Why do artists spend so much time, money and travel to enter shows that don’t have any guarantee of success or coverage? A very talented landscape painter asked me a similar question. I can only answer from my own experience and financial position.
As an illustrator, painter and professor, I need to be recognized as relevant in the field to maintain a good professional standing. This means being published, selling artwork and hanging in gallery shows. The cheapest way to do all three is often by taking the chance of entering juried shows. Occasionally a prize can be won, the artwork can sell, a gallery show is hung for a month or two, and often a chance interview is given.
The cost to the artist is as cheap as $25-$40 dollars, with commission or free, depending on venue. Some colleagues use a massive flux approach to these shows, entering as many categories as possible, with the largest number of pieces they can, including cross entries of the same strong pieces in multiple categories.
The reason is that larger shows have many different judges for their show categories, and what one judge likes, another may shun. You stand a better chance of “hitting” when you cast the wider net. I’ve seen this work to the artists’ benefit. The main problem to this approach is the cost. You are required to pay multiple times for each entry in each category. However, if you’ve budgeted wisely to make this part of your business marketing strategy, you will approach it as if you’re buying ad space or creating a direct marketing campaign.
If the show you’ve entered is a big player, such as the Society of Illustrators of NY or LA, an entry of a hundred dollars can net you an international audience and introduce your work to publishers and art directors in a way more effective than a postcard or trade advertisement. This also works regionally, as many Metro-Regions have locally focused shows.
Do the math. It’s foolish NOT to enter competitions.
Mailing a promo packet to a choice set of potential clients could run you a couple of hundred dollars in stamps – that is AFTER printing your promo and packing with care. Show participation can help you to maximize your precious marketing budget with a guerrilla tactic that is low-dollar and high-visibility.
I have just spent a hard earned $200 on one regional and one international competition; the Richmond Illustrator’s Club (RIC) and 3x3 Magazine’s Children’s International Illustration Show. Well-respected professionals judge both shows, and each has its own level of visibility within the field. Will I get in? I don’t know. I’ve presented my best work in various categories.
It’s up to the judges.