Whew!.. I have been really busy this past month or so cataloging and preparing the entries for the Mississippi Watercolor Society Grand National Exhibition. I am and have been the slide chairman for many years. It has been an honor to do the job and I have enjoyed the work, as it is exciting to see what the artists from across the nation and some foreign countries send each year. This year the MSWS Board decided to go all digital with our entries. I believe it was a good move for our exhibition. I think it makes the job for the juror much simpler as he or she does not have to get out a projector and screen to view the entries, they simply turn on the computer and study the entries. They select the show and jury for awards after the paintings have arrived at the Mississippi Museum of Art. I do believe most if not all shows will eventually end up with digital format as the slide industry is getting smaller and smaller.
Since I have been entering shows for many years and have been both selected and rejected. I have found insight into both responses; there are always lessons to be learned. It is an exhilarating experience to have your current art work get selected to be in a National or International Exhibition. It is a validation of your endeavor, a way of getting feedback you would not normally receive. This is a nice part of the journey in art, and you should enjoy it for that moment. Add this honor to your biography this is your history and you should record it and learn lessons from the experience. I find these National and International Exhibitions are a great way to advertise your work and if it is possible for you to attend the shows you will meet the other artists and make great connections and friends. Life is after all about connecting and sharing with others.
The rejection can hurt when you receive the letter, but after you get over the initial sting; you can try to decide if the piece you sent really was your best work. I have often found that after the show catalog has been delivered, and I have perused it thoroughly, one reason my painting may not have been selected was that it was mediocre or there were too many that were similar etc. I like to then look at my piece and make decisions on where I think I could improve the painting, this is another great process of entering shows, it makes you take a more serious look at what you are painting and how your are presenting your work to the public. I believe you can turn every rejection into a positive experience for yourself.
Entering shows has always been an expensive endeavor and you should be warned it is getting much more pricey, especially the cost of shipping. Even still it is still a good way to get your work out in the public eye, especially if you from a rural area like me.
As of late, I have entered a few online competitions as well, and they are nice but there is no comparison to seeing art in person. In person the actuality of the work the size of the art itself comes into play as well as the application of the paint to the surface. Perhaps the difference is even in the museum or gallery or just the other people in the room. I have thought about this often and I think it is the experience in itself that makes the art seem superior to the computer screen, reality is everywhere today, we have reality TV, reality radio, reality videos…etc and I think we as humans like to be with other humans and experience their reactions and when we are in a museum or gallery viewing art we are enabled to do just that and it enhances the experience to a new level. I do think the digital competitions may have a place in our world as entering them will completely do away with shipping and handling which runs the gamut of prices and hinders many artists from entering shows today. The effect of the show for the artist entering is still there in the online competition so they do serve the purpose in their own way.
I would not give anything for the honor of being selected for the shows that I have been a part of in the past and the ones I hope to be a part of in the future. I know that they have been an integral part of my growth as an artist. We all need a pat on the back and the feeling of inclusion.
For some that have not entered here are a few tips I have learned along the way on entering shows.
1. Read the prospectus carefully and then go back and reread it. I sometimes think gnomes come in at night and rewrite it changing the instructions, as when I reread it I see things I missed the first time.
2. Prepare your slides or digital entry with care:
a. Make sure when you photograph your painting, the whole frame is your image and that you do not include your studio as a background or your cat’s tail in front of the painting as they are interesting but they are huge distractions to your work. It actually looks best if the painting’s frame and mat are not in the slide or digital, it should be nothing but the painting itself.
b. Make sure it is in focus as an out of focus painting simply looks out of focus to a juror and gives the appearance of an artist who did not care enough to make the shot a good one.
c. The rules for digital entry are different for every show, so carefully resize, and save your digital in the proper format. I do think their will begin to be a more universal approach to this in the future but until then read and follow their instructions.
d. If you are shooting a digital photo of an acrylic or oil painting that has a varnish on it be aware that the surface will be harder to get an accurate image, as the reflections will be hard to minimize. It is usually easier to take the shot before you varnish the piece.
e. If you are shooting a watercolor, pastel, or drawing, shoot it before you frame it under glass, as it is really hard to shoot photos of images after they are framed. My biggest tip is when you finish a painting, grab your camera and take a photo or two of it, this is for two reasons, you will have this for your portfolio and as a record of your work and it is there for you to enter into a competition should you choose to do so.
3. I crate my work using AirFloat Crates, I have found no better crates for shipping art work. They are not that expensive if you consider that you can reuse them for other shows. Here is a tip, I always tape a photograph of my painting with my name, address, phone, and email to the inside top of my AirFloat container, just as a help to the handlers in case there is any mix up etc.
AirFloat website :www.airfloatsys.com
4. Pack your painting carefully. Assume it will be treated as airport luggage and take extra care with the cushioning. Under no circumstances send any painting with foam peanuts, most shows will not accept it. Do not send paintings under glass use only plexiglass or acrylic for your glazing. I do not know of any shows that will accept glass.
5. I use Fed Express to ship, I have had great experiences with them and their drivers have been so nice to work with. I am sure there are other shippers that are the same or even better, but this has been my personal experience and you have to gain confidence in your shipper. Who ever you choose to use, open an account with them, it gives you some perks and makes shipping much easier.
I hope you will enter the some of the shows either at a regional, state, national or international level. It will help your growth as an artist and possibly your growth as a person in process. It will humble, honor and help you as you paint new works of art, as this has been my experience with entering exhibitions. If not, I hope you will be inspired to look at your work as if you are entering it in to show, lingering a bit longer when assessing your work. I think it will make you a stronger artist in the process. Thank you again for reading my blog. I hope you have a great week.