Art Competition Basics

Here I’ll explain all the Art Competition basics to help you decide where and when to enter a show. Plus a few words about when you shouldn’t enter.

How to find the right art competitions for you . . . 

Once you’ve decided you are ready to enter your paintings in competitions, how do you find those competitions?

I went through this a few years ago. I will admit that I waited to enter competitions until I felt like my paintings had a pretty good chance of getting into the competitions. My goal is not to “win” a competition but to get accepted into a show. Then my work will be in front of another gallery and a new audience during the run of the show.

Local competitions or National Juried Shows? Another good question! I have entered both. Starting with local shows is a good way to get your feet wet. But I don’t believe it is a necessary stepping stone to entering national competitions. If you have studied the past accepted works online for a particular show and you feel your work is comparable, then by all means enter a national show.

What about the judges?

Yes, who a particular judge is will make a difference, but generally a recognized show is going to attract the same kind of work each year. Therefore they will have a judge looking for the same qualities that particular competition expects to attract. For example, The Greenhouse Gallery in San Antonio, Texas had an Annual Salon competition for many years. That gallery leans more towards realism and the judges were nationally recognized artists who painted in the realist tradition.

Some artists go so far as to research the judge for a show. There is no reason that a curator of a modern museum can’t judge an impressionist exhibit. I don’t research judges. Last year one of my pieces was accepted into a large Texas show, the Assistance League’s annual competition. It is a contemporary show with many abstract pieces and the juror was the curator of a modern museum. My piece was a representational figure and it was juried into the show. Had I thought, well, the juror must like modern art since he’s a curator of a modern art museum so I won’t enter this show, then I would really have missed an opportunity.

Assistance League's Celebrate Texas 2014 Art Competition in Houston, Texas
Announcing the winners at the Assistance League’s Celebrate Texas 2014 show in Houston. I didn’t win, I was just happy to be included!

So, how do you find shows to enter? I have found 3 ways:

1. A show will have a “call to artists” to enter their shows. National art magazines list calls in the back. Scan through the magazine for ads about upcoming shows, many shows will place an ad with details about a show. Some of the competitions have facebook pages and you can “like” their page. You’ll see suggestions for other competitions to “like”.

2. Find an artist who has a similar style and see which shows they have been juried into. That makes sense, if you paint impressionistically you wouldn’t enter the same shows that an abstract painter enters.

3. Many of the shows use an online submission process through a site set up specifically for this purpose. These sites list hundreds of competitions of all kinds. An example is and You simply set up a free account and then you can search for shows and enter shows using this site.

Cost of entering shows

Don’t forget it costs money to enter these shows. An entry fee is usually anywhere from $35 to $60. Sometimes this fee will allow you to enter up to 3 paintings. But the entry fee isn’t the only cost.

Award ribbons.
Preparing a painting for shipment to an annual American Impressionist Society’s show.

If your painting gets accepted into a show you will have to ship your painting to the gallery where the show is being held. You’ll need a nice sturdy box and insurance. Your painting will hang for the duration of the show and if you’re lucky it will sell. But the majority of the paintings in a show will need to be shipped back. At your expense. This can be anywhere from $50 to $100 for a round trip for your painting! (I have an account with UPS so I can enclose a mailing label and if my painting doesn’t sell and has to come back to me, the gallery workers put my prepared label on the same box I shipped the painting in. Once it’s scanned by UPS I get charged. The competition will have specific instructions on how they want you to handle the return shipping.)

One of the Art Competition Basics, delivering a painting.
Delivering a painting to a competition. Somebody has to do it!

Give it a try!

So go ahead and enter some competitions. Take the time to find one you feel your work has a good chance of entering. Rejections are no fun, but not to worry, I would venture to say every artist has been rejected at one time or another. The same painting that was rejected by a judge or panel of judges may very well be accepted by another.

I talk more about professional and personal reasons to enter art competitions in another post.

When NOT to Enter Art Competitions

I would add though, that if getting a rejection letter (or more often these days, a rejection e-mail) makes you question your work, or if you take it personally, or if it affects your art in any way, then you may want to take a break from entering competitions. Take 6 months or a year, don’t enter competitions, and then try again. The point is to make beautiful art that is YOUR art, to keep growing in our art, and to enjoy making art, don’t let anybody quash that dream.

3 thoughts on “Art Competition Basics”

    1. Joan Breckwoldt

      Thank you Nancy! I’m glad you found the article informative. The painting I’m standing next to is “2:00 AM” which was juried into the Assistance Leauge’s Texas Celebrates Art 2014 show in the William’s Tower. Here is a link to my blog post about the opening night:

      1. Your last paragraph is profound…

        I so wish I could do a better job of not letting acceptances or rejections affect how I feel…. Well…I guess I AM getting better at it…don’t really like it though.

        Regarding jurors…. I am the exhibit chair for one of my local clubs. After four years and 13 exhibits of selecting jurors and seeing what they put into a show a choose to give awards to… I’d say it was totally a function of that juror’s ability to balance and curate a show…. not whether they create or teach abstract work or traditional work.

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