Art Exhibitions and Competitions — Why should you submit your artwork?

Art Exhibitions and Competitions — Why should you submit your artwork?

by Susan Murray

When we think of juried exhibitions and competitions, the word “subjective” often comes to mind, implying that opinions outweigh facts. Unlike competitions in sports or quizzes where winners are clear-cut based on speed or knowledge, art competitions rely on individual judgment. So, why expose our art to such subjective evaluation?

Molly, 8 x 12 inches

Let me begin by telling you a bit about my coloured pencil story and entering art exhibitions and competitions. I started using coloured pencil in 2017. I drew my friends’ dogs as a surprise gift, they went down so well I started getting a few commissions and with each new drawing I could see a steady improvement. In 2018, I decided to enter my first competition. I’d drawn my friends Chihuahua ‘Molly’ which I was really very proud of. The competition was part of a very small local ‘Flower, Vegetable and Craft Show’. To my utter amazement and delight, I won my section, and also the overall art trophy! This was a real boost to my confidence.

Encouraged, I ventured into Ann Kullberg's monthly Color magazine’s The Pencil Box. I learnt valuable lessons about photo resizing and competition entry. It took numerous attempts, but eventually seeing my artwork in print was immensely rewarding.

Happy!, 12 x 12 inches

After that I got the bug and there was no stopping me, I started entering any art exhibition/competition I found online. In 2019, I entered my first in person exhibition with the UK Coloured Pencil Society (UKCPS) annual juried Exhibition. After a nervous wait for the email, I am pleased to say I got in. What a fantastic experience! Seeing my artwork next to others on the wall was amazing. Again, I learnt so much about the whole process, of not only sending the correct size and format of the photo for the initial stages but also what to do and not to do regarding framing and doing some research on the jurors. All this knowledge was used when in 2021 the at the 20th Annual UKCPS Exhibition I was shocked and ecstatic to find I had won the Color Pencil Society of America’s Award for Excellence with my drawing ‘Happy!’. That will be a most wonderful moment that I will never forget.

“Art isn't about winning or losing”

All this sounds lovely, but there are two sides to every coin, and the other side of this particular coin is rejection. I tend to enter more online exhibitions as there is only the initial cost of entering, no delivery and possible accommodation costs. Recently though I have been entering more in person juried exhibitions that are local to me. Edinburgh & Glasgow are now my main targets. I’ve not managed to get in any at the moment. I’ll admit for a day or two it does hurt, and you do question your capabilities. I’m too stubborn to give up though, then I remember the word “Subjective”. So, I learn, try to improve and enter again!

The main tips I could give you are:
• Always read the rules, then read them again!
• Follow the rules, (I know as artists we like to break rules — don’t, you won’t get selected).
• Try to get feedback from the jurors if you can, this is not always possible though.
• If you’re paying $ to enter up to 3 artworks, then enter 3. If an entry is free, then enter.

Daphne's Mischievous Look, 8 x 8 inches

I have on occasion been awarded something for my third entry, which I entered just to fill up space. It all adds to put on your CV or website. I also entered the World of Coloured Pencils Exhibition in 2023, (open to UKCPS members only). I like entering this one as it’s fairly local and it’s an in-person exhibition. I didn’t know what to enter, so I entered the only piece I had finished that followed all the rules. It was actually a piece I had been asked to create as a tutorial for CP Magic magazine called ‘Daphne’s Mischievous Look’. You could have knocked me down with a feather, it only went and won Best in Show!

“So, I learn, try to improve and enter again!”


Some pros and cons of entering exhibitions/competitions.

Exposure: Exhibitions and competitions showcase an artist's work to a wider audience, including art enthusiasts, potential clients and collectors.

Reputation Boost: Being selected enhances the artist's credibility in the art community, opening doors for collaborations and representation.

Feedback: Critiques and feedback from judges and peers aid in an artist's growth and development.

Networking: These events provide opportunities to connect with other artists and industry professionals, fostering collaborations and future exhibition opportunities.

Subjectivity: Judging can be subjective, leading to the possibility of high-quality work not receiving recognition.

Competition: The competitive nature of exhibitions means talented artists vie for limited spots, potentially causing disappointment if not selected.

Time and Effort: Preparing artworks, completing forms, and meeting deadlines require significant time and effort, potentially distracting from studio practice.

Financial Costs: Entry fees, shipping, and associated expenses can accumulate, with uncertain returns in sales or recognition.

I will leave you with this thought; Art isn't about winning or losing — it's about connecting with people through our own unique forms of expression.


Susan is an award-winning professional artist based in southwest Scotland. She studied at Carlisle Art College for four years in the 80s gaining a National Diploma in Applied Design & a Higher National Diploma in Design & Textiles. A happy twist of fate happened in 2017, when she stumbled upon coloured pencil artists on YouTube. She was so enthralled by the medium's vibrant possibilities it sparked a new chapter in Susan's artistic narrative. She has pursued her own creative practice ever since

WEBSITE: Susan Murray Art

Comments (1)

Thanks for the advice and perspective.

Lynda Burns - May 16, 2024

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