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Should you enter Art Competitions

Royal Academy summer exhibition

Deciding to enter art competitions comes down to your reason for thinking of entering. Will it suit your art ambitions and lets face it do you know what those are. We’ll give you a breakdown of what is involved with art competitions. Also we’ll provide information on who runs art competitions and what else you need to consider. We’ll also put together the pros and cons of art competitions too.

When we talk about art competitions, we also mean open art exhibitions. They can be very similar things, with both offering prizes and awards for entrants. For this blog we are discussing the more established yearly art competitions, that are generally more national or international in nature.

artwork Inside the Glasshouse by Meg Dutton VPRBA award winner RBA Exhibition

RBA Exhibition 2021 Winner ‘Inside the Glasshouse’ ©Meg Dutton VPRBA.RE

How art competitions and open exhibitions work

Firstly they are usually organised by local art societies, art magazines, art suppliers, art galleries and more established art societies, such as the Royal art societies, which are mainly London based. They can be international or national only. Possibly art medium based, such as oil paintings only, subject based, such as portraits or they can be theme based such as art depicting the impact of climate change on the environment. They are usually open to all abilities. There are also the well known art competitions run by Sky Arts, the portrait and the landscape competition. The format for the Sky Arts competitions will be discussed in a separate article.

Also many art competitions are run as open exhibitions. An open exhibition is where you are invited to enter an art exhibition, by way of selection. The exhibition can be just purely for entrants to the competition or if run by an art society, if you’re selected, you’ll be exhibiting with members of the society.

How do you enter art competitions

Firstly you have to apply online, complete the registration form and submit your digital image files of your artwork(s) you want to enter into the competition. You usually have to pay a fee to enter, per artwork. There is a deadline for when entries have to be submitted, so don’t leave it till the last minute.

By a certain date you will hear whether you have been pre-selected and you will be notified of which artworks you submitted have been pre-selected. Then on a set day, everyone who has been pre-selected has to deliver their pre-selected artworks to the competition organisers. Your artwork(s) is then left there to be judged. Then you are notified whether your artwork(s) has been selected for the exhibition. If not you have to collect your artwork(s) again on a set day, chosen by the competition organisers.

If you’re chosen for the final selection, then your artworks remain with the competition organisers for their exhibition. You will then receive an invite for attending the exhibition, where you will see your artwork(s) displayed amongst other entrants. Usually on that particular private viewing evening, prizes and awards are also announced. Most exhibitions will run for one or two weeks and hopefully you’ll sell your artwork too. Unsold artworks will have to be collected at the end of the exhibition, again on a specific day.

Online Art Competitions

When you enter art competitions that are online based, you’ll need to provide a very good digital image file of your art. You artwork will be assessed by the quality of your image file not the actual artwork. You may be assessed by a select group of jurors and there may also be a people’s choice award. This is where your image file is put to a public vote. In this case you don’t have to transport any artworks, but you will definitely need a good quality digital file of your artwork.



watercolour painting of woman by Jack Haslam titled Someone Everyone Winner 2021 Royal-Institute-of-Painters-in-Water-Colours-Exhibition

Royal Institute of Painters in Water Colour Exhibition 2021 Winner ‘Someone Everyone’ ©Jack Haslam

What do you hope to achieve from entering an art competition

There are many articles stating you shouldn’t enter art competitions and just as many saying you should, but it is a personal decision as tp what you do. Some people have a bad experience, while others enjoy it. It mainly comes down to what your own expectations are.

If you’re looking to have an art challenge that motivates you then entering a competition can be a good idea. It will make you assess your progress within art and consider how serious you are about your art.

If you’re looking to build an art career or aspirations to improve your art and connections in the art world, then an art competition is a good way to gain access to more people within the art industry. You also have the chance to connect with people who are just as committed and as serious about art as you.

Assessing an Art Society

Entering an art competition of a particular art society you’re interested in, can be a good way to assess the society. You’ll get to meet its members and see how they handle fellow artists and whether they’re a well organised and welcoming art society. You will be able to see if they will be a good fit for you. The society will also have the opportunity to assess you too and whether you will be a good addition to their society. They’ll also see your level of commitment and quality of your art, because generally once you become a member of an art society you have to commit to being a part of their annual exhibition, providing artwork(s) to show every year.

