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Thursday, September 8, 2011

The #1 Reason to Enter Juried Shows

"Denman Island"
oil on linen - 14 x 24"

I recently read an article titled: Awards and Ribbons - Who Really Cares? While the author, Jack White, makes some valid points about cost vs. financial payback, and the potential for misguided egoic motivation in this pursuit -  I believe a very important payoff is missing from his argument.

If you don't read his entire article (though I think you should) - it makes the point: "All the juried ribbons and plastic trophies will not help you generate any real sales or give you fame. What do you want to do, win ribbons or earn money?"

These are two options available to us. I would like to add: What if your goal is to become the best artist you can in this lifetime?

Raising the Bar
Is there space for more than simply winning awards or selling paintings? I believe some of us go after the awards not because we think the awards will sell our art, but because of what happens to our art in pursuit of them.

If you want to play in the big leagues you have to hone your skills to a big league level. There is a vast difference between assessing your painting from the perspective, "Is it saleable?", and a perspective that asks, "Could it hold it's own beside the high caliber painters that will likely be entering this show?"

If your primary focus is making money, this might feel like the long way around. Perhaps unnecessary. Perhaps even a recipe for disappointment and dissatisfaction.

If your primary focus is mastery, I propose there's enormous value to be had here, despite the sometimes frustratingly high costs associated with it. As for the sting of rejection, put your game face on - stiff competition is the point.

Determined Practice
Ultimately it comes down to what Daniel Coyle, author of The Talent Code, calls 'determined practice'. You will get somewhat better putting 10,000 hours of brush time behind you.

You will achieve excellence and rise to the top of your game if the 10.000 hours includes consistently focusing on your weaknesses with the intent to replace them with both skillful handling of your chosen medium, and mastery of the underlying principles of painting in general.

I believe in the end this choice will lead you to both extraordinary satisfaction with your art, and the financial compensation that it deserves. (Patience and faith required.)

"Los Cuatro Amigos"
oil on linen - 16 x 20"

"Denman Island", featured at the top of the this post, was recently juried into the 2nd Annual AIRS show hosted by the Federation of Canadian Artists in Vancouver this October.

"Los Cuatro Amigos" has just been juried into the Oil Painters of America 2011 Regional Exhibition . (Some of you may recall that this painting also won Best of Show this March in the Raymar Fine Art Competition.)

I love that these paintings got accepted - and - both of them were declined from the first shows I entered them in. When a painting is rejected, I do my best to take an even harder critical look at it, and if it still feels like one of my better works, I send it back out there for another lap in front of the judges.  If you know in your heart your piece has merit, it's worth trying a few shows before retiring it from the competition circuit, while working in the background to create paintings that soar even higher!


  1. Good article - I am not a fan of juried shows, but am very interested in mastery. Not sure you need to enter juried shows to follow that path, but can see your point. I think sales probably come with mastery too. Thanks!

  2. Hey Laurel - my intent was not to suggest one needs to enter juried shows to follow the path to mastery, but rather to offer a reason some artists enter them beyond seeking recognition.

    We're missing you in the Bugaboos this year!

  3. "Denman Island" is a masterful piece. I always enjoy hearing your perspective on things. Lots of great thoughts.
    Congratulations on your recent honors. Well deserved!

  4. "denman island" is just stunning. they both are. i so enjoyed reading your thoughts on competition, working hard at improving and having faith in one's work.

  5. Your blog is great, you share so much wonderful information. Your work is amazing too, I recognize your piece from the Raymar competition, I love it. I'll be back.

  6. I was just stepping up to consider juried shows. This may be just the push I need. Thanks for the inspiration, Liz.

  7. Thanks for the post, Liz. Very well said. I thoroughly agree with you.

  8. I love your blog, your paintings and the great info you share. It gives me hope. Thank you.

  9. Great pieces, I remember the boys. Great post. I read it through twice. Good points.