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2017 is well underway now and because we all know how time flies, perhaps, this is the perfect time to talk about this summer and fall! Our pastel society will be having two shows in 2017; a juried art show in August and a member show in October. These are great opportunities for individual artists and our organization - recruiting new members, helping current members, and building community relationships. As an organization, we want to represent all of our members and make sure everyone has the chance to show and submit entries. Also, we want to show the community our best, help them understand our mission and unite pastel artists in our area. With that in mind, knowing that putting our ‘best’ work forward isn’t as easy as it sounds, I decided to delve into what judges look for in show entries. The difference between the artist and judges’ impression of their work is interesting. Often, what we think is our best, because of a personal connection, does not resonate with others. So, how can we critically look at our own work?

Research showed, there is a repeated theme of elements to concentrate on. The top three things judges look for when viewing art for a show are:

  • Composition - Any one or combination of

  • Design

  • Value

  • Color

  • Strong focus and/or idea - draw them in through the subject or idea

  • Freshness - Incorporates

  • passion - feel that the artist had to paint the subject

  • excitement - the physical draw to the painting

  • breathing room, areas for the eyes to rest as they move around the image

Other elements that were repeated in the research;

  • Mood - keep it consistent

  • Consistency of Style - if you’re working in an impressionistic style use it through out the entire piece

  • Technical Proficiency

With regard to technical proficiency, the research strongly indicated this was looked at last. Technical proficiency does not necessarily make a great painting, and in reverse, lack of technical mastery does not always distract from a great painting. Good news for us beginners as we work to master our medium!

One great thought from artist, Bill Hosner, is that when you think about showing some of your work, show a few people - your "test market". These can be people who know you and your work, have been following you, and are not necessarily artists. If you hear "Wow" and there is much discussion, then you have some great pieces. If you hear "that's nice" or "I like that", then maybe those shouldn’t get entered. He also suggested asking artists you associate with direct questions, like, "is the composition strong?” or “are the colors balanced?” This can begin a real discussion about the technical aspects of the work.

A couple other items to note:

Everything I read reiterated to keep entering shows. Rejection at one doesn’t mean rejection at another. Many of these shows have several hundred submissions, even thousands. Rejection doesn’t mean your work isn’t good. The judges could have just viewed hundreds of works before yours and were tired.

In order to be competitive in front of the judges, your submission photo has to be professional. Judges look at each submission for an average of 3 seconds. If a poor quality photo is submitted, you don’t stand a chance.

March’s column will focus entirely on photographing your work, it’s importance and tips on how to do it. Please let me know if you have any thoughts on this column, would like more information and source material or have any questions.

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