National Watercolor Competitions: Learning As I Go!
I am not an old pro at entering national watercolor competitions; in fact, I've gotten serious about this in the last two years and this year, I've entered nearly every national competition that I have paintings available for: good paintings. This is hard, hard work.
First of all, I have to hold back every painting that is entered. The process ties up a good piece for months while you wait to hear back from the judge, wait to ship the painting, ship it to the location and then wait again for the piece to return. This can take up to six months of your time with ONE painting! If you have gallery exhibits happening concurrently, your best work can be sitting on the sidelines, waiting, waiting, waiting..... You must hold the entered painting back because if it's selected and the piece is no longer available, it's my understanding that the artist will not be permitted to enter that show again.
Secondly, the paintings that you consider entering into national competition need to be DARN GOOD. One must be mindful and honest; is this work really competitive on a national level of skill and technique? Be sure to review catalogues and websites of previous shows. You can certainly enter a show, but it doesn't take long before you've spent a lot of money on entry fees. If you're spending the money, be sure you honestly have a chance at selection.
Should you do some research on the judges? Maybe.... I'm not familiar enough with this issue to be able to "judge." I've been reading some scathing blogs about watercolor judges recently, so I'm guessing that there is a lot of political "stuff" that goes on with some judging, just as it does in any occupation. I'm going to try to gather more experience in this issue.
Money, money, money! These entry fees really build up quickly. I'm not entering local shows anymore because I can't afford to and if my focus is on the national level, then my money needs to go to the national level. Besides entry fees ($25 - $40), there are shipping fees ($100 often covers both ways), shipping box fees ($100), and handling fees on the other end (these are running as high as $50). These fees don't even include the cost of painting a winning piece and framing it.
Can you take disappointment? I was a theatre major and I'm accustomed to standing in audition lines and being rejected because I don't fit the physical description of the character. I try to have the attitude that I'll enter shows, I won't take anything personally and I won't expect anything in return. If I really believe in a painting, I'll enter it over and over again, although by the 3rd try, I think I'd have to re evaluate my quality control summary. You have to acquire a very tough skin......
Quality, quality, quality. I have to say it again, mostly to remind myself. I'm learning as I go through this process. I want to be sure that I only enter quality work and that my work represents who I am: artists and judges are visual so my work is me and I am my work.
If you're entering a lot of shows, good luck. I'm learning as I go and we can learn together!
So far this year, I've had entries accepted into the Georgia Natioal Watercolor Exhibition, the National Watercolor Soceity Member Show, the Missouri National Show, the Rocky Mountain Watermedia Show, and the Baltimore Watercolor Society MId Atlantic Regional Show. I was not accepted into the TWSA or the AWS. Of course, just like every other competitive watercolor painter out there, those are the two shows I very much would like to make but I'm incredibly excited and honored to be selected in the national exhibits listed above. I hope to continue improving and refining my painting and working hard towards a level of quality and imagination where a painting by Catherine Hillis is noticed more and more.
I plan to paint my heart out: this is what I'm created to do.