posts:

What about Art Festivals?

How to Coordinate an Art Exhibit

Art Festivals: A Typical Day in the Tent

How to Coordinate an Art Exhibit -- Part II

On Marketing and Networking

Topics: advice for artists | art appreciation | Art Business | art criticism | art education | exhibits | FineArtViews | Guest Posts | inspiration | Juried Shows 

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Judith Levins
Thank you for this, I will share it on my FB B group page watercolor Mentors. Everyone should read it!
Best wishes,
Judy Haynes Levins

Linda Oesterreich
I only wish that I had read this years ago.

lori Woodward
Hi Patrick,
Wow, your work is stunning! Thanks for your thoughts. I'm so glad you mentioned something about working to consistently improve one's artwork. I've been selling my work for 25 years, and I'm taking online course to improve. While I've taught workshops and classes over the years, I still take some workshops myself. There's always room for improvement, and the competition is getting tougher all the time.

Joanne Benson
Wonderful encouraging article!

Bravo Patrick!

Chris Krupinski
I agree with everything that you wrote. The number one thing to remember is that art is subjective and what may be rejected from one show may win an award in another.

I enter and have exhibited in many juried exhibitions and one of the reasons that I do is that for me it is an indicator of where my art is. Our work constantly evolves and we are too close to really see that. To me juried shows are an indicator of whether my art is headed in the right direction.

Artists do have to have thick skins. Our work is so much a part of us that a criticism can hit our soul. If it is constructive and you can grow from it take it as a gift ... if it is destructive, just ignore it and move on.

Last word ... don't let rejection ever cast a doubt on what you do. The most important part of painting is what you get from it. I NEED to paint. I never paint for shows. I love the process, the feel of the brush in my hand, the applying paint ... that is why I paint.

Great article. Very inspiring .
Thanks so much for this.
Will not waste any more timeð

Walter Paul Bebirian
a person only needs to do what they really desire to do - if you have any doubts before or after entering any shows at all - well then perhaps it is best to focus your efforts elsewhere -

Francine T Jones
Well said and to the point.

Patricia Stafford
Many excellent points in this well-written article, Patrick!

Funny how I heard the same remark both as a beginning photographer and as a beginning painter ... "Don't bother with juried shows. They only pick their friends." So glad I didn't listen, because as a new photographer, I ended up winning first prize for a fine art photo and selling another, and as a new painter, I ended up winning Best of Show for an abstract mixed-media painting and an Honorable Mention for another! I currently have a painting in a national juried exhibit.

As for critics, bring it on. Either I will see your point and gratefully take your advice, or I will realize you have an agenda to bring down perfectly good work and will immediately submit it to the next juried show as is. I've done both and have gone on to have success with pieces I've reworked thanks to someone's input, and a piece that someone strongly hated ... which became my first fine art photo to sell from the art gallery wall. Evoking strong feelings is a good sign ...

As for my own artistic style and child's play? Exactly ... I paint my own way, like a child playing a game. I paint because God wants me to. He never said how, so I have fun with it and leave the results to Him.

Donna Clark
Thanks so much for this article Patrick. Many times I've wanted to give up because of pieces not being selected for a juried show. But, as your words state, art is subjective and what one judge may not consider show worthy, another one may. So, I take that in stride and carry on with my work. Your words were encouraging, thoughtful and truthful...thanks so much!

Mary Kenney
Excellent article and work, Patrick. Thank you for reiterating what I've long believed: that there are altogether too many naysayers who try to waylay you on the road to the next level of accomplishment. I'm so glad you ignored their advice!

Erlene E C Flowers
The other thing that this writer has not mentioned is that he has improved since first trying to enter shows that are juried. Secondly, knowingly or unknowingly he has become more aware of who the juror is!

Dennis Sullivan
Thanks for that post. I recently entered a juried online show which involved uploading photos of my work, filing out a detailed form and paying a significant entry fee. All three pieces were rejected. I must admit that smarted a little. The show had about 270 entries and selected 88. So I was not alone. The show sponsors were definitely winners with this plan. What do you think of online entry schemes?


Patrick Faile
Dennis, I think online exhibitions are the wave of the future. Online exhibitions are much less expensive for the artist, as you save the framing, shipping, and handling costs. With that said, I hope museum and gallery exhibitions never disappear. Viewing art in person, full size will never be replaced by online exhibitions. I hope.

Remember that juror's taste are subjective too. If you believe in your work, don't give up, but do your homework and be prepared for the exhibition.

Moon Sheila
Thank you for your comments.

I recently retired and entered my first juried show. It was very exciting, and I felt like I was with -my people” for the first time in my life. My art did make the -short list”, so I felt really good about that.

My question is, should one wait until they have considerable inventory before starting to seriously market your work?? As you stated, it seems to me, that with each painting I do, the previous work looks amateurish. This makes me feel like nothing is good enough.

