One thing I have learned over the last year is that entering ‘open-submission’ art competitions is, on the whole, as fruitful as trying to empty the Pacific ocean with a pipette.
One major UK event boasts spaces for 1200 artists’ works from anyone resident in the UK. It carries significant weight with a prestigious name, airtime on television and can be a sign of recognition for the lucky few who get accepted. However, all is not what it seems. The actual number of slots for people like me is far less than those claimed, partly due to the usual stagnation of a network of favourites and names that get to curate their own artists’ works instead. Those that are left get whisked past a panel of cobweb-ridden philistines who are out of touch with anything but the most shocking or most mundane of artforms and genres.
Your entry fee and transporting costs would be better spent with a children’s charity or a local hospice than being squandered on the notion that you are going to be the next Hirst or Emin
Then there’s the stress of waiting for the acceptance or rejection correspondence. And worst of all is knowing that some crusty fuck-head thinks that what you do is NOT good enough for others to see. This very principle is wrong at the most basic of levels.
Who are they to tell me I am not worthy of being shown?
All open-submission contests and exhibitions are shameless popularity contests and nothing else. These have sod all to do with art and everything to do with money and the number of votes a piece of art can get. That’s like X Factor for art. What a great travesty that we have to reduce aspiring artists of all ages to a procession of wide-eyed wannabe’s because they are hoping to get exposure and sales. For a few this will work but for the rest of us it never will. Art should not be a about the number of votes you can win. When was the last time you went out on a sunny day into your local park, dropped a canvas on the grass and started painting?
Get real. Success with your art will have little to do with what you get from these competitions. Sure they can provide a platform to showcase your amazing work but they can also be very demotivating too.
There are no substitutes for 20 hour days. FACT.
If you loosen your grip for a second it can all start falling away from you. I sell paintings. I hand deliver most of them. I take art to people and hang it in their own homes. This works, very well. But it’s hard graft. I know a number of artists (without any online presence) who work three hours a day, don’t know their market and don’t do anything to promote themselves and they wonder why they can’t pay their mortgage. Is it really that difficult?
I have no magic wand, no secret to selling art and no winning formula to share with you. I just work ridiculously hard seven days a week. I stress about where the next piece will come from, worry that I will never sell another piece and get frustrated when I throw away one canvas for each one that looks good. I frame and staple until my thumbs bleed, I lie awake at night thinking about new directions and off-shoots for turning what I do into other forms of work. We all have a unique style and there is a market for all art. If you don’t believe that then stop because you are wasting your time.
You just have to believe that what you are doing is right. You don’t need art competitions to do that. They can help if you are one of the lucky ones but pinning your aspirations on the nod of a judge’s head can do more harm than good. Besides, becoming determined and resilient makes your art turn a corner. It shapes the very creativity that pours from your fingers. It makes your art better.
This year I have not entered two of the major UK art exhibitions, I have chosen not to do another Saatchi showdown (don’t even get me started on that one) and I have rebuked approaches from two galleries who seem hell bent on screwing me on price and control even before they have seen my work for real. I told them to shove it where the sun doesn’t shine
Being scammed, manipulated and bullied by galleries, art judges, online gallery websites and people who think they know what my work is about fills my heart with great sadness and my head with determination to dispense with these arseholes altogether. I don’t need them and I will never need them. This bourgeois network of Neanderthals is dead in my mind. Too much of our energies gets put into this kind of pseudo-networking instead of going into promoting our websites and artwork which, after all, is our shop window to the world. Make it work for you.
Art is for people – all people. It is at the core of who we are – along with love, war and peace. It doesn’t belong on faceless white walls in austere galleries nor should it be beyond the reach of those who want to own it.
Thanks for reading. Share if you enjoyed my rants about the ‘system’…