Saturday, January 30, 2010

One Juror's Opinion

Today, I'll share my thoughts on art show jurying.

I was asked to serve as a juror for a local art show for the second time (their 2002 show was my first time), and we met on Saturday. There were over 250 applicants for 170 spaces, across ten categories, including wood, ceramics, jewelry, glass, 2-D, 3-D and photography. Each applicant was asked to provide five images, one of which was a booth shot. It was the first time the show accepted images on CD (previously only slides were accepted), and we four jurors were asked to rate each entry on a scale of 1 to 10, as we viewed each submission in turn, with all five images projected onscreen at once.

Some things to consider when you're applying to art shows similar to this:

1. Be sure to follow instructions for size, DPI, and dimensions--all of this matters! There were many, many entries which were too submitted at too small a size or too low a resolution for projection. These were very noticeable, and it was virtually impossible to see details of the work (since when enlarged, they became too pixilated). Of course, these artists suffered in ratings; if the jury can't see the work clearly, it will not score well.

2. Be sure your images are in focus.
This should go without saying, but clearly some artists need to be reminded. Again, if the jury can't make out what you're showing because it's blurry, you'll get a low score. Be aware of focus and resolution and the impact they have once your images are projected onscreen. If you need assistance with this, one place to start is at an online application site, such as You don't even have to register on the site; you can read about their requirements for online image submission here. Also keep in mind the visual overload to which jurors are subjected. We saw 266 entrants times 5 slides each, over a 5-hour time period. That's over 1,300 images (now I know why I had a headache all day yesterday!), so if you want your images to stand out, make sure they're in focus!

3. Speaking of standing out, be sure your images are lit well.
Once your image in focus, at the right size and DPI, the lighting of your object becomes vital. Yes, you can have a dark background, with a well-lit piece upon it--that works. If you have a dark background, dark object, and poor lighting--that definitely does not work. You want the jurors to be wowed by your object. Great lighting will do this.

4. Minimize distractions!
I won't say you can't set your artwork upon an interesting background pattern or, in the case of jewelry, upon an interesting object (one artist showed bracelets on a bed of raw white rice, which worked because the pieces were dark beads). What I will say is that you want the jurors to be wowed by your work, not distracted by what it's sitting on. If you're spending more time deciding on what to place your work upon than the work itself, go back to the basics, and minimize distractions. Remember, the jurors want to see the best examples of your work in your images; your display flair can and should be shown in the booth image.

5. Understand why jurors want to see your booth image.
If it says you shouldn't show your company name or yourself in the booth image, don't. This jury process was supposed to be blind; in the cases where we saw names or people, it clearly wasn't. Jurors want to see how well you present your work in a show setting. And, sometimes, if they're 'on the fence' about your work, the booth image can sway them. I rated artists with good looking work and sloppy or unprofessional looking booths much lower than those with good looking work and well done displays. Having done it myself, I know it's a challenge to come up with an attractive booth set up, but I believe if an artist hasn't spent the time to show off what she's created, it says she's not serious about her work. And, if she's not serious about her work, she can't reasonably expect others to take it seriously.

If you haven't done a show yet, but want to apply to a show which requires a booth image, set up your display in your backyard, or in your driveway. If you crop the photograph well, you may even be able to disguise the fact it's not at an actual show. Again, the way you display your work is most important, not the surroundings.

6. Be sure you're showing consistent work: don't confuse the jurors!
If you do bright, abstract paintings, don't show 2 images of those, 1 of a more muted palette, with more representational objects, and 1 with your semi-realistic depiction of a well-known painting of an ocean wave, and a booth image showing indistinct, blurry work in a well-desgined tent display (this was an actual submission). Confusing to say the least. We asked: What is this artist's focus? Unclear. What is he or she best at? Up for interpretation. You do not want to leave jurors with the impression you're not sure what you're good at or what you're focused upon. That artist got a low score from me. If he or she had chosen one direction, presented all images of work with that focus, along with the booth image, I would have scored it much higher.

7. If you're asked for an artist's statement, provide it, and read it aloud before you include it with your application.
Yes, I'm serious; read it out loud, preferably to someone else. If it doesn't read smoothly, make coherent sense, or contain complete sentences: edit it until it does. There were several laugh-producing artist statements (they weren't meant to be funny), which showed the artists had not done this. If you're asked to describe your techniques, inspiration and/or motivations as they relate to your work, take the time to write a well-constructed paragraph and write legibly! The show director had a tough time with some of them, unable to read the 'chicken scratch' on the applications. Inexcusable.

8. Remember, your images, artist statement and application are the only things the jury has to evaluate your work.
Make these the best they can possibly be, even if it means having professional photographs taken of your work, studying and mastering online/CD submission requirements, writing and rewriting your artist statement, and having someone else proofread your final application. If you do all this, you'll have a better chance of having your work accepted to this one juror's opinion.

By EAOC Member Michelle Davis Petelinz


Patrice-The Soap Seduction said...

I've always shied away from juried shows and/or sites because of fear of not being good enough. I decided to take a chance on 1000 Markets, a juried site, and got accepted. My sales are even starting to pick up.

You've outlined some great tips. Thanks for sharing!

Michelle said...

You're welcome, Patrice. And, congratulations on getting your work accepted to 1000 Markets, and selling there, too. Don't let the fear of 'not being good enough' deter you from exploring juried you found out, taking that step with 1000 Markets worked, so try it again!


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