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Can you help me measure the pros and cons of participating in an art competition? I'd appreciate if you tell me if I'm thinking like a second-hander and correct me as necessary. Thanks in advance. :lol:

Advantages of participating

Self-esteem wise, it would make me proud to participate, to push my skills and to earn the prizes I want (art and educational materials) with the skills I value and want to be valued for. It would be earning things with the work I want to do.

The idea I would want to participate with is very personal and to have it "avenged" if I won would feel great. It could also encourage me to move on with my personal project, since there would be people who I would know to have genuine interest in it.

Fears of participating

There's prizes in the list, such as massive exposure, that I'm not quite ready for. I don't have a career or even a portfolio of work to show. If I won, I would feel naked or like a fraud.

There's a high risk of loosing, since many artists with far better creativity and skill, at a professional level, will participate.

Because the work is personal and precious it would feel crushing to have it rejected.

Disadvantages of not participating

Inactivity. Not doing anything to improve my situation. Not knowing if I could have won.

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It depends what you seek out of the competition. If you want to replace their judgement with yours - then it's not good to participate, you should instead learn to trust your own judgement and to evaluate your art by your judgement (you can still gain knowledge from others, but the ultimate evaluation has to be your own). If you want the exposure for the sake of a career advancement - you should check if you're ready to commercialize your art. If you want the money - sure go for it - why not? Money is always good.

If you see this competition as a test if your art can sell or not - then it's not a good idea to participate, because of the fragile position it puts you in. It is essentially the same situation as the first I mentioned.

Other people's admiration of your art should be a secondary enjoyment - a good bonus - but the primary evaluation and motivation for what you create has to be your own. If you feel that it is too difficult to maintain your own evaluation in face of other people's evaluation - I suggest you pull back from showing your art until you develop your own standards, confidence in your judgement and learn to evaluate your art by your standards. When you are not longer vulnerable in that sense - then is the time to show your art.

You know, it might help you to think how Howard Roark approached his work. He worked for Henry Cameron to learn Cameron's knowledge - but he did not substitute Cameron's evaluation of his work with his own - instead he[/]b judged his own work using the knowledge he got from Cameron.

Roark had a hard time finding costumers - in fact most of the time he was poor on the verge of starvation. What kept him going in his career in his own style was the fact that he judged his own work as good, and he was waiting for the kind of costumers who would use independent judgement to evaluate his work.

He did not give up on Architecture (because he loved it too much) and he did not adjust his style to popular demand to get costumers.

He did not accept his work as good regardless of what he did - he had very strict standards in judging - but yet he was confident in the value of his work because he worked hard to live up to his own standards. The key to his confidence is the fact he never gave up his independent thinking.

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  • 2 weeks later...

Hi Jill,

When I was in school, some of my teachers encouraged me to enter my work in juried exhibitions and competitions. I never liked doing so, but I think it can give you some valuable experiences.

Praise always feels good, and hearing what other people think of your work can give you different perspectives on how others can interpret visual information differently than you do. Informed criticism and seeing how your work compares to that of others can be good, not only because such criticisms and comparisons are often valid and you can learn from it if you're open to learning, but even when it's unfair it can thicken your skin a bit and help you refine your sense of proportion regarding how much you care about what others say, or, perhaps more importantly, how they say it.

Competitions, including ones that you don't personally enter but only observe, can also let you see first hand that "expert" judges often have their own peculiar biases. Sometimes the art they favor implies more about their own limitations, or even their resentments, than it does about the work they're judging. I've seen competitions in which the art that I, and most of the other viewers I chatted with, thought was the obvious best in the lot didn't even receive honorable mentions. I've seen artworks ignored by judges who were artists themselves, but who were incapable of creating at a level anywhere near that of the art that they were ignoring -- they chose instead to honor the art that was most similar in skill level to their own.

Being exposed to others' judgments, and talking to them, when possible, about their reasoning can help you learn to accept that art is a field in which almost everyone involved has very strong opinions, that their opinions are sometimes enlightening, but that they're also sometimes intentionally or unintentionally rude and motivated by things that have nothing to do with you or your work. It's the nature of the beast, and exposing yourself to it will help you learn how to deal with it in your own way. It can help you see more quickly which types of people are generous and full of encouragement and constructive criticism, and which are not.


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