I recently submitted work to the Royal Institute of Painters in Water Colours annual exhibition and was later happy to announce I’d had work accepted. One of the congratulatory replies I received raised some questions:
How do you assess if you’ve reached the standard for the more prestigious exhibitions? If your work is rejected do you keep sending in until they relent? The Art Establishment appears to be a closed-off world – can an unknown, untrained amateur ever be accepted?
Well, I don’t pretend to understand how the Establishment works, but here are a few thoughts on the subject.
Firstly, I presume that if everyone on the judging panel had heard of me and I had strings of letters after my name then that might tip the balance in my favour. Sadly, I don’t have a fine art degree, I’m certainly not a household name and I don’t know any of the judges, so I’m proof that that’s not a barrier to acceptance.
Realistically, no jury can know each artist’s background, so the individual works have to speak for themselves. I know a few artists who have served on judging panels and their philosophy is to accept work of a high technical quality that has a “fresh voice”, irrespective of the artist’s background.
I’d never submitted to the RI before, but I felt confident of the quality of my work and knew that the subject matter was unusual. I’d already exhibited with the SWLA, which is also part of the Federation of British Artists, so I knew my work was of a suitable standard.
Of course rejection is horrible and it’s hard not to take it personally, but yes, artists need to keep submitting. Juries may have different members from year to year, and what suits one may not suit another.
Minimise the chance of rejection though: visit the exhibition before you enter to see the standard and type of work accepted. Many Societies have “portfolio days” when senior members view work and offer guidance to those hoping to exhibit in future years.
It’s the same as entering a local exhibition, just more expensive and with more likelihood of being rejected… but the rewards are greater too.
What are your top tips for successful submissions?