I am an artist, not a writer. My Intent is not to educate, enlighten or inspire but rather to clarify my motivations to myself. I find that when I write down the thoughts and reasons that I take certain paths, it helps me to avoid repeating the same mistakes over and over again. Let's face it, authentic work evolves through a series of mistakes, lessons learned and options eliminated.

Tuesday, March 8, 2011

Should Juried Competitions Effect the Evolution of an Artists?

When I was first beginning my career, I entered many juried competitions. It seemed the thing to do. It was always a roller-coaster ride of emotions. I either felt vindicated and on my way to superstardom, or I felt I had been found out and recognized as the no-talent pretender I really was. It all depended upon the likes or dislikes of a particular juror. The more prestigious the juror, the more extreme the hills and valleys. I can't help but feel that the direction of my early work was, to some extent, steered one way or another by encounters with people whom I considered experts. Was this a bad thing? I must admit, looking back, it forced me to examine my directions and motivations in a new and sometimes harsh light, removed from the isolation and safety of my studio. Whether I was acccepted or not, I always did my best to attend the openings, see the art, meet the juror and hear the gallery talk. This process, I believe, contributed immensely to my growth as an artist. Eventually, as I matured, it helped me to develop confidence and the thick skin essential to a working artist. The fact that a piece of work could be rejected, or more politely "declined", by one juror and then awarded "Best of Show" by another, served to underscore the fact that good art is a matter of opinion. When I attended shows where I had been "declined" I would see art that I considered as good or better than mine but I would also see works that I felt were derivative or just plain boring. How could an expert value these over mine? Don't go there! It is all subjective. I have also gotten into shows only to find myself embarrassed to hang next to work far superior to mine. If you put it all in perspective, even the best of shows are eventually reduced to a line on a resume, filling space during a particular year, usually skimmed over or ignored.

So my advice, take them with a grain of salt. Exhibitions can be great learning experiences and help hone your skills. They can be good exposure and lend toward name recognition, but "to thine own self be true." Follow your own path, continue to look within. Your own honest opinion matters more than anything else. It is better to be bad and original than good and derivative.

That being said, I just got into the "2011 Texas National". Yea!!! I'm sorry, it still feels good! There were over 1250 entries from 39 states and mine was one of the 114 selected by juror and well known artist, James Drake, Texas Medal of Honor winner. Reception 6 pm to 8 pm April 9th at the Cole Art Center @ The Old Opera House, 329 East Main Street, Nacogdoches, Texas. I am happy that the chosen piece is small and the crating and shipping won't be much of a hassle. Nacogdoches is only a 4 hour drive from my home, so I am looking forward to being at the reception.

I only enter two or three shows a year nowadays and their acceptance does not carry the weight that it used to. I know that a different juror would pick a different show, one that may or may not include me. But for now, I willingly accept the fact that a peer appreciates my struggle and honest search for relevance.

Below is the "invited" work .

“Abernathy” 18”x 19”
polished cement & dry pigment on panel
(click to enlarge)


  1. Interesting post William

    I'm not a fan of these competitions. I have entered around 4 and rejected from the start. these are the top awards in New Zealand ,
    Now that i'm in one off the top galleries there "asking me" to submit
    I think its rigged and i find myself in another strange situation

    All the best, and your work has an amazing uniqueness
    Keep on Pushing

  2. Congratulations William. A juror once told me a piece I had done fit in so well with the others. He was looking for art that looked good together to make an attractive show for the gallery. Interesting twist on how work is judged.

  3. Thanks David and Carole. Who really knows the criteria of a juror. At best it's a crap shoot. I just know that you can't put much stock in it , win or loose.

  4. Excellent blog. I have been told exactly the same as Carole. As a past juror I was instructed by the establishment to pick paintings that would compliment each other to make a good show. It makes those rejections less painful when they happen. As a submitting artist though, it eats up the money. We never know if that criteria exists when we submit.

    I really like this painting William.

  5. Thanks for dropping by Zappha. I'm following your blog because I can relate to your work on a very personal level. Really great stuff!


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