If your sole purpose to enter art competitions is to purely win the prize money and award, then you may be left with a hollow feeling if you don’t win. Sometimes it can take artists several attempts before they are selected for an open exhibition. There are even well known established artists who have entered competitions and have been turned down. Being selected is not always just about the quality of your work, there may be far more reasons than you can predict.

giclée print of colourful chicken online ordering

Giclée print on Hahnemühle PhotoRag 308gsm

Amazing Art needs a great digital image file

As a fine art printers we are always amazed at the different types of art we have the privilege to photograph and print as giclée prints. We rarely see the same style twice and we enjoy learning more about our artists methods. It is lovely to see them exhibiting their work, for more people to enjoy too. We’re always happy to help artists with achieving a digital image file of their artworks and are also happy to create any adjustments or editing you require. Please feel free to Get in touch
if you need our help

If you’d like to know more about giclée printing see Artists Printing – What you need to know about online giclée printing

What are the pros and cons of art competitions?
  • Firstly art competitions can motivate you to produce your best work and you’ll have the opportunity to have your work assessed by people in the industry.
  • Another positive is you have the opportunity to network with fellow artists, art buyers and collectors. You’ll see your work along side other artists and be able to assess your art better in an exhibition setting. This in turn could give you ideas in how you move your art forward.
  • There are prizes and awards you could win. The prizes can either be in the form of money or vouchers or art supplies. Again do your research on an art competition you’re interested in.
  • You may be invited to join the society who are running the art competition.
  • You get to share your work with more people. Rather than seeing it online, buyers will be able to see it in the flesh and it could bring a whole new audience to your platform.
  • If you do well in the competition you’ll be raising your profile and receiving some fantastic publicity. It may also open up other opportunities you hadn’t even thought of.
  • Some are free but generally you pay a fee to enter. Then it costs you to transport your artworks to the exhibition for pre-selection. Either you personally take your artworks or you need to ask a friend or an art couriers to deliver your artwork(s). This is because the competition organisers usually require you to remove all packaging upon delivery and take it with you. Also the drop off and collection of artworks(s) is usually on one specific day. You have to check the dates and plan ahead.
  • Your artwork has to be for sale and the gallery hosting the exhibition will take a commission on the sale. This is understandable as they will be doing all the promotional work. As a general rule of thumb galleries charge 40%+VAT commission on sales.
  • Working out the monies you receive from a sale after Gallery Commission
    (The Information is near the end of the Blog)
  • It costs money to get your artwork framed for the exhibition.
  • You have to organise your own insurance of your artwork(s). The SAA (Society of All Artists) have a good exhibition insurance policy for members, again read their terms and conditions carefully.
  • You’ll also need a good digital image file of your artwork for entering. Either you’ll need a good camera to do this yourself or pay for an artwork photographer to do it for you.
  • The competition organisers will have the ability to use your images to promote the competition, (probably in the following year as well) and to promote the exhibition. In their terms they will state that you are the copyright owner of the artwork(s) and that they will not use your images to print giclée prints or print your image on any products to sell. Make sure you fully read the terms and conditions of an art competition. They should respect your rights as the copyright holder.
  • You might spend money and not win. That is always the risk, but if you don’t take a chance you’ll never know.
dog portrait giclée print dog has ball in mouth

Giclée print on Canson Rag Photographique 310gsm

Overall Should you enter art competitions

This comes down to managing your own level of expectations. If you already feel put out at the idea of having to transport your artwork(s) to the organisers, before you even enter. Then maybe it won’t be for you. There are no guarantees that you’ll be selected or even win, regardless of the effort you go to. You are taking a chance and maybe you’ll get lucky, but also it should be a great experience, whether you win or not.

Remember if you do decide to enter art competitions, make sure you have done your research. This way you’ll be giving yourself the best chance possible. It sounds obvious, but take the care and time needed to complete the registration form properly. So many artists fail at the first hurdle. Also make sure the digital image file you submit is a close match to the original artwork. The jurors will be pre-selecting your work based upon the image file. You’ll be rejected if your artwork looks nothing like your digital image file. Ensure you supply a good digital image file, you are being judged on this first and foremost.

Don’t forget art competitions can be fun. You can take your art seriously, but remember to have fun, enjoy interacting with fellow artists. Make the most of the experience. Don’t see it as an isolated promotion of your art, but just one of many promotional tools of your art business.

Finally, keep an eye on our Blogs, there will be one coming soon about tips on entering art competitions!

Don’t forget if you’re thinking of turning your art into giclée prints, then please feel free to Get in touch



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