The electronic jury


Dear Artist,

Last weekend I was one of three members of an electronic jury. This is where an art exhibition is juried by a variety of jurors who do not necessarily have to get together in one place. More to the point, entrants need not deliver works until they are accepted. They submit jpegs by email. In this case the entries arrived at my studio nicely ordered on a CD.

First, I gave myself a slide show of the works to get an idea of the general quality. We were told they needed 75 to be chosen out of 181 entries. I suggested the “one in, goes in” system. This is a voting system where any “in” from any juror gets in. I suggested that we each choose 40 and then merge our lists. This formula of three jurors times 40 selected, when you take in the inevitable agreement on “ins,” will produce about the number required. Prize winners are chosen from the duplicate “ins,” and that’s where the fun begins.

Ideally, the works entered are indexed and clickable something like this:

1. Smith, Sally, “Night on the Nile” 16″ x 20″ oil

2. Brown, Billy, “Dawn on the Don” 18″ x 24″ pastel, etc.

A disadvantage of the electronic jury system is that jurors can only guess at the power of scale — both large and small. Furthermore, texture and patina are not as easily appreciated as in the real thing. Also, the photos themselves can be out of whack. Glare, colour, focus and centering are the main boo-boos. Also, by over-enthusiastic cropping, framing may not be knowable. In live jurying, perfectly fine paintings can be unpleasantly thrown out because of the influence of substandard framing.

On the other hand, electronic jurying allows thoughtful consideration over a period of time by each juror in a relaxed and private setting. Just as I believe in contemplation in the act of creating art, I also believe in contemplation in looking and seeing. It’s a luxury to look things over in your own sweet time — full-screen jpegs can be a joy to view. Furthermore, electronic jurors can be had from other continents — people most likely to be unfamiliar with the names and reputations of entrants. This is a good thing. George Bernard Shaw noted that “an expert is a man from another village.” He didn’t mention that electronic jurying saves airfare.

Best regards,


PS: “Contemplation is the root of awareness and creativity.” (Sandra Chantry)

Esoterica: Another advantage of electronic jurying is that jurors tend not to influence one another. A silent jury has integrity. Jurors with perceived or demanded authority should not, in my opinion, be allowed to sway other jurors. Discussion need only take place over plagiarism concerns and the final selection of awards. This can often be done, simply and effectively, over the telephone. And where, you might ask, can these distant but balanced wizards of judgment be found? A good place to start is in our own art directory. It can’t hurt to send an email, and ask.


Rewards of online jurying
by Elin Pendleton, Wildomar, CA, USA


“Friend’s Roses”
oil painting, 20 x 16 inches
by Elin Pendleton

The Women Artists of the West have gone to online jurying for our first membership show this year, and the process has been extremely rewarding. It is less labor-intensive than assembling CDs or slides and gathering a geographically diverse group, which is hardly possible in our large organization. Each applicant is required to submit their images in a specific format via the Web. I have used a different system for applying to shows, managed by, but the image format submission is the same. Anyone with a working knowledge of a digital camera and a photo editing software can handle it. WAOW used Cafe, and I have to tell you that to sit and jury at one’s leisure (within our group’s time frame) was quite a pleasure. And also the final jurying can be done at the show itself, when the originals arrive. Yes, not seeing the “real work” for a jurying can deny an artist the ability to present the full force of their message. However, the system of outside management of a jury process is visually no different than the quickly obsolete slide projection system. I’m glad to see it going thusly, and hope it will continue.


Missing strokes
by Linda Muttitt, Fort Langley, BC, Canada


“The Naturalists”
acrylic painting, 32 x 22 inches
by Linda Muttitt

While I agree that viewing art through electronic means can provide a great privacy and the luxury of time to sit in consideration, there is something fundamentally missing — the wonder of standing close to the brushstrokes of another painter, of feeling the energy that seems embodied in the tender or bold strokes of an artist full of great intention.

We are becoming separated from the source of each other’s voice, whether the voice be in writing, art, music, human language. We are learning to find ways to make interaction convenient, rather than direct and personally engaging. Even though we do not stand alongside the artist who created each work of art, we need to stay as close as possible to that inspiration. Being present in a room of art pulls our minds and spirits into another place. It is something very difficult to articulate, but it is, nevertheless, intensely real. Like sitting by a lake, or smelling the forest in a walk through it, we cannot fully appreciate what is there through photographs of those places, no matter how skillfully they are taken. Why not have both, but never to the exclusion of the direct contact.


