Wednesday, December 12, 2012

Don’t let Juried Competition turn You into a Coward

(My fellow-artist and friend, Grace, with her watercolor entry)
Entering your work in a juried competition can be intimidating, especially if you’re a self-taught artist. Almost everything you’ve drawn or painted has come from grueling trial and error, and done while comparing yourself to artists with several degrees tacked onto their names or who may have studied abroad.

Ironically, there are many successful self-taught artists. A degree doesn’t guarantee success nor does it immediately make you an artist. In either case, the same principles hold true: practice, practice, practice.

(Third Place in Juried Competition) "With These Hands -- Love" 16 x 20 OIL on canvas
One basic difference between them is that a solid art education provides a foundation that gives the artist an edge. Knowing why a painting works and understanding the building blocks of structure and execution is half the battle. In the end, success is determined by vision, skill, and persistence.

I’ve seen many discussions online about the value of juried competition. Is it worth the money, the time, and the possibility of rejection? The consensus seems to be that it’s rarely worth the money or the 35-40% commission charged for a sale. The value seems to be in promoting the name and the skill of the artist (assuming that they get in the show), and the benefits of adding a “win” to your resume. The odds of winning are somewhat better than winning a lottery, but not much.

(2nd Place Winner -- Juried Competition) "With These Hands -- Wonder" 16 x 20 OIL on canvas
Depending on the judge or juror of the show, your artwork is subject to their particular whims, likes and dislikes, and their own education and past influences. Rejection is somewhat subjective. Even in Art Leagues, I’ve found that the preferences and styles of each artist are effected by teachers in their past.

The thing that bugs me is that if we listened to these voices and followed their suggestions or objections rigidly, we’d all start dishing out artwork in the same dull way without innovation. There would be no Van Gogh’s or Salvador Dali’s; there would be no Thomas Hart Benton’s or Picasso’s.

I love what Andy Warhol said: “Art is what you can get away with!” If we’re always worried about conforming to the rules, or doing something in a particular way, art would become static.

"Fish Market" 18 x 20 Acrylic on canvas
For an artist to stand out, to be unique and to create his or her personal style then risks must be taken; experiments must be tried, rules must be broken. Aah, you say, but first you must know all the rules before they can be broken. Agreed, but the risk is that in sticking too closely to accepted forms and norms you may never get beyond the “copy cat” stage of accepted artistic behavior.

I’m a rebel in my heart of hearts. I’ve always defied fads and fashion. I’ve always created my own style because I couldn’t afford to follow current fashion. What I discovered, even in high school, was that I could create fashion trends by wearing what I had with confidence. Soon others would be wearing something similar.

"Broken" 11 x 14 mixed media on canvas SOLD (Prints available)
The same holds true for artists. Confidently create your own personal vision and you’re bound to be successful.