Every artist gets to choose their own personal criteria for and definition of success. For me, it’s getting into and winning awards in national juried shows. Don’t get me wrong, I do like selling my work, but selling a painting doesn’t give me the same satisfaction and sense of being a “real” artist that I get when I’ve been accepted in or won an award in a major national show. For me, that signifies being recognized, accepted, and respected by my peers. Here are five more good reasons for entering juried shows:
- To see how your work stacks up. Juried shows are probably the best place for emerging artists who are really serious about their work to see how their work stacks up when compared to what is often considered to be the “best” work being done today in their medium.
- Exposure. The more people see your name and your work, the more they will remember it. National shows give you an opportunity to receive the kind of national exposure you might not otherwise be able to get.
- The catalog. Exhibition catalogs that contain reproductions of your paintings are great additions to your portfolio when you approach prospective clients, galleries, and teaching venues. Today, most exhibition catalogs contain photos of all the accepted paintings, not just the award winners. When your name and work appear in print, it’s often given instant credibility and validation.
- Awards money. A lot of money is given out in competitive juried exhibitions, especially the top tier shows. For instance, this year the American Watercolor Society gave out an estimated $40,000.00 in cash awards.
- To discover your personal best. I believe that by far, the best reason for entering juried exhibitions is that they are the very best arenas I know of for artists to discover their personal best and put it on the line. This is a place and an opportunity to answer the question (which, buy the way only YOU can answer), “what does my very best work look like?” “If I were to begin my masterpiece painting today, what would it be?” Juried shows for artists are what the Olympics are for athletes – a place where good enough just won’t do – it a place to “go for it” with all the passion you can muster.
Often, artists don’t or won’t put themselves in the position of demanding from themselves their very best work. This is most likely because they’re afraid of being disappointed or they’re afraid that even if they give it their very best efforts, their work still won’t be good enough. We all know how easy it is to go into the studio and just putter away, finding all sorts of reasons for letting ourselves off the hook. We’re not ready yet, we haven’t learned enought yet, we have to take another class or buy another book, or we have to go to the store and buy the right brush – YOU KNOW – all those reasons we give ourselves that keep us settling for “good enough” paintings. Well, here is one place where good enough isn’t good enough! Juried shows are great precisely because they demand so much more of us – our personal best.