Having heard from many of you with juror experience, a theme has emerged around the very basics for artists submitting to a juried show. While one regular juror may hinge all on technical merit and another cruises for signs of imagination, a few fundamentals stand out as universal. They’re so simple they serve as a gentle reminder for anyone at any stage of the submission game:
As well as providing important archival protection, most paintings benefit visually from a coat of final varnish. For acrylics, this means UVLS varnish cut 50/50 with water and brushed on or poured and then wiped off with a lint-free rag. Gloss varnish picks up and highlights brushwork, intensifies colours and gives depth to your strokes.
A messy, mishandled or poorly-sized signature steals polish from work that’s otherwise special. It’s worth establishing good, clean calligraphy and style for your final, identifying stroke.
Use the best and most appropriate frame you can afford. Beautifully made, hand-built frames fly too.
Paintings that look like other people’s paintings may not make the cut — I’m talking about techniques picked up in workshops, then replicated in the instructor’s style and subject matter. Do your own thing and take as much time as you need to get there. The same goes for paintings derived from photo reference that belongs to someone or something else.
Can they tell it’s yours? Works that employ an overbearing style or popular technique of the day can get lost in a sea of others doing the same. This goes for a landscape depicting the obvious view of a popular landmark, too. What else is possible? What can be?
PS: “Quality is never an accident; it is always the result of intelligent effort.” (John Ruskin)
“Hell, there are no rules here; we’re trying to accomplish something.” (Thomas Edison)
Esoterica: Regarding clubs and juried shows — love them or hate them — I notice that when artists get together to advance knowledge and appreciation of their calling, to share exhibition and learning opportunities and to support one another as amateurs and professionals, a few basics can go a long way. Open calls aspire to shake the art tree for jewels and celebrate an ever-blossoming potential. Jurors have a responsibility to stay open to new ideas and systems while upholding standards so that all may rise. They also learn by looking at the triumphs and mishaps of others on the same path — by experiencing new and old ideas, applied. Organizations looking too inwardly, or that operate too narrowly in genre, personnel, region or technique risk homogenizing. In the attempt, we strive together for something greater than what we might achieve on our own. “We must have ideals and try to live up to them, even if we never quite succeed. Life would be a sorry business without them. With them it’s grand and great.” (Lucy Maud Montgomery)
In 2011 Fiona Rae was appointed Professor of Painting at The Royal Academy. Tracy Emin (professor of drawing) and Rae became the first women professors to be appointed in the history of the Academy.