Wednesday, July 23, 2014

Art Show Etiquette: Professional Behavior Will Garner More Respect than Hissy Fits.

One of the Watercolor Societies of which I am a Board Member has published their list of artists who have been juried into their annual exhibit, and once again, it has become apparent that some artists need a reminder about professional artist etiquette. Most importantly, artists need to remember that the person they send a "poison pen letter" to today, might remember that letter the next time their artwork comes before them for a review.


Art Show Etiquette
By Annie Strack ©2008


The spring season is upon us once again, and for artists it’s often our busiest time of the year.  The season brings us pleasant weather, and with it comes the stacks of entry forms for art shows, festivals, and other events.     

Over the years, I have chaired or served on the committees of dozens of art shows.  Every time, I hear complaints from artists, and I hear longwinded explanations about why the show’s rules shouldn’t specifically apply to them.  You’d be amazed by the complaints I’ve listened to from some of the artists. 

At a regional juried show I recently chaired, I received up to a dozen phone calls a day from artists complaining because they didn’t hear about the show sooner.  It wasn’t enough that the call to artists was published in several newspapers and dozens of artists newsletters months before the deadline, or that thousands of entry forms were prominently available at all the local art supply stores and galleries, or that the prospectuses were handed out at every art show, art festival, and art club meeting within the region for the last two months.  These artists were complaining that they weren’t personally notified and asked to enter the show.


(Annie Strack receiving a special plaque commemorating her decade of service as Show Chairman and other Offices in the St Bernard Art Guild)
 
Other artists called to complain that they didn’t like the juror’s credentials.  One of them told me that she believed that all art shows, in general, always choose the wrong jurors.  She qualified this by saying that she knows her art is good, because all of her friends tell her so, and yet she never wins any awards at any art competitions.  She didn’t think it was fair that well-known top artists were consistently winning awards at various shows, and that art shows should try to find jurors who had taste more akin to hers and her friends.  She went on to tell me that she felt she should have been the juror because she knows what good art is. 

Other artists complained about the scheduling of events.  Some were too busy to deliver their entries on the allocated days; others complained they would be too busy to pick up their work at the end of the show.  My advice is simple; if the schedule of events is too much of an inconvenience, then don’t enter the show.  Every artist needs to make their own arrangements for the delivery of their artwork on time, and exhibit calendars cannot be changed to accommodate the personal schedule of every artist who wants to enter. 

Then there’s the artist who asked me about the framing requirements for the show, and wanted to know if he could bring his artwork in unframed because he had a lot of other things to do and he didn’t have time to go out and buy a frame.  At least he called and asked, and he did end up bringing his paintings properly framed.  Another artist wanted to enter an extra painting by claiming that the two of his entries were actually one diptych, despite that the two paintings were obviously separate and were even priced separately.   Other artists, who couldn’t be bothered with rules, were sent away from the show for bringing unframed paintings.  

At one recent show an artist entered a three dimensional artwork but demanded that it should be included in the two dimensional artwork category.  Naturally, the exhibit committee ignored her demands and the artwork was placed in the 3-D category for judging (which by the way, had far fewer entries and therefore gave her better odds of acceptance and winning, anyway).  When the artist found out at the reception that she didn’t win any awards, she thought that it was because her piece was judged within the larger competition of the larger 2-D category.  So then she changed her mind, and complained that her artwork should have been judged against the smaller 3-D category.  

But the best one is the story of the gallery owner, who wanted to enter paintings from her store’s inventory.  Not only were the artworks not her own original creation and created prior to the date allowed for recent works, they were also created by an artist who was deceased.  Sounds surprising, doesn’t it?  And yet, this is not the first time this situation has come up.  A few years ago I was on the committee of a juried exhibit that was only open to artists who lived within a local zip code.  One woman came in and wanted to enter the artwork of her friend, who had passed away years ago.  When the rule was pointed out to her that only local residents could enter, she replied that her late friend is a local resident, she resides in the cemetery down the street! 

Now that you have a better understanding of what the exhibit committee has to deal with, I’d like to offer a few tips about artist etiquette.  First off, I can’t stress enough the importance of reading the show’s rules before you enter.  If you don’t understand the rules, either call or email the organization for clarification. 

Please don’t complain because you didn’t hear about the show earlier.  Most show committees send out press releases and put a call to artists in various art newsletters, magazines, websites, and emails.  They really do try to get as many entries as possible, and it’s not the fault of the show committee or chairman if some artists choose to live under a rock and not read these announcements. 

Don’t complain or whine if your art is not accepted because you didn’t follow the rules!  No saw tooth hangers means no saw tooth hangers.  It is not the responsibility of the art show committee or chairman to frame your work or make adjustments to your framing so that it can be accepted.  You must make sure that your art is within the guidelines of the rules before you enter it.

Rules that state that the entries must have adequate picture wire and screw eyes for hanging mean just that, and if you send an artwork with two thumbtacks attached to the frame and a shoestring stretched between them, you can expect it be rejected.  Same goes for bits of yarn attached with tape or paperclips, fishing line, staples, string, and other odd bits and pieces that are not screw eyes and picture wire. 

