The Great Contest


Dear Artist,

A lot of friends ask about entering juried shows. I’m not a very good example in this department. I practically never enter any of them. Fear of rejection is probably the main reason, but I also don’t care for the general anxiety surrounding the production of something suitable. Further, I have an uncontrollable writer’s block when it comes to filling out forms. If they ever had a form-free contest, I might consider entering.

Some artists of my acquaintance are competition junkies. They enter everything in sight. Some are masochists who never see a single cigar. Others do well at the game.

We are all out there for judgement when we hang our work on a gallery wall, in a virtual gallery, or in the gallery of life. I’ve always preferred quiet collectorship rather than ballyhoo or peer acceptance. In favor of juried exhibitions and contests it can be said that more people see the work in a favorable light, especially the winner’s work. In some countries awards and prizes can be an important propellant to a career, a stepping-stone to getting noticed. Furthermore, it’s a kind of imposed discipline that some artists love. Also, there is the possibility that jurors are blind to signatures — giving hope to neophytes. I notice that consistent winners, to their credit and profit, rise to the occasion and put in a special effort for the contests, entering only la crème de la crème. It’s another kind of approval, a somewhat public stroking, and there’s no question that it’s lovely to be honored by your competitors.


“The Icebergs” 1861
by Frederick Edwin Church

Rejection is a basic principle of life. Like it or not, Creative Darwinism is with us. Contests are one of the tools that may help a star rise in the firmament. Just don’t let contesting get to you.

Best regards,


PS: There’s a little-known worldwide competition registering right now — sponsored by the Federation of Canadian Artists. First prize is Can$25,000. You can read about this one here.



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