Monday, July 6, 2009

For What It's Worth No. 6

Entering shows is tricky and after reviewing the entries to our shows I would make a few suggestions that may improve your chances of being a winner.

The biggest problem I saw was that the series entries can be a problem simply because you are judged on the entire suite of illustrations. All three to five images have to be excellent; many times three out of the five were great but the one or two that were weaker eliminated your entry from being in the show. What I do in shows is enter the series but also enter the top three pieces as single entries as well--five if I can afford it. That way I have a better chance of getting something in the show, and it has happened that both the series and the singles get into the show because once judges like a piece they will always rank it high. So instead of getting nothing in the show you could have multiple pieces accepted.

The other thing is to know what judges are looking for, unfortunately not all shows are judged equally. Looking at shows you can see a pattern of what the organization is looking for and they will usually select judges to give them that type off outcome. You'll find traditional and non-traditional shows, select your work accordingly. If you see that there are a lot of comics being accepted in previous shows then enter, if not, don't. But don't be afraid of entering strong pieces in any category in any show, good work will always be recognized.

Also be concerned with the categories. A few things to keep in mind: Generally speaking, children's books should be entered in children's book competitions; entering them in the Books category makes it much tougher to be recognized. The more obtuse category is Unpublished and what I find is that there is a lot of work in this category that would do better in the Self-Promotion category. What judges look for in Unpublished is what should or could have been published but wasn't. Don't confuse it as self-promotion though if it is a strong image it can be entered in both categories. Also enter your more experimental work as this is a perfect place to show a new way of image making. Judges are looking for new ways of making images which is a good way to get work in a show.

Gallery is another one where it seems that illustrators are selecting work that probably is better in the Unpublished category. What judges look for here is different than commissioned works, they're looking for work that may or may not relate to the artist's general style but stands out as a work of fine art. If you have prints of your commissioned work that you're selling they would do better in the Self-Promotion category rather than in the Gallery.

What I also find is that concept is king in all categories, judges are looking for fresh ideas and ones that are easily recognized. As a suggestion: If you feel you have a complex entry that could use some explanation it would be better to submit the entry in context, while it will only appear as the illustration in the annual, judges will have a good opportunity to see it in its application.

And it's important not to be discouraged, a lot of the entries almost made it into the show--I think our percentage of really good work is better than a lot of shows so keep entering. I saw a lot of really good pieces that had a shot of being in the show.

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Wednesday, May 20, 2009

For What It's Worth No. 3

So far this year I've been asked to judge one show and have just finished looking over our show results and taking a look at another show that's been around much longer than us. Their entries dwarfed ours but it brought into question, why is there so much bad or mediocre work out there? I guess it's reasonable to expect there aren't 8,100 excellent pieces done in a given year, given the climate. And I'm not talking necessarily about the economy, but more about the lack of respect for illustration. The lack of juicy assignments or adventuresome art directors.

Not every piece that is entered will get in-- we are all looking for the very best work done in a given year. We for one do not subscribe to a quota, we never tell the judges how many pieces we're looking to have in the show. And all judging is done digitally so no judge knows how the others voted. I think this makes for a much cleaner show, no biases, no canoodling or bartering. And it takes a majority of the judges votes to have a piece accepted into our show. Which can disappoint a few people. There were at least another 70 pieces that just fell just shy of getting in our show and another 1,140 that would have met the two-vote requirements for some shows. Our show had 14% of the work accepted into the show, while the other major show had 04%. I'd say at the end of the day I'd rather judge 2,000 really good pieces and let the judges mutually decide on a top pieces than to labor through really bad work. 

One thing about judging, it's all subjective, What I always taught my kids at Parsons was if a piece gets in one show, be happy, if that same piece gets into two or more shows you know you've got a real winner. It's met the taste level of multiple judges.

One last thing, I'm concerned that I'm seeing a bit of the status quo happening. There doesn't seem to be any new movements as there was back in the early 2000s. Don't get me wrong, the really great work still stands the test of time but where is the next movement, the new stars, the next plateau? This is also the first year that I didn't see anything in our student show that really jumped out at me; all of it was very well done but I didn't see the next Andrew Hem who swept our show two years ago. Let's hope that it's just a fluke and not a trend. We need fresh talent and fresh thinking to move illustration forward.

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Monday, March 16, 2009

For What It's Worth No. 2

We just wrapped up our sixth annual proshow and it's our best yet. More entries from more artists from more places around the globe. It's deeply satisfying to see all the entries coming in from places and people we haven't seen before. It always surprises me on who does and doesn't enter our show, or shows in general. 

One steadfast illustrator who is still entering shows even though he's a household name is Seymour Chwast. You'd think this co-founder of Push Pin wouldn't need to enter shows, you'd have to be deaf, dumb and blind not to know this artist and his unmistakable style(s). Yet year after year he enters, and what's even more important, he gets in. Not because of his name but because of his work. Truly fresh, year after year. Strong concepts, clever ideas, impactful images -- his work never ceases to amaze me, and inspire me. And it inspires our judges, too.  Makes you wonder why younger artists don't see the need to have their work judged and have the chance of being exhibited in the leading annuals? One thing for sure is those that don't expose themselves are looking at a much shorter lifetime of illustrating than those that do. Take Seymour as a perfect example, the man has been illustrating for over 40 years--how many artists can say that. Oh and the other superstar that keeps on entering, Brad Holland. And he keeps getting in too, for the same reasons.

My guess as to why a lot of younger artist aren't entering shows is that many are too busy communicating with other artists about their work--their blog becomes their exhibition. They look at that as a perfect way to show-off their work. But that's like putting a note in a bottle and throwing it into the ocean, your friends might know about you but the world at large doesn't. The internet is a vast sea of information where it takes a lot to stand out. Annuals serve a purpose of weeding down to the best artists of our time and these are the artists that will be getting the commissions because someone has judged their work--third party endorsements help an art director to try a new artist or return to one they have used before. Having other people acknowledge your work matters, not only to the artist but to those who are buying.

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