Shows that have weight or size restrictions have them for a reason.  The facility might not accommodate artworks over a certain size, or the hanging system may not hold items over a certain weight.  This restriction isn’t in the rules just to annoy some artists, it’s there because there are genuine physical limitations to what some shows can accommodate. 

(Philadelphia Watercolor Society  Show Co-Chairmen Annie Strack and Wendy McClatchy)
The rules often require that artwork must be dry.  This means that paintings with wet paint may not be entered.  Please, don’t even try to sneak them in.  In the last three shows I hung, wet oil paintings with gallery wrapped painted edges were entered, despite the printed rule in the prospectus which clearly stated wet paintings were prohibited.  Wet paint tends to get everywhere, including the floor, walls, and on people.  I don’t like to get oil paint all over my hands and clothing when I install an exhibit, and neither does anyone else.    

Rules and restrictions regarding the age of the artwork are common.  Art competitions are generally meant to showcase current or recent works, and works that are old and have already been in several shows over the course of many years are rightly discouraged.  Those paintings that were done in art class fifteen years ago need to be retired!  Also, the rule stating that all work must be original means that an artist can’t copy someone else’s painting or photo out of a book, magazine, or anywhere else, and rules that state that the work must have been created without supervision means that you can’t enter something you made in a workshop or class. 

You may think that you or your artwork should be granted an exception to the rules because of your special circumstances, or that the rules don’t specifically apply to you for some reason.  Think again!  You are not entitled to special treatment, and arguing with the show committee or chair is not going to get you anywhere. 

If your art is rejected by the juror or doesn’t win an award, please don’t whine to the show committee or chairman.  They did not make that decision, the juror did.  Nor will they override the juror’s decision, no matter how loudly you complain or how many of your friends agree with you.  Not everyone will get accepted to every show, or win an award.  The juror merely liked other things better than yours, this time.  Rejection eventually happens to all of us; accept it graciously, and move on.

I know many of you are shaking your heads in disbelief, thinking that surely these scenarios must be few and far between.  You’re probably thinking we are all professional artists, and we all know these things already.  If that were the case, then everyone would be following the rules and graciously accepting the occasional rejection.  Unfortunately, these shocking scenarios are more common than you think.  In my experience, I’ve found that at least twenty percent of the artists entering a show try to get around the rules.  That may not sound like a lot, but in a show with 200 entries, that’s 40 artists.  That’s way more than any show should have to deal with. 

One thing I’ve noticed from chairing all these shows, is that the more experienced and professional artists are the best at following the rules, and they are the least likely to demand special treatment or complain when they don’t win an award.  One amateur artist recently stomped towards me at a reception with her nose in the air and barked at me in a huff, “How could my piece have been rejected!?  It’s been well received elsewhere!” 
(Louisiana Watercolor Society Show Chairman Annie Strack handling out awards)

In a juried show, the entry fee is for the opportunity to have your work considered for inclusion by the juror.  It does not guarantee acceptance into the show, and it is not refunded if the entry is rejected.  There are plenty of small local shows around the country that are not juried; these shows are less prestigious than juried shows, but they are the right choice for artists who may be offended by rejection.  Remember, our behavior affects how others perceive us.  If an artist wants to be perceived as experienced and professional, then they must behave in this manner.  Plus, one will gain more respect in the art world by being polite and gracious, than by being a sore loser. 

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Copyright 2008 © Annie Strack. The edited version of this article was first published in Art Calendar magazine in 2008, and the original version was published 2008 in the book (The Artists Guide To) Art Business and Marketing by Annie Strack. Visit the author at www.AnnieStrackArt.com.  
A modern master of maritime art, Annie Strack is an Official Authorized Artist for the U.S. Coast Guard and has earned Signature Membership in 8 artist societies. Her artwork has received hundreds of awards and hangs in more than 1,000 public and private collections worldwide. In addition to being a highly acclaimed juror for art shows and popular workshop instructor, she is the producer and host of Painting Seascapes in Watercolor, which is broadcast on television stations worldwide and also available on DVD. Annie draws experience from her former career in corporate management to build a successful art career, and she shares her knowledge of business and marketing in her articles which are in many publications, including Art Calendar, Professional Artist, and The Crafts Report magazines. 

posted by Annie Strack @ 4:30 PM   3 Comments

3 Comments:

At July 23, 2014 at 6:06 PM , Blogger Susan Herbst said...

Thanks! I've shared this with my Art Guild peeps!

 
At July 23, 2014 at 7:05 PM , Blogger Annie Strack said...

YW, Susan, and thanks for sharing it!

 
At July 24, 2014 at 8:39 AM , Blogger Kelly Dombrowski said...

Wow I guess I had no idea adults would act in such a manner! Sounds like being a juror is exhausting work!

 

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Google+ All images and content copyright Annie Strack 2008 Although I occasionally receive compensation for some posts, I always give my honest opinions, findings, beliefs, or experiences on those topics or products. The views and opinions expressed on this blog are purely my own.