Marijane Stomberg
Thank you so much for that well-written, informative article.
Most importantly, one's artistic attitude/mindset should be open to criticism but never controlled by it. You must be able to take rejection, realizing that your and the juror's decisions could be as diametrically opposed as your art leanings, styles. So, take a chance with your art, share it and let the viewer receive what he receives from it. After all, it took years, for example, for abstract art to survive and become an art form, as experienced by Kandinsky, Picasso. The public thought these artists were foolish to think that a splattering of multicolors on canvas would provoke an interest! But it did! And their fame is now glowing history.

Sheri Oriona Meadows
Thank You for some very solid advice.

Jim Serrett
Hi Patrick.

I agree with most of that, especially don't be deterred by rejections. Two things I would point out, one that you have to be selective about the shows you enter, especially with as many fee based competition as there are now, odds are if your work shows any degree of competence it will get in. Juried shows generate a lot of money for the organizers. And there is very little transparency why something gets in or not, let alone why something wins. Just know who the organization is and what kind of shows they have hung in the past.

Second thing would be -art is subjective”, we use that idea to often to except that everything is art, but in -competition” there are qualifiers and a set of criteria., just think of the simple elements of art and principles of design. A bad composition is a bad composition, poor draftsmanship is poor draftsmanship, lack of unity is lack of unity. You can go on and on, none of that can be defended by the -Art is subjective” ” phrase, which is the reaction to something is based on and influenced by personal feelings, tastes, or opinions.

Work in competition is, or should be judge on personal expression, technique, and skill. I guess the argument could be that expression is more important than the other two, but I believe the higher your skill set the larger your tool box the more personal expression is possible. That understanding the craft of painting creates greater freedom of expression.

Just my thought, good article.

Chuck Jones
Thank you for posting this. I have experienced over my past 40 years of painting and it's nice to know others have too. When enter a painting in one and it get accepted and wins an award and the same painting rejected in the next show. competition can be brutal!.

Ken Bryant
Thank you for this post. Very valuable information.

Susan N Jarvis
Wow. Very timely article for me. Thanks for the tips!!

Patrick Faile
Hi Jim,
Don't discount subjectivity of a juror. I agree that skills most certainly increase your chances of being accepted into a juried exhibition, but all things being equal, the juror's taste or opinion is going to decide who's in or out. For instance, I've seen some of the best get rejected. I won't name names here, but I've seen artists who regularly sell their work in the five digit range be rejected to exhibitions. All you can do is provide the best quality of work you can produce and try to continuously improve.

Mark Brockman
Most juried shows are a crap-shoot, but entering them is a good idea, it helps you see where your stands against others. But you deffinatly need a think skin and determination. When I get rejected it makes me want to work harder not give up. Never give up.

Cherie Salinas
Write another comment . . .

Cherie Salinas
Great article about juried art shows.

Nancy Horwick
I really enjoyed and agreed with, your article. I entered my first show at my teacher's urging, sold a couple of paintings, and just kept on entering! Won some, lost some. When I look at the work I was doing at the time, I cringe, BUT the experience I gained, and the confidence, is priceless.
Thanks for your insight!

I agree. Just go for it. What's the worst thing that could happen? You are out a few dollars for the entry fee. And, you can't take things too seriously. Every judge is different. It's all very subjective. And yeah - thick skin is developed. But - should you be accepted - what a great joy!

Ulrike Opitz
Thank you! This is really sound advice!
Just never be discouraged!

Faye Gustafson
Thank you Patrick for great advice!
Some days I feel like Vincent Van Gough must have
felt! Now look at the value of his work. It is to bad he did not get to enjoy any of the rewards, but that is life.

My rejection slips are so many perhaps I'll use them for wallpaper! In the meantime I remind myself of my successes and strive to create even better artwork.

Mary Elle
Having just attended Paul Jackson's workshop, I would add this: If you want to get your painting into the show, paint with lots of contrast, strong values. The award winners are the ones that make the most of the middle values.

Juan Shen
Thank for your encouraging and wise advice, very helpful!

Yvonne Magee
Thanks so very much for this post! Your taking the time to share this encouragement means a lot. I WILL have the courage now to enter juried shows.

Zan Thompson
Totally Agree! Well said.

Joanie Wolter
I was rejected the first time I tried to enter a juried show. I felt discouraged and talked to a good friend who is a successful sculptor about it. She told me a story about herself, where she was juried into show in Laguna, Ca. She won best a show and a couple more awards there. She applied for another juried show close by with the exact same piece, and didn't get accepted. It all depends on what the juror is looking for and is very arbitrary. I've not had my feelers hurt since then!

I've also learned to have top quality photos of my art when submitting. With my pieces, I have to spend the money to go to a professional artist. It's money well spent, and I don't complain.

Marijane Stomberg
Thanks for your input. Great.

Debra Kay
Thank you for your heartfelt and encouraging post, Patrick. On a personal level, I identify with you in that I too was married in the early 80s and just last week we celebrated our 36th anniversary. I am also recently retired, and now beginning my "full time" artist career (much to be done and learned!). I will remember your advice as I move ahead, and as I continue to pursue what I believe to be beautiful and meaningful.


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