Third Time is a Charm!

bowers_elaine

This is my painting that I entered into the American Watercolor Society‘s 149th Annual International Exhibition. To my delight it was accepted, and because it is my third time, it means I will receive the coveted Signature Status, allowing me to add “AWS” after my signature on my watercolor paintings. A signature status means that an artist has met the required standards of an art organization signifying a high skill level and achievement in a specific medium. The American Watercolor Society (AWS) is the oldest watercolor organization in the US and had their first annual exhibition in 1867. A few past distinguished members are Winslow Homer, Louis Comfort Tiffany, Edward Hopper, William Merrit Chase, Thomas Eakins, Samuel Colman, Charles Burchfield, Gladys Rockmore Davis, Childe Hassam, John LaFarge, Alphonse Mucha, Edward Potthast, Mahonri Young and Andrew Wyeth. I feel honored to be accepted as a signature member and follow in their footsteps!

A few years ago I earned the signature status in the National Watercolor Society (NWS), which is only half as old as the AWS. It has a similar requirement/process. I was just as excited at that time because for both shows I had been rejected for many years and I was ready to give up entering. My persistence paid off! So now I have the status for both of the largest US watercolor organizations. For the American Watercolor Society, the criterion is to get accepted into the annual International Exhibition three times. This is a very difficult accomplishment since getting in just once is a challenge! Each competition has 1200-1600 entries from around the world. The artist may only submit one image for review, there is an entry fee and entries are submitted digitally. The entries are viewed independently by 5-6 jurors, who must all concur (without discussion). Approximately 140 – 150 paintings are selected to be in the exhibit, so jurors must continue viewing the entries until they select the designated number of paintings. The original art is then shipped, at the artists cost, to the show in New York. Then the art is reviewed in person by an awards jury, who are three different jurors from the selection jury. Any artist qualifying for the signature status is judged separately and must submit two paintings to be juried.

The entire process is quite extensive. As I commented in a previous post, jurors must be exhausted after reviewing art because if they view each image for 30 seconds that would be about 12 hours for the first round of screening. It gives one a better understanding of why it is so important to submit a good photo of your art and the painting needs to be exceptional. An image only has a few seconds to catch the juror’s attention, so it needs to stand out. There are also size requirements and media limitations to be mindful of (no collage or non-water based medium). Also, entries must be from an original source, painted in the past 2 years and not shown in another national or international competition.

The accepted painting, “Diablo’s Delta,” is from a flight I took with a local pilot.  Look closely at the lower right corner, far side of the river and you will see the hangar and little air field we flew out of. We flew late in the day over the Sacramento Delta and you can see Mt. Diablo in the background. It was an amazing flight in a very special plane. I will add more about the flight and plane in a later post.

If you are in New York City be sure to see this great show. You won’t be disappointed! It’s at the Salmagundi Club, 47 Fifth Ave., NY, NY 10003 from April 4-23, 2016. Selected paintings will then travel around the country to about 8 cities in the next year. Catch the 2015 traveling exhibit at its last stop here in Sacramento, CA. It is at the Sacramento Fine Art Center through April 9, open daily 10-4. The location is 5330-B Gibbons Dr., Carmichel, CA 95608.

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Art Competitions – Developing a Thick Skin

Elaine and juror Gregory Kondos

Elaine and juror Gregory Kondos

I was honored last weekend to actually meet acclaimed landscape artist Gregory Kondos at the Crocker-Kingsley Art Exhibition. I was especially honored because he chose my watercolor “Cottonwood Bend” as one of 75 pieces accepted out of 1600 entries of mixed media to be in this year’s show. The competition, which is held every two years, is open to California artists and it’s a very difficult show to get juried into. I have been rejected numerous times – too many to count! In fact, I gave up entering because it seemed out of my reach. Each time that I was rejected and then went to the show, I came away disappointed, as it seemed the art selected had little rhyme or reason. There were some great pieces, but many others left me dumbstruck. My traditional representational landscapes just weren’t making the cut! One year I remember being so frustrated that I vowed never to enter again! One of the pieces accepted that year was a cube of about 25 stacked square Tupperware containers with lids. Each container had a dead leaf in it… that’s it! This was only one example among many other similar pieces that were also accepted. I do like contemporary art, but I never did understand the meaning or creativity behind that Tupperware piece. It left me feeling defeated since it had been accepted over one of my watercolors.

I’ve since entered many other art competitions and slowly came to understand the jury process better. Not only does an artist need a thick skin to enter competitions, but we need to be able to accept rejection gracefully. Just because our piece wasn’t chosen for a juried competition doesn’t mean it was bad. Typically, good competitions get numerous entries (often thousands) and there is limited space, depending on the exhibition space. Now, imagine if every one of those entries were all by famous artists. If there is only room for 40 pieces, then many would need to be rejected, but it doesn’t mean their work was terrible or they weren’t skilled!

imageAnother point to ponder is, if the show gets 1600 entries, then an artist’s work needs to catch the juror’s attention within seconds. If the juror looks at each entry for just 30 seconds, that is about 120 images per hour. To look at 1600 images would take about 13.33 hours. That is a lot of time for a juror to be viewing art, let alone choose 75 from that group to be in a show. I would expect a juror feels pretty burned out as she gets to the last few! It’s also the reason why submitting a good photo of the art is really important. If it’s not a good representation, then it will surely get rejected. Additionally, some competitions have several jurors that have to concur on the art selected, which is a huge process.

The other thing I’ve learned is an artist should enter a show that you like and one that is suited for your work and skill level. Be sure to consider if the competition is multi media versus one medium; contemporary versus traditional; local, national, or international; and is it more for established artists or emerging artists? Multi media shows may have the artist competing against 3D art and photography. I learned that certain shows accept more contemporary pieces and are less likely to accept a traditional painting. International shows will draw more entries than local shows. Also, if you enter a show above your skill level you will be sadly disappointed. The same goes for entering a show that an artist has advanced beyond. Be sure to compete against your peers at the same level of skill.

Also, look at the juror – that is crucial. If Jackson Pollock were a juror, I’m guessing he wouldn’t choose many (or any) traditional paintings. So this year, when I saw that Gregory Kondos was the juror for the Crocker-Kingsley show I decided to try one more time. Although he is an impressionist, I knew he was a renowned landscape painter and he loves the Sacramento Delta. I also admire his work. So if I wanted to try again, this was the year to enter. I was thrilled to get into the show! I didn’t win an award, but getting into the show was an award in itself after so many years of trying.

So how does one approach such an acclaimed artist as Gregory Kondos? Well, at the reception during the awards it was announced that Mr. Kondos had actually been rejected 13 times before being accepted into this show. That’s 26 years of rejection and persistence… and now he was a juror! That both humbled and inspired me! So I took the opportunity to approach him with a big smile and said, “I think I may have beat your rejection record!” He took my hand and kindly said, “You weren’t rejected, you just weren’t selected.” Now that’s a great quote from a great artist, and words of wisdom for us aspiring artists to remember. He was gracious enough to sign my show catalog and take a photo with me (even better than an award!). It was an end to a great evening and gave me even more respect for one of my favorite California artists!

Click this link to see my watercolor painting “Cottonwood Bend. ” It will be on exhibit at Blue Line Arts, in Roseville, CA through Feb. 21, 2015. If you missed the opening reception, there will be a closing reception on Sat. Feb. 21 from 7-9 PM.  I will show the painting in progress and share about how I created it in a future post.