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How NOT to Win Art Competitions

Aside from unprofessional looking work, one of the most common reasons why artwork isn't selected is simply because people don't read and follow the guidelines! So if you DO want to get accepted, and possibly even win, we offer the following tips. 
1. Make a checklist 
Make a list of everything you need to include in the submission. And make sure you know the deadline! Work out text in Word or other computer software so you'll have a copy if anything happens and your entry is accidentally deleted before you submit it.   Believe me, you'll thank me for this.
2. Do your homework
Read the Call for Entries...ALL THE WAY THROUGH!  If there is a Prospectus, read that, too, to make sure you understand everything that's required and what you're agreeing to.  If possible, check out the artwork already entered or the artwork from previous competitions to get a sense of the kind of work that has already been liked and selected. Check out the juror(s) to see their background and area of interest. Hey, you want to play in the big leagues...no slackers allowed.
3. If you're not sure, ask questions

Call or write to clarify any doubts about the criteria or theme.  It's generally not a bother and it's better to ask than to get it wrong.  While there may be stupid questions, the one that should have been asked but wasn't is a worse offense.

4. Understand the theme
Ensure that your artwork really applies.  Be selective - not all artwork applies to all themes.  While art and competition themes are subjective, you have a better chance of being selected if your work has an obvious connection to the theme.  If there isn't, but you feel strongly that it does apply, make a case for it in your title or artist statement.  Jurors do often read them if they like the entry but have doubts about whether if relates to the theme enough. 
5. Follow all the criteria

Make sure your particular medium is accepted, check to see if there are restrictions like the age of the artwork, whether or not it's available for sale or has been exhibited before.  Again, be selective - the more your work applies to each criteria set the better chance it has of stacking up against other competitors.

6. Use professional looking images

Even if you don't have professionally taken photos, only enter images that look professional: high resolution, in-focus, no frames, no extraneous items in front/next to/behind the artwork, proper lighting without flash reflection.  Think about it...would you expect to see a photo in a winners gallery with a cat in front of the painting or a huge glare from a camera flash?  Ahhh...no!

7. Title the file as requested

With hundreds (or even thousands) of entries it makes it easier to be reviewed and correctly attributed.  If there are no specific instructions, you can't go wrong putting your name and title of the piece.  Trust me, this makes it idiot-proof and helps not to piss off the people processing them!

8. Enter your best

Make sure it's work you're really, REALLY proud of. It should be exciting, different, have a fresh perspective on the subject/theme, or have an interesting slant.  Face it, no one is really interested in a hack derivative of Van Gogh's sunflowers.

9. Proof everything

Before pulling the trigger, read over everything you've filled out; make any corrections needed, fill in anything forgotten; if an entry fee is required, make the correct payment. 

10. Don't give up

If you don't win, don't stop there...learn from the experience. Check out the winners/finalists and see how the quality/look of the work compares to yours and how they addressed the theme.  And remember, jurors are people with subjective likes and dislikes that MAY have no bearing on the quality of your work.  Don't be a Debbie-Downer. Persevere and try again.  And enjoy doing it!



Ready to put these tips to the test? Enter an the ArtSceneToday competition!