One of the Watercolor Societies of which I am a Board Member has published their list of artists who have been juried into their annual exhibit, and once again, it has become apparent that some artists need a reminder about professional artist etiquette. Most importantly, artists need to remember that the person they send a "poison pen letter" to today, might remember that letter the next time their artwork comes before them for a review.
The spring season is upon us once again, and for
artists it’s often our busiest time of the year. The season brings us pleasant weather, and
with it comes the stacks of entry forms for art shows, festivals, and other
Over the years, I have chaired or served on the
committees of dozens of art shows. Every
time, I hear complaints from artists, and I hear longwinded explanations about
why the show’s rules shouldn’t specifically apply to them. You’d be amazed by the complaints I’ve
listened to from some of the artists.
At a regional juried show I recently chaired, I
received up to a dozen phone calls a day from artists complaining because they
didn’t hear about the show sooner. It
wasn’t enough that the call to artists was published in several newspapers and dozens
of artists newsletters months before the deadline, or that thousands of entry
forms were prominently available at all the local art supply stores and
galleries, or that the prospectuses were handed out at every art show, art
festival, and art club meeting within the region for the last two months. These artists were complaining that they
weren’t personally notified and asked to enter the show.
|(Annie Strack receiving a special plaque commemorating her decade of service as Show Chairman and other Offices in the St Bernard Art Guild)|
Other artists called to complain that they didn’t
like the juror’s credentials. One of
them told me that she believed that all art shows, in general, always choose
the wrong jurors. She qualified this by
saying that she knows
her art is
good, because all of her friends tell her so, and yet she never wins any awards
at any art competitions. She didn’t
think it was fair that well-known top artists were consistently winning awards
at various shows, and that art shows should try to find jurors who had taste
more akin to hers and her friends. She
went on to tell me that she felt she should have been the juror because she
knows what good art is.
Other artists complained about the scheduling of
events. Some were too busy to deliver
their entries on the allocated days; others complained they would be too busy
to pick up their work at the end of the show.
My advice is simple; if the schedule of events is too much of an
inconvenience, then don’t enter the show.
Every artist needs to make their own arrangements for the delivery of
their artwork on time, and exhibit calendars cannot be changed to accommodate
the personal schedule of every artist who wants to enter.
Then there’s the artist who asked me about the
framing requirements for the show, and wanted to know if he could bring his
artwork in unframed because he had a lot of other things to do and he didn’t have
time to go out and buy a frame. At least
he called and asked, and he did end up bringing his paintings properly framed. Another artist wanted to enter an extra
painting by claiming that the two of his entries were actually one diptych,
despite that the two paintings were obviously separate and were even priced
separately. Other artists, who couldn’t
be bothered with rules, were sent away from the show for bringing unframed
At one recent show an artist entered a three
dimensional artwork but demanded that it should be included in the two
dimensional artwork category. Naturally,
the exhibit committee ignored her demands and the artwork was placed in the 3-D
category for judging (which by the way, had far fewer entries and therefore
gave her better odds of acceptance and winning, anyway). When the artist found out at the reception
that she didn’t win any awards, she thought that it was because her piece was
judged within the larger competition of the larger 2-D category. So then she changed her mind, and complained
that her artwork should have been judged against the smaller 3-D category.
But the best one is the story of the gallery
owner, who wanted to enter paintings from her store’s inventory. Not only were the artworks not her own
original creation and created prior to the date allowed for recent works, they
were also created by an artist who was deceased. Sounds surprising, doesn’t it? And yet, this is not the first time this
situation has come up. A few years ago I
was on the committee of a juried exhibit that was only open to artists who
lived within a local zip code. One woman
came in and wanted to enter the artwork of her friend, who had passed away
years ago. When the rule was pointed out
to her that only local residents could enter, she replied that her late friend is
a local resident, she resides in the
cemetery down the street!
Now that you have a better understanding of what
the exhibit committee has to deal with, I’d like to offer a few tips about
artist etiquette. First off, I can’t
stress enough the importance of reading the show’s rules before you enter. If you don’t understand the rules, either
call or email the organization for clarification.
Please don’t complain because you didn’t hear
about the show earlier. Most show
committees send out press releases and put a call to artists in various art
newsletters, magazines, websites, and emails.
They really do try to get as many entries as possible, and it’s not the
fault of the show committee or chairman if some artists choose to live under a
rock and not read these announcements.
Don’t complain or whine if your art is not
accepted because you didn’t follow the rules!
No saw tooth hangers means no
saw tooth hangers. It is not the
responsibility of the art show committee or chairman to frame your work or make
adjustments to your framing so that it can be accepted. You must make sure that your art is within
the guidelines of the rules before you enter it.
