Pick me, pick me: Tips for getting your work into juried shows
“Win as if you were used to it, lose as if you enjoyed it for a change.” Ralph Waldo Emerson
The level of success an artist achieves when entering juried shows, obviously relates to the quality of your work. However, artists may be surprised to learn there are many other, not so obvious reasons, their work is selected or rejected.
Picking the RIGHT juried show
One of the most important things you can do, comes before any work is looked at. It has to do with your process in selecting whether or not a juried show is appropriate for your work. I’ve known very few artists who actually go to the trouble of researching who a juror is, and what kind of work they might be attracted to. Before Google, it was a formidable task, but, now, with the internet, it’s a breeze. Before entering any juried show, do your homework. Find out who the juror is. If it is an artist, look at the kind of work they do; if it is a gallerist, look at the artists they represent; if it is a curator, look at the kinds of shows they have put together in the past. This single most important recommendation, is the one that gets most frequently overlooked, and the one that has the most influence on the decision.
Picking the RIGHT work to enter
If you have decided to submit 2 or more pieces, don’t make the mistake of picking work that is disparate. If you tend to work in many different styles concurrently, as many artists do, you need to decide which body of work you think this particular juror will be most receptive to. Each piece you submit should relate stylistically. It gives a juror a much stronger sense of your style, if they can see several pieces that relate to one another.
Preparing the Application
It should go without saying that you should read the prospectus and follow the instructions. Most juried shows have elaborate labeling requirements, shipping requirements or detailed applications. They don’t do this to make your life difficult, but, rather, to make their life easier. Dealing with numerous artist entries, sometimes hundreds, requires an organized system. When an artist strays from the required format, or materials, it is easy to eliminate them without ever looking at the work. Therefore, if an application asks for 6 slides labeled in a specific way, make sure you do it. If they ask for a disk with 10 jpegs organized in a certain format, do it. If you have questions about anything on the application, email or call for clarification, but, make sure you have looked through all the materials first. Let’s face it, juried shows are not cheap, you don’t want to blow it on a technicality.
Finally, a lot of artists make the mistake of sending their application via registered mail, which requires a signature and a special pick up at the post office, YUCK! Unless you are sending actual art , there is no reason to send it registered, or insured…just basic priority mail offers online tracking, so you can check to see that your pack arrived safely. It is also not necessary to send notebooks, folders or elaborate presentations, as the juror never even sees your presentation. In general, an assistant will prepare the images for the juror to review. It is also a no-no to staple your check to your application. Remember, most juried shows receive hundreds of applications, be kind and make it as easy as possible for the assistant. And, please, please, please don’t wait until the last minute to send in your application. It is less stress on you and the organizer, if your package comes in early.
There are a number of good online juried show services. One of the best is CaFE. www.callforentry.org Membership is free. Callforentry.org is sponsored by the Western States Art Federation and is a very effective and highly recommended marketing tool for artists. Step by step instructions for first time users can be found HERE. Please give yourself adequate time to get acquainted with the CaFE system…do yourself a favor and don’t wait until the last minute to apply!
Presenting Your Work
Before you submit your work to juried shows, galleries or collectors, you need to have really great images. This is your single most important expenditure as an artist. Do not skimp here. If your work is not photographed professionally, or well, you will never get the recognition your want, or your work deserves. I’ve juried many, many juried shows where work that looked interesting, was poorly lit or badly photographed and it was impossible to see. Make sure you send the best representation of your work.
If you are lucky enough to be chosen for a juried show you have entered, be proud of yourself! Most juried shows are very competitive and being selected from such a large group of artists means the juror saw something in your work that they were interested in. Make a note of who the juror is and be sure to put them on your mailing list. It’s even a good idea to follow up after the show by sending the juror a thank you note, including a disk, resume/bio, catalog…or, even a simple thank you email with a link to your site. Most jurors have incredible visual memories. I remember work from shows I’ve juried 20 years ago…stay in touch with jurors you know love your work…you never know where it could lead you.
Dealing with Rejection
Jurors look for a lot of different things when putting a show together. Often times, the consideration of how a show will “hang together” becomes more important than a juror’s feelings about one particular piece. In other cases, size or media restrictions eliminate pieces that otherwise would be chosen. Sometimes, the particular venue may have restrictions, such as no nudity (yes, it still happens). In the end, there is no way to predict how or why a juror picks specific pieces. Much of the selection process is based on a sub-conscious response to the work, which is often times based on a lifetime of cumulative visual experiences. Understanding that a rejection from a juried show is not a reflection on your work, is the first step towards becoming a mature professional artist. And, if you haven’t already done so, please take a moment to read the article on my website, “Understanding Rejection.” Above all, give yourself the credit you deserve for putting your work out there, and don’t ever stop trying! You owe it to yourself and to your work…..Good luck!