Art shows are exciting. Even with my limited experience, I feel that excitement each time I receive an invitation to participate in an upcoming show. Right now, I have five different shows on the horizon, paintings sitting all over the house as I choose what will go where, and a calendar filled with entry deadlines, drop-offs, receptions, show times, and pick-up dates.

Has it really been only ten months since I entered my first art show? Indeed. I’m starting to feel a bit like an old pro now, though, not because my work has been in a lot of exhibits, but because I’ve taken part in putting on several art shows. I’ve had a chance to experience these events from different perspectives.

During the past year, one of the art clubs I belong to has had several “Club Meeting Shows”. These are impromptu little events where each member brings a recently completed work to our monthly meeting. The entries are lined up for display, and members vote for their favorite. First prize is usually a small gift certificate to a local restaurant. I’ve never won, but it’s always fun to be part of these little member showings.

I’ve also helped with several student art shows. I’ve enjoyed checking-in paintings, getting displays ready, and seeing the awesome talent these young artists have. Getting acquainted with art teachers and judges has also been fun.

Now, as this upcoming season of art shows begins, I’m shifting my perspective a bit from artist to promoter. My task for the moment isn’t concerned so much with producing art as it is to presenting it. I have to become my own manager and even marketer, to a degree. I must become an agent representing my work.

A few years ago, I would NEVER — all in capital letters — have considered entering my paintings in an art show. As a beginning oil painter, I really had little to show. I now have a bit of experience, am finding more of a personal style, and am creating more original works. Or, at least I hope that’s what I’m doing.

At any rate, I’m now comfortable with filling out show entry forms and seeing my oil paintings on display alongside works from other artists. I don’t cringe in embarrassment. Actually, I always feel a bit proud of what I’ve accomplished.

I was ecstatic, of course, when one of my paintings received a “Judge’s Merit” award last fall. That ribbon is hanging here in my little “art room”, always reminding me that I really am an artist and that my painting has some merit, at least.

So, now for the big questions. Why am I entering these art shows? Am I expecting to win any prizes? Am I hoping for recognition? Do I see these shows as opportunities to sell paintings?

It’s a chance for a little more self-reflection on what it means to be an artist and on where I hope to go with my art. To that end, I’ve been browsing the web a bit, gathering ideas on what makes for a successful showing, and reviewing qualities judges look for when evaluating art. It’s been an interesting exploration of ideas, and I’d like to share them here.

First, one of the simplest bits of advice I’ve read. I came across this some time ago, and laughed a little, I think. At the same time I filed the information away in the back of my brain. That advice? If you want to win an award at an art show, be sure your painting includes lots of orange. Where that came from, I don’t know. I’ve tried searching around again in hopes of coming across it; I couldn’t find it. I did, however, come across this interesting color wheel:


But, that’s neither here nor there, so on with the discussion.

Another tantalizing tidbit of information — this from the late 1960’s when subliminal messaging was a hot topic of conversation — was a story of an art student who surreptitiously added lots of sex-related words to his work and received high praise and high marks from a stuffy art professor who never liked anything anyone did.

I’m not planning to resort to such tactics, and as far as orange goes, I can’t personally recall that color featuring prominently in any winning works I’ve seen judged.

More practical advice on the judging process comes directly from Phil Schmidt, the wonderful judge who deemed my painting of “Storm Clouds Gathering” worthy of a merit award. His criteria is as follows:

  • Originality
  • Emotive quality
  • Composition
  • Execution
  • Presentation

These qualities serve as a handy little check-list for evaluating paintings and choosing which ones to show.

A little more browsing on the subject of art show entries leads to a key consideration — following the rules. As a behind-the-scenes worker at student art shows, I’ve posted about this before. Yes, rules are important. If the rules specify a size limit, don’t bring in a piece that’s too big. If the rules require certain types of hangers, don’t try to get by with something else. That’s common sense, isn’t it? One might think so, but my experience from working at art shows has taught me that rules are ignored more often than you might think.

So, RULE NUMBER ONE for a successful art show: READ THE RULES AND FOLLOW THEM!

I also found a checklist of questions designed more with marketing in mind, but nevertheless excellent questions to ask when preparing for an art show — or at any time you need to step back and re-evaluate your work as an artist:

  • Does my work reflect a unique artistic perspective?
  • Do I use interesting materials or techniques?
  • Does my body of work look like it was created by the same artist?
  • Would anyone want to display my work in their home?
  • Would anyone pay to see my pieces in person?
  • What is the inspiration behind my work?

For some of us, some of these questions may be irrelevant at the present time, yet I think they’re good questions to keep in mind even as we’re learning, growing, and developing as artists. In future posts, I’ll be sharing my thoughts on these questions and hopefully initiating many interesting discussions about these topics.

Right now, though, it’s time for me to gather up two paintings for the first show of the season. A near-by art association is hosting a judged show in conjunction with the Cass County Fair.

My entries? A painting of a walking trail in our city park (and yes, coincidentally, it does have a bit of orange to it), and River Rock, which is one of my favorite paintings.

November Walk at the Park
River Rock

Wish me luck!



    1. Thanks! My husband got quite a shock this morning when he was listening to the news. They had a clip about the Cass County Fair, and the reporter mentioned that the power had gone out (in a tent or vendor area, I suppose). He remarked that the power loss “killed the fans”. Poor choice of words. My husband thought people had died. We’re having a heat wave (heat indices around 110 degrees) so heat stroke and death is always a possibility. What the reporter meant, of course, was that the electric fans went out. 🙂

      Liked by 1 person

    1. Thank you so much. I didn’t win any awards at this first show, but I’m now getting ready for a show coming up in a few weeks. I’ll be showing a few different paintings there, so I’ll take all the luck you want to send.


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