Digitals superior to slides
by Clint Watson, San Antonio, TX, USA

As a former gallery owner, I had the opportunity to be a juror in several exhibitions. As a software craftsman specializing in applications for artists, I have developed software to make electronic jurying possible for my clients. I have found that it solves a multitude of problems. It is easier and less expensive for the artists to submit digital images through a website than to go to the trouble to send slides. It’s easier on the exhibit organizers because all the data entry is done by the artists themselves when they make the entries. It cuts down on transcription errors too.

Good photography is always critical in absence of the real thing. I have found that digital images, when done properly, are actually superior to slides. In one show I participated in, the entries were made electronically, but then the digital images were converted to slides for jurying. The slide quality resulting from this process was far superior to “traditional” slides.

In any case, whether it’s a purely electronic system or a “hybrid” of digital and traditional, there can be no arguing that the Internet is hitting its stride in the art world. Technology is changing the way artists connect with collectors and with dealers… for the better, if you ask me.


Distortions from canvas to camera
by Joris Van Daele, London, ON, Canada


“Hope, Dance #6”
original photograph
by Joris Van Daele

Have you ever seen a famous painting that everyone has seen in books — and then see it in real life, and are just amazed at how different it really is from what you perceived from the online image or illustration in the book(s) you saw it in? As an art photographer, and a painter, I must express my concern over any judging of paintings via electronic means. It’s worse than paintings in print. The electronic-photographic medium, experienced through monitors, is an entirely different visual medium, and cannot be used to judge others. To begin with, they have a totally different color gamut that uses additive light transmission rather that a negative color absorption/reflection mechanism like paint. Add to that the great hue, saturation and value distortions from canvas to camera, then monitor, that also hamper the esthetics. Then add, scale, texture, and the other factors and I think you can understand that this medium-warp is too much to suggest viewing images of paintings through monitors. It’s possibly worse than judging sculpture through photos — what about lighting, scale, color, texture, feel, perspective, etc. At least we can use other visual clues to guess what the piece may look like. Yet these same factors are significant components of a painting’s visual message. Don’t go there!


Jurying could be anonymous
by Gene Black, Anniston, AL, USA

I love the idea of electronic jurying and the fact that it could be totally anonymous — thus anyone judging would not be swayed by an artist’s name and reputation. One rather odd thing I have seen in a juried show prospectus is this: “A preliminary judging of the submitted artwork will take place based on the 35 mm color slides in cardboard or plastic mounts or images in a jpg or pdf format sent on a compact disk (cd). No names should appear on any artwork. We will ask you to sign the work before the exhibition.” In other words, “don’t sign before having photos made.” This eliminates the signature causing a change in a juror’s opinion. Electronic jurying allows more people to enter shows and also allows for the possibility of a jury process that is not skewed by name recognition.


The camera can take you to court
by Peter Brown, Oakland, CA, USA


“Laundry and TV”
original photograph
by Peter Brown

There is no jury “short cut” that comes close to the actual pieces of art involved. When jurying, actual pieces of art are where one should be looking. The best exhibit is the goal. The “short cuts” are illusions of color and scale. One cannot rely on slides or photos. One certainly cannot rely on jpegs. The piece of work, palpable, and sitting next to another work of art, is the only credible source for an aesthetic judgment. To pretend that a jpeg is a painting is just silly. A juror should demand some integrity, as should artists.

I have had 25 years of experience with this. My public gallery once accepted a very large piece based on a slide. When it arrived, it contained visual information that was totally inappropriate. This included sexual intercourse between humans and animals in low contrast. It was a set up. It was a cause celeb. To include this painting in the show, I had to hang it in my office, as a compromise. We all learned something from this circumstance. Put nothing between the eye of the juror and the actual piece of art. The camera lies, and that lie can take you to court.

Let’s not be naive. Some artists are looking for a way to take you to court. They might even send a deceptive photo. Your non-profit may pay the price. It maybe much worse than just living with something horrible for six weeks.


CD better than slide or email submission
by Deirdre Fox, Chicago, IL, USA

It will be nice when one does not have to have both slides and CDs! I am happy to see the move toward CDs. Most jurying is not on the actual piece, in my experience; rather, if it’s not by CD, it’s by slide. Slides suffer from the same scale and color vagaries/distortions as CD images, and duplicate slides add up to more expense for the artist. I prefer CD submission over email submission, as emails usually are very limited on file size. It is probably a good practice to embed a watermark in your images or, if not, to only use lower resolution images like 72 dpi, to protect against unauthorized copying.


Best is single, reputable, local juror
by Judi Birnberg, Sherman Oaks, CA, USA

I’ve been in many shows over the last 10 years, including local, national and international, but never in one that used more than one juror. I would rather rely on one person’s judgment than have two or more people strutting their stuff, even electronically, and trying to show how elitist, democratic, knowledgeable, etc., they are.