Rules that state that the entries must have
adequate picture wire and screw eyes for hanging mean just that, and if you
send an artwork with two thumbtacks attached to the frame and a shoestring
stretched between them, you can expect it be rejected. Same goes for bits of yarn attached with tape
or paperclips, fishing line, staples, string, and other odd bits and pieces
that are not screw eyes and picture wire.
Shows that have weight or size restrictions have
them for a reason. The facility might
not accommodate artworks over a certain size, or the hanging system may not
hold items over a certain weight. This
restriction isn’t in the rules just to annoy some artists, it’s there because
there are genuine physical limitations to what some shows can accommodate.
|(Philadelphia Watercolor Society Show Co-Chairmen Annie Strack and Wendy McClatchy)|
The rules often require that artwork must be
dry. This means that paintings with wet
paint may not be entered. Please, don’t
even try to sneak them in. In the last three
shows I hung, wet oil paintings with gallery wrapped painted edges were entered,
despite the printed rule in the prospectus which clearly stated wet paintings
were prohibited. Wet paint tends to get
everywhere, including the floor, walls, and on people. I don’t like to get oil paint all over my
hands and clothing when I install an exhibit, and neither does anyone
Rules and restrictions regarding the age of the
artwork are common. Art competitions are
generally meant to showcase current or recent works, and works that are old and
have already been in several shows over the course of many years are rightly
discouraged. Those paintings that were
done in art class fifteen years ago need to be retired! Also, the rule stating that all work must be
original means that an artist can’t copy someone else’s painting or photo out
of a book, magazine, or anywhere else, and rules that state that the work must
have been created without supervision means that you can’t enter something you
made in a workshop or class.
You may think that you or your artwork should be granted
an exception to the rules because of your special circumstances, or that the
rules don’t specifically apply to you for some reason. Think again!
You are not entitled to special treatment, and arguing with the show
committee or chair is not going to get you anywhere.
If your art is rejected by the juror or doesn’t
win an award, please don’t whine to the show committee or chairman. They did not make that decision, the juror
did. Nor will they override the juror’s
decision, no matter how loudly you complain or how many of your friends agree
with you. Not everyone will get accepted
to every show, or win an award. The
juror merely liked other things better than yours, this time. Rejection eventually happens to all of us;
accept it graciously, and move on.
I know many of you are shaking your heads in
disbelief, thinking that surely these scenarios must be few and far
between. You’re probably thinking we are
all professional artists, and we all know these things already. If that were the case, then everyone would be
following the rules and graciously accepting the occasional rejection. Unfortunately, these shocking scenarios are
more common than you think. In my
experience, I’ve found that at least twenty percent of the artists entering a
show try to get around the rules. That
may not sound like a lot, but in a show with 200 entries, that’s 40
artists. That’s way more than any show
should have to deal with.
One thing I’ve noticed from chairing all these
shows, is that the more experienced and professional artists are the best at
following the rules, and they are the least likely to demand special treatment
or complain when they don’t win an award.
One amateur artist recently stomped towards me at a reception with her
nose in the air and barked at me in a huff, “How could my
piece have been rejected!?
It’s been well
|(Louisiana Watercolor Society Show Chairman Annie Strack handling out awards)|
In a juried show, the entry fee is for the
opportunity to have your work considered for inclusion by the juror. It does not guarantee acceptance into the
show, and it is not refunded if the entry is rejected. There are plenty of small local shows around
the country that are not juried; these shows are less prestigious than juried
shows, but they are the right choice for artists who may be offended by rejection. Remember, our behavior affects how others
perceive us. If an artist wants to be
perceived as experienced and professional, then they must behave in this
manner. Plus, one will gain more respect
in the art world by being polite and gracious, than by being a sore loser.
Copyright 2008 © Annie Strack. The edited
version of this article was first published in Art Calendar magazine in 2008, and the
original version was published 2008 in the book (The Artists Guide To) Art Business and Marketing
by Annie Strack. Visit the author at www.AnnieStrackArt.com.
master of maritime art, Annie Strack is an Official Authorized Artist for the
U.S. Coast Guard and has earned Signature Membership in 8 artist societies. Her
artwork has received hundreds of awards and hangs in more than 1,000 public and
private collections worldwide. In addition to being a highly acclaimed juror
for art shows and popular workshop instructor, she is the producer and host of Painting
Seascapes in Watercolor, which
is broadcast on television stations worldwide and also available on DVD. Annie
draws experience from her former career in corporate management to build a
successful art career, and she shares her knowledge of business and marketing
in her articles which are in many publications, including Art
Calendar, Professional Artist, and The Crafts Report magazines.