In an earlier post I talked a little bit about what juried art shows are and how they work. In this post I’d like to share a little acquired wisdom and tips related to applying to art shows. This information is geared primarily to new artists, but the rest of the human race with an interest in the arts might find this under-the-hood look worthwhile, too!
How Do You Get Accepted to a Juried Show?
That’s the million dollar question! Some new artists I’ve met think it’s as simple as snapping some photos and submitting their work. Not the case. And a recipe for failure. There is much that is in control of the artist to make your work appear professional and stand out. Here are a few tips to consider if you’re serious about getting accepted to juried art shows.
OK, you’ve got a body of work and you’ve found a show you want to do. What’s next?
1) Get Online
First off, virtually all shows use one of the main online services to manage show applications. (We used to mail in slides, which jurors loaded into multiple carousels for viewing. Ah, the good old days.)
Once you create an account (which is free), the services allow you to upload create a database of digital images that you can use to apply to various shows — for a fee. Be ready to pay anywhere from $30 to $50 just to get a jury to look at your images.
Learn your way around the primary services, Zapplication and JuriedArtServices. They each have their own quirks, but happily they at least now use the same file formats for images. Creating custom-formatted images for each was a major pain back in the day. There are a few other smaller services, but once you have these two figured out, the rest will hold no terrors for you.
Check out the “Frequently Asked Questions” and “Image Preparations” sections of each site for more detail on what exactly they require.
2) Consider Investing in a Photographer
Unless you have experience with fancy, high quality cameras, angles, lighting, spacial elements and such, it’s best to hire a pro. It makes a difference and jurors notice. If you know other artists in your area, ask for a referral.
Should you decide to go it alone (I know photographers can be expensive), there are some pretty slick, free tools out there that can help up your quality. Pixlr is a lightweight alternative to Photoshop. You can re-size your photos, remove that goober that showed up in the background, tone down colors, fix blurs, and more. Invest the time to learn this or a similar tool; it can really be useful.
3) Find your Theme
It’s often tempting to submit pieces that represent your entire portfolio, but doing so can make it appear that you lack focus. Shoot for a theme in your submissions. Ensure that they represent a cohesive body of work.
You might also look at what work has been accepted in the past at the show and evaluate if your work fits within the show’s tastes and standards. Of course, they might also be looking for something new, so don’t be shy. But the truth is that some shows don’t seem to be interested in certain types of art and a little research might same you time and money.
4) Be Thorough With Your Application
This may seem like a no-brainer, but you’d be surprised how incomplete some artist submissions can be. Pay attention to exactly what they are asking for and do it! Taking the time to thoughtfully write the descriptions of each piece, dimensions and unique aspects can make all the difference. Use strong, descriptive language.
The variation in requirements among shows is impressive. Some want three art images and a booth shot. Some want five images and no booth shot. Some require extensive artist information; don’t care to know anything about you. Just give them what they want and nobody will get hurt…
5) Your Image Order Matters
First off, depending on how the show is juried, jurors may look at your images from left to right with the booth shot last, or stacked in a variety of ways. Be sure to use the “juror preview” feature in the application software to see what your application will look like when it counts.
Many artists will say to put your strongest work and images at the bottom or end of the group. This is because jurors typically view each artists work initially from left to right and top to bottom. And they can come back to the work, viewing it in the opposite direction, bottom to top and right to left. This is why conventional thought is to have your strongest work at the end, to draw the judges eyes to the rest of the work — you want them to come back for a second look.
Another visual tip is to have your first image, the one that appears on the left (or upper-left, top row) to be an image that turns inward and to the right. This brings the work together, a book-end if you will.
This is totally not the last word on image order. Sorry, but there’s a ton of “art” to this. It’s not a science. Everybody has an opinion about which direction pieces should face, the interspersing of vertical and horizontal images, and so on. If you figure out the magic formula, I’d love to hear from you.
That’s enough for now. There’s a lot more to be shared about this topic, and I’m going to do it in another blog…”5 More More Things Artists Should Know”
Well, I hope I was able to shed a little light on applying to juried art shows for those of you new to the industry or process. Feel free to share this article if you’ve found it useful, I look forward to sharing and writing more in between traveling for shows!