The artists who won the 2008 top awards in several major watercolor society exhibitions speak out about the rewards and lessons of entering juried shows.
Jean Grastorf (Transparent Watercolor Society): I’ve entered juries shows for many years. To enter is to challenge yourself to achieve what you might consider a painting worthy of that venue—one that also meets the criteria of that organization. The Transparent Watercolor Society of America, for example, has certain media standards. To win is thrilling, very exciting and a wonderful honor. However, to be “declined” is part of the process. It should not be seen as a personal rejection. It’s really true that one show’s reject is another’s award winner. Having served as a juror I know that there is a tremendous body of excellent entries that cannot be included.
Nancy Stark (Rocky Mountain National Watermedia Society): I’ve entered juried shows many times. I’m always excited to get in, and disappointed when I don’t. But I try to keep in mind that most of the decisions are the result of one person’s opinion on a given day.
Aletha Jones (Springfield Art Museum’s Watercolor U.S.A): I was both pleased and honored to have my painting receive special recognition at the 2008 Watercolor U.S.A. Exhibition, as this Exhibition holds a special place in my resume of professional accomplishments. It was one of the first national exhibitions to accept my work when I first began to apply in the mid-1980s. It’s also special to me because of the associations I have made through my participation. After winning an award in 1988, I became a member of the Watercolor U.S.A. Honor Society where I was introduced to an outstanding group of exceptional painters. My term as newsletter editor for the Honor Society during the ’90s helped me to get to know many of these professional colleagues as personal friends. My remarkable friendships with this gifted group of painters from the Watercolor U.S.A. Honor Society have continued to inspire and challenge my work for the past 20 years.
Tim Gaydos (The Artst Guild of Old Forge): Sometimes you don’t get accepted, sometimes you do, and sometimes you win, and that’s great. I suppose having a fair amount of success in shows keeps one—keeps me—entering. If I were not successful, I don’t know whether I would continue to enter. But it’s very gratifying that other people show appreciation for your work, and it gets your work out there as well. It gives me greater satisfaction to enter a show where the odds are harder. To actually get a prize is quite gratifying.
Soon Y. Warren (National Watercolor Society): I’ve entered many juried shows, locally and nationally; as many as my time and energy allow me to handle. I especially like to enter magazine competitions, which don’t involve shipping the actual painting if it’s accepted. Juried shows, on the other hand, allow me to exhibit paintings around the nation without knowing artists or gallery owners in other parts of the country. Acceptance into a juried show, even without wining an award, gives me a feeling of confidence and encouragement that I need from time to time. Of course, I always face the risk of disappointment when a juror doesn’t accept a painting for a show. I have to keep in mind that a rejection doesn’t mean that the painting I entered is a bad one, but that it simply didn’t fit with the other paintings in the show.
Joanne Lucas Warren (2007 Canadian Society of Painters in Water Colour): I’ve entered regional, provincial, and national juried shows for the last 15 years, and since then have won numerous awards. I’ve been accepted into three CSPWC Open Water exhibitions in the past eight years. Competition introduces me to other contemporary artists and competent jurors. Competing tells me more about my art, as I try to organize and analyze my choices of entry. To win means my painting spoke to the jurors. To win is a reassurance, a compliment, and a joy.
To not be accepted increases my sensitivity to observation, makes me reassess and ask the question why. It is the jurors’ choice. However, this does not always mean it is a poor painting.
You can find the artists’ winning work in the February 2009 issue of Watercolor Artist.