Competitions And Creativity

Author: Kathleen Chester

There are many art competitions out there, all calling for entrants, all asking for something slightly different, with a myriad themes to choose from. You’ve probably entered one yourself at some point; there are so many opportunities to have done so, from elementary school ones which choose the picture that will go up in the hallway outside the classroom, to university ones intended to encourage students, both art students and others, to take their art seriously, to those that target an international audience and offer star prizes like exhibition participation or a presence on an online art gallery like

As you get older and more serious about your work, the question of whether to enter becomes increasingly pressing. Some artists avoid competitions because they worry that spending time on them is too expensive in terms of time, when there is only a relatively small chance to getting something back in return.

It’s true that major competitions often have hundreds, thousands or even tens of thousands of entrants, and that the chances of winning are correspondingly slim. However, this does not necessarily mean that you should not enter at all. It does mean that you shouldn’t pin all your hopes on it, of course, but that’s just common sense. What it really means is that you should choose your competitions wisely.

Don’t spend days and days hunting for contests to enter. You’ll end up driving yourself mad and not getting any time for your work. Instead, look out for reputable competitions, perhaps ones recommended by a teacher, or that several friends have entered (this isn’t a cast-iron rule, but it’s a useful guide).

Check whether the competition has been going long or not. If this is the first year, it might be worth a shot as there are generally fewer entrants in a first year, but in general the ones that have been around for longer are the ones you should be aiming for – they’re better known, will therefore sound better if you do win something, and are frequently better organized and more coherently arranged.

Take a good look at the prizes on offer. It may be that the main prize is essentially the prize of winning, perhaps including some sort of trophy. If this is the case, it’s only worth entering if it really is a well known event. Otherwise you might go to a lot of effort for nothing. On the other hand it might involve something you’ve been looking at for some time yourself – perhaps gallery representation, the chance to pitch your work to a museum director, something like that. If this is the case, go for it.

If you do decide to enter, take your time over the application. It’s worth getting it right. Read the instructions on the website or in the booklet carefully and follow them. Contact the organizers if you’re unsure; you won’t be the only one and you’ll be saving them time in the end.

Make sure to send good quality images of your work. The juror/s can’t appreciate it if it they can barely see it. If they’re asking for your works themselves, make sure you know how and if you’re getting them back.

Don’t let it take over your life, but if you are entering, do take it seriously. You owe it to yourself and your art.

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