Juried Shows – Follow the Rules and Have Fun

TikiPeople, originally uploaded by carolsLittleWorld.

Next in the series on juried shows, we get to Rule #3 which is “Follow the Rules.” Most of the time, the call for entries will have rules spelled out for you. Things like “send 3 slides or digital files on CD by this date.” That sort of a thing. You need to follow those rules as best you can, including how to size and present your work. Sometimes, they are very specific asking you to mark the CD with your name or naming your files in a very specific way-do that as best you can also. Remember that, in this capacity, you’re acting as a professional and that this is the same gallery that may one day represent your work, so be nice and play along with what they request. It goes a long way.

Now that we’ve covered all the rules, there’s a few more odds and ends I wanted to tell you about. It can be hard to tell how many and which juried shows to enter. This is where I might actually be able to provide some pointers. For me, juried shows are a bit like juggling. The secret (or so I’m told) to being a good juggler, is to “always have one ball in the air.” I use this approach with juried shows. Let me explain.

Every month (or couple of months) I scan the list of upcoming deadlines (we’ve talked about how to get these already) and I come up with my own list-a list of things I’m going to send out. Then, I start sending out my work, as best I can, in order to meet the deadlines in front of me. Typically, I won’t make all of the shows I’ve presented, not even in terms of getting into the show, more in terms of making their deadlines. This doesn’t matter to me. I just keep sending work out, according to my list, and I don’t pay attention to when results come back in. My goal is to always have work out for evaluation. The idea is, if you get rejected (and you will) always have the next things already sent out. I do this because it helps me to always have something out “on the horizon” of sorts. Sure, maybe I didn’t get into this particular show but, hey, this other place, over here, didn’t get back to me yet and I might still get into that one.

This is one way of coping with rejection, there are many others. Another trick I use is that I always tell myself I’m not going to get into a show, any show, and so, if anything comes back a “yes” I’m pleasantly surprised. Then I get to say “Wow! I made it in!” instead of “I so thought I had that one! Rats!” You get the idea.

The real trick with juried shows, if there is any, is that it’s really just a numbers game. The same work, if entered into several different juried shows, might get rejected, get in, get an award, get a 1-person show, or just get lost. The best advice I can give you here is to do work that’s close to your heart, that you feel good about, that you enjoy, and the rewards will follow in time.

Over the course of time, I’ve been able to get into many juried shows. Some I really thought I had and I did not get in, some I thought I would never get in and they took me, others, well, let’s just say I got in and leave it at that. After years of doing this, I’m probably now above the 50% mark in terms of getting in, but it really took me a while to get there, and, I have to say, if I don’t apply for shows I know I can’t make, then I feel more like a failure than I would getting into every one. I think it’s always good to reach, to try and make a mark that’s out of reach, just so that you remind yourself of what the next level is-it’s an important way to grow both as an exhibiting artist and as a person. So, that’s what I do.

Finally, one last important note about juried shows-and this is perhaps the most important thing of all. You’re life doesn’t change if you get in. It’s sort of like the old Buddhist saying, “a mountain is still a mountain, a river is still a river” nothing really radical happens to you after you get in. For some (odd) reason, a lot of people think that, once you get into a show, you’re going to make a million dollars, go on and become a household name, start selling gobs of work all over the globe, retire a millionaire, all of that. Um, sorry to inform you, but it just doesn’t work that way. Once you start getting into juried shows, you become what we call a “working artist” nothing more, nothing less. Welcome to the club. You’re one with the rest of us-there are probably ten billion people out there who have been in juried shows, just like yourself and who aren’t household names or have entire lines of oil paint named after them. And, guess what? More happy news! It doesn’t get any easier (really) getting into the next one.

So, there you have it. The in’s, out’s, up’s, and down’s of juried shows. It been a fun series-I hope to consolidate this into an article of sorts and present it on-line at some point but, for now anyway, I hope you’ve enjoyed reading along, and maybe even found some helpful advice buried in there for yourself.

Until next time…


  1. Janice / Dancing with Sunflowers
    August 5, 2009 / 11:52 am

    Hi Carol, I have indeed found it interesting and very useful. I even entered my first three images in a juried show. I didn't get in – really, really didn't expect to – but felt like I had overcome a huge hurdle just plucking up the courage to enter. So thank you. However, alongside this I wondered if I might be able to submit some of my images for a stock photography library. Again this is a huge step for me to even be able to imagine my work might be good enough! I've just heard that my first four images have been accepted and so I guess I'm now one of these 'working artists' too! (How weird is that!?) Or I will be if anyone actually selects my images and bought the right to use them! Again, thanks to you for your encouragement, both through this series and directly, about the images on my blog!

  2. Carol
    August 6, 2009 / 12:21 pm

    I'm glad it helped and a big congrats on getting into the stock library! Those can be hard and tricky to negotiate, I know, but a good stock agency can also be worth its weight in gold (or, you know, the even more precious "royalty fees." :~)

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