When a single juror decides yea or nay both for entry and awards in person, that juror also has the advantage of seeing size, texture, techniques–things you mention often do not show up in a slide or photograph. I’m for using a local juror with an excellent reputation both as an artist and as a juror and then giving that person free rein.


A move in the right direction
by Carol Ubben, Mount Morris, IL, USA


oil painting, 40 x 30 inches
by Carol Ubben

I am very pleased to see that electronic jurying is beginning to emerge. I feel that so many times qualified art is left out because the artist doesn’t have the right “name.” We have an art show in this area that has been held for many years… but it appears that year after year the exact people who “run” the show get the awards. In fact… some of the awards have been fashioned to the style or subject matter of some of the artists. After a while, this kind of behavior discourages many good artists from entering the show. I realize that art is subjective, but fair is still fair. I think this is definitely a move in the right direction.



How to include info on digital entry?
by Michael Spicer

How do you recommend that the information on the artist and the work of art be included on a jpg file entry for judging? Currently I add this information in the Properties tab when you right click on the file name. Do you recommend a better way to add this info instead of under File Properties? Should this info instead be displayed while the file is open and being judged? If so, a template would need to be created that includes the info and the image and then saved, but I don’t know if this format is what judges would prefer.

(Andrew Niculescu note) Thanks, Michael. The way to label your digital submission is going to be dictated by the judges and it should be part of a submission guideline. People’s technical skills differ enough that a “standard” will not be agreed upon for a while.


Didn’t make it
by Tim Simmons, West Memphis, AR, USA


acrylic painting, 18 x 24 inches
by Tim Simmons

I hate contests. In fact, I will never enter another one. I submitted a few pics of one painting in the hope of getting “into” the yearly animal art show put on by a prominent veterinary school in Baton Rouge. I sent my images via email and mailed a check for $10. Months later, I got a rejection letter which apologized and made it seem as if there were so many entries that it was inevitable that one would be left out. They didn’t like my painting but apparently, they did like my check. Can anyone tell me why my painting wouldn’t make it into an animal show that mostly will have dogs in it?


Objective critique from contemplation
by Lynda Kelly, Toronto, ON, Canada

Thank you for “Contemplation is the root of Awareness and Creativity.” Those words have particular meaning for me this morning. I am away on a retreat painting, something I have always wanted to do, nothing to do but paint! All the different artists (many venues) have their own space and little interaction. Last night I was wishing for an objective critique. So I set up my spotlight in the dark, and one by one put my six works in progress on the easel. I sat and contemplated each one for a considerable time and the answers just began to come. I took notes and will try out my own recommendations!


Method for keeping acrylics wet
by Lucy Wiley, Houston, TX, USA

Your advice to use empty yoghurt cups to keep leftover acrylics is fine. I keep a small jar of milk in the fridge. When I am at the end of a painting day, I use an eyedropper to put a thin layer of milk on top of the acrylics. It retards drying better than anything I have ever tried. Just pour it off when you are ready to start again. This tip is not for longtime storage.





Looking into the Past

bronze sculpture
by Roberto Santo, NYC, NY, USA


You may be interested to know that artists from every state in the USA, every province in Canada, and at least 105 countries worldwide have visited these pages since January 1, 2006.

That includes Robert R. Newport of Los Angeles, CA, USA who wrote, “I enjoyed the article on electronic juries, having just completed my own CD of jpgs. Of the main photo no-no’s, I find glare the hardest to deal with, but then I am still a bumbling fool on PhotoShop CS2. That will change.”

And also John Fitzsimmons of Fayetteville, NY, USA who wrote, “I can see where the online experience is replacing the in person experience in art. Maybe not too different than the magazine or book experience versus the in person.”

And also Rosemary Bennett of Calgary, AB, Canada who wrote, “I found your comments on electronic jurying refreshing. Especially your mentioning jurors being influenced by other jurors. It’s much fairer when jurors are allowed to make their own decisions unencumbered by others’ thoughts.”

And also Louise Aronson of Etobicoke, ON, Canada who wrote, “I often find that electronic pictures of paintings can trick us by being much brighter than the originals. Has anyone ever told you that or have you ever noticed this before about your own paintings?” (RG note) Yep, our electronic stuff looks better than our real stuff.

And also Winifred Dennett of Canada who wrote, “What is a smart but polite answer to the query ‘Are you still painting?’ ” (RG note) You can ask: “Are you still breathing?”




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