Winning an art prize is a great trophy to add to your CV along with the awareness the whole process can bring. But, it is easy to think that you will win something just by entering as many as possible and hoping for the best. In practice, it is very difficult to get any success and the competition is very hard to beat. Entering and not getting any feedback apart from a one sentence rejection can be demoralising.... but it is important to realise that its often because of the quality of the applications rather than the art itself. Importantly, you don't always have to win to benefit greatly from entering.
Caitlin Smyth gives her tips and advice on getting the best out of entering art prizes, vital for artists that want to increase their chances of winning and, in any case, to benefit from the great exposure that the most interesting prizes can provide. Study the below and remember to use these when entering the Ashurst Emerging Artist Prize 2015...
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WHY ENTER AN ART PRIZE
Entering art prizes can significantly add to your CV and provenance as an artist. Researching the correct prizes for you and the application process can be time consuming but the potential return is much greater. Benefits of entering prizes:
- Exposure to a dedicated art audience – your work is guaranteed to be seen by the judges, even if not successful you may stay in their mind in the future increasing your chances of future opportunities
- Building your network – engaging with the prize, other entrants, events that complement the prize will help boost your reach and exposure.
- Build your CV – if you are short-listed or do win then you can add this to your CV and build your profile. You’ll also get a great amount of exposure where you don’t have to do the work – the prize will do that for you which takes a lot of pressure off you keeping up the exposure.
THE FOUR STAGES TO CONSIDER IF OPTIMISING YOUR ENTRY
- Establish what your USPs are; are you a recent graduate? Under or over 40, a photographer or a painter, perhaps from a certain part of the world – use this criteria to start building a list of what prizes will suit you.
- Look beyond just google: what have artists who are further on in their careers got on their CV? You can often find their CV’s on their website or on the gallery’s site that represents them.
- Certain useful websites: isendyouthis.com, ideastap.com, photocontestinsider.com, artcompetitions.co.uk, artshub.com.
- Document all of the prizes you find in a spreadsheet (if possible), track them for the current year and the next year.
Once you’ve selected your prizes:
- Look at the judging panel - what have they done and where are they from? Look at what their career path has been and what they’ve done but don’t be perturbed if your work doesn’t suit their focus. That doesn’t mean it’s not of interest! It will give you more confidence to know a little about them and have a face to a name – look at their social media presence, you can sometimes gauge personality more through feeds…
- Look at past winners - go beyond just looking at their work. What point in their career are they at? How do they talk about their work? Again don’t be perturbed if someone with a similar style won the year before, etc. Look at this research helping you gauge the ‘personality’ of the prize.
- Edit your text - artwork info - for each prize to optimise entry. Highlight things that suit their prize.
- Check what size and quality jpegs you need and how the prize wants them named – it will vary for each prize.
- Take good, well lit photos of work – texture in works needs good lighting! There are professionals who can help you with this.
- Look at whether the prize wants a strong and stylised image selection, not too many styles or if they judge each piece individually. It should affect what you submit.
- Do you need extra information? CV, biography, artwork background and technical information, artist statement? Check this – send what is needed not extra.
YOU'VE SUBMITTED - NOW WHAT?:
- Leave it a week or so then follow up - did you receive my entry? Do you need anything else?
- Connect with the people behind the prize, stay in their mind - even if you don't win it may mean your work stays in their mind or you can connect with them again at a quieter time and see if they’d give feedback on your work.
- If you hear from them: thank them for their reply - have the last email, be attentive.
- If you don't, don’t worry – it will be a busy time for them, perhaps email them at a quieter time in the prize schedule to connect instead.
- Get on their social network profiles and mailing lists, stay up to date, share, engage with the organiser, attend the events offered – meet people!
- Win or lose. Keep building the relationship, promote the shortlist.
- Attend their all events, talk to other artists, make a point of talking to the people you emailed if you see them at the events
- Stay positive, keep trying.
- Prizes add weight to your CV - don't be selective based on prizes offered, cover every base!
- Put together a schedule - what opens/closes when. Stay on top of this – update weekly. Plan your year roll out of prizes to enter where possible and budget for it
- Try and get feedback on any entries made – email the organisers. Learn what works.
- Apply to a range of different prizes. Go for the big ones and the small. You never know what year your work will fit.
- Look wider afield to other strong art markets EXAMPLE: US; NYC, CALIFORNIA. ASIA; HONG KONG, JAPAN. EUROPE; PARIS, BERLIN. Of course – think about your budget and affording to ship piece if you are successful.
Oaktree & Tiger Team
Art experts giving advice to emerging artists to build their careers and find success. Organisers of the Ashurst Emerging Artist Prize 2020, artist agent and art consultants.