I am on the Visual Arts Committee for the arts center for which I used to be Director. The committee is charged with selecting exhibits for the following year. We do twelve exhibits a year with some being fixed so generally we have slots for seven or eight shows. Some of these are solo shows and some are group exhibits. A few are invitationals based on a theme, ex, portraits, furniture, costume design, etc.
Each December we put out a call for artists with the deadline for entry the following March. Then the committee, comprised of artists, teachers, gallery owners, and interested community members review the entries and begin to winnow them down. We’re seeking talent, variety in both style and media, and often something just plain different.
What initially began as slide submissions quickly morphed into digital images on CD which has again transitioned to reviewing all the artists in an online forum. This week I’ve looked at over fifty artists. (The first year we put out a call we had over two hundred entries!)
One thing that has struck me is how some artists clearly project a professionalism that others do not. This gives them a big advantage in the review process. So, just what do I mean by this?
- Follow the rules. If you’re asked to submit ten images, then don’t submit three or twenty. Check the size and format that is requested. If an Artist’s Statement or CV is requested, then send one. DO NOT send a link to your web site or a photo of your fancy brochure. You want to make it easy for the judges and they shouldn’t have to go fishing for information.
- Check your photos very carefully. Is the quality up to par or could you do better? There are all kinds of resources online or YouTube about how to take decent photos of your artwork. You don’t want any hot spots, frames, hands holding the work, your dog or the garage door in the image. With affordable digital cameras and editing software, there is no excuse for submitting shabby images.
- Check your computer monitor and view your images on different monitors. If you’re really serious, invest in a monitor calibrator. This will help ensure that your images appear the same across many platforms.
- What work should you submit? Obviously, your best, but more than that. Ask yourself if your work is consistent in quality and impact? Or does it look like everyone else’s work? Is everything too same same or are you working in a distinguishing style? Usually first impressions count so I would suggest lining up your work with your best piece first and your second best piece last in order to make the impression stick. What makes your work stand out? Yes, it may be very well executed but it just may not have that special something. Try to be objective.
- If you are working in more than one style or medium, it is OK to submit more than one portfolio with each submission focusing on a different style or medium. However, that means that should your work be accepted for an exhibit, then your show will be focused on the work that was submitted. Gallery directors understand that the exact pieces you submit for review may no longer be available (unless that was one of the rules), but they expect to see you deliver a show similar in style and content to what was in your application.
- Learn to write a decent Artist Statement. Can you explain your work in half a page or less?
- When you are writing your CV (curricula vitae), start with the newest items first. If you have many, many listings, then highlight some of your most important awards or shows. Summarize the earlier work. Believe me, no one is interested in what you did in kindergarten.
After you submit your portfolio, then relax. You either will or you won’t get in. It’s out of your hands. But learn from the process. It’s OK to contact the gallery or museum to find out if there was anything you could improve or for other helpful suggestions.
You can often find request for portfolios in the back of many artists’ magazines and through online resources, such as, CaFE.org. Some charge a fee and some do not. Again, read the rules. And if you should get accepted for an exhibit, pay particular attention to the conditions and rules of the gallery. But that is a subject for another post.
Read more about submitting your work for a juried show at this link to an earlier post. 5 Tips for Getting into a Juried Show