Improve Your Odds When Entering Art Competitions

Guest blogger Renée Phillips, founder of Manhattan Arts International, shares her insights and expertise on how to get your work accepted to competitions.




Last week we completed the jurying process for our annual Manhattan Arts International “Celebrate The Healing Power of Art” juried competition. We viewed approximately 600 jpeg images. It is always a pleasure to see the diversity of creativity and styles by artists from around the world related to the theme of art and healing.

It is frustrating, however, when artists with talent and the best of intentions make mistakes with their entries. This article is an effort to provide some insider’s information and advice. Hopefully you may learn why your art has been rejected by competitions in the past and eliminate making errors of judgment in the future.

First, before you decide to enter a competition I recommend you do some preliminary research.

1. Research the jurors’ track records and tastes.

Find out as much as you can about the jurors and their preferences. Naturally, if they have a history of favoring installation art and you create traditional still life, you would probably have a better chance elsewhere. On the other hand, if the juror has championed art work similar to yours it is wise to introduce your art to them, not only for this exhibition but for other opportunities to advance your career.

For annual competitions you may want to acquire the catalogue from the previous year’s exhibition. To learn more about its aesthetic direction find out if the organizer’s website has a sampling of last year’s winners.

2. Find out if the official juror will see your entry.

You may be surprised to learn that many competitions conduct a preliminary judging process. Yes, in the interest of saving the juror’s time one of the interns or a staff member may eliminate a percentage of the entries before they are presented to the official jurors.

That means, for example, if a well-known museum curator is named as the juror to lure more artists to enter the competition this person may never lay their eyes on your entries.

Are you comfortable with this procedure? I’m not. As an organizer of more than 60 exhibitions I insure that the primary juror agrees to see all of the entries. I also refuse to jury an outside exhibition that conducts any preliminary prejudging and elimination.

3. Learn what is expected if your art is selected.

Make sure you understand in advance what is required of you if you are selected. Consider all the ramifications of being a winner. Will more than one work of art be needed? Will the organizers charge a sales commission? Does the art have to be available for sale? How long will your art work be held? Do they have insurance? Are you expected to hand-deliver or ship the art work at your own expense? Are you expected to be present at the opening reception?


Bonnie J. Smith


4 Steps to Improve Your Odds of Winning:

1. Carefully read and follow every instruction outlined in the prospectus.

As obvious as it may seem, many artists fail to submit their entry form properly. Review it a few times for accuracy. Write legibly, and complete the form as requested, in its entirety. Label your entries correctly, according to the specifications. Failure to do this may result in immediate disqualification. I confess, if an artist sends an incomplete form to us, we will probably send them an email or visit their website to complete it. However, most competition organizers are not as sympathetic as we are and will immediately reject the entry.

Make a copy of the prospectus, completed entry form, and receipt of entry submission payment for your files.

2. Submit your best work.

Your work may have only a few seconds to make an impact. The more popular the competition the more entries it receives and less time the jurors have to spend viewing your image. I was told that in a New York City competition, the judge took approximately six hours to view more than 1,000 entries.

Submit work that best matches the criteria and the theme requested. Your art may be extraordinary on its own merits while it may not be deemed an appropriate fit for the theme. You will be competing against other artists who may devote their entire career to the subject matter or theme of the show.

Try your best to be objective about your art. Ask the opinion of other skilled professionals to help you decide.

If the competition is for an online exhibition, evaluate your entries based on how well they appear on the Internet. For instance, extremely dark or light images will not have the same impact as those with more contrast. Also consider how your art will appear on the website if the thumbnail images are very small, or the image is cropped.

3. Enter only the best quality photographs and/or digital entries.

As judges, we cannot guess that your work looks better than your images, so you must send the best quality images without excuses. What you send is what is judged. Don’t submit images that are out of focus or have distracting objects in the background. Display the image in the correct orientation.

If you are technologically challenged, hire someone who can assist you. Today there is no excuse for submitting inferior images. Learn how to take good photographs with a digital camera so images may be transferred to a CD or sent via e-mail. Make sure the CD is viewable on both PC and Mac computers. If a jpeg is required, send the proper resolution and pixel size according to the precise specifications on the prospectus.

4. Get your own website and keep it current.

If you are entering a professional level competition it is in your best interest to have your own personal website that is up to date. A portfolio of your art work on Facebook will not suffice. Simply stated, an artist who does not have their own website is sending the message that they are an amateur.


Renée Phillips is the founder/director of Manhattan Arts International, and the co-juror of “Celebrate The Healing Power of Art”. She is the author of several art career books and her art and business articles appear on the Manhattan Arts International blog and in various magazines. She is also an arts advocate and career advisor for artists of all career levels, styles and mediums.


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  1. Dear Rene,
    You gave fantastic advice and are a champion for the advancement of artists’ careers.
    “Grate Wishes” for a “Splendific” Summer.

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