This was my second experience as an art juror, and I enjoyed the task of going through 120 paintings to select 9 award winners (1st, 2nd, and 3rd place, as well as 6 Honorable Mentions). I approached it as I do all shows---a quick sweep through the entire show, to see what jumped out at me visually, and then a slower, more careful look at each piece.
The "200 Under 200" show is unlike OSA’s other juried shows because there’s no “elimination round”; so all the submitted paintings are displayed. That means the juror has to consider each painting—in all sorts of mediums and styles—and give awards to just 9 works.
Here is most of what I said during my gallery talk--in a room full of artists and their families and friends who attended:
I want to say a few words about how I jury a show. If I am familiar with your work, I’ve probably seen your best paintings, and I know what you are capable of, so you may have to work a bit harder to get my attention.
And it goes without saying that you should never try to paint FOR a particular juror—half the time you’ll be wrong about what it is you think the juror likes. I’m going to give you the same advice I give myself: paint a LOT, learn to recognize your best pieces, and then submit those to shows. I paint about 380 paintings a year (mostly on paper) and of those, I end up with 20 or so that I’d call “show-worthy”. That gives me a lot of paintings to choose from, and takes away the stress of having to produce a painting FOR a specific show. And I’m never rushed trying to finish something at the last minute for a deadline.
As I walked through the gallery, I noticed paintings that might have been a tad stronger if the artist had made a few different choices. But those choices are up to the artist, not me. I know several artists (including myself) who thought their painting was done, but set it aside for a month or two, or even a year or two and then went back to it and made small changes, and put it in a show and it won an award! I call that “circling back” and it’s a very effective method of taking what’s already good in a painting and making it even better.
I’ve heard some jurors say that they will never intentionally give an award to someone they know, but I disagree with that. Why would I penalize an artist JUST because I know him or her?
My goal is to select the works that I feel are the strongest when compared to others in the show. I’m judging the art, and not the artist.
How do I make my selections? I start by looking over the whole group of paintings, then I walk through the gallery several times before I stop in front of the paintings that visually catch my attention.
The obvious criteria—good color, composition, and design, and handling of the medium—have to be there. But more than that, an award winning painting (especially the top 3 prize winners) has to ENGAGE me and make me want to keep looking at the piece. There should be something that delights me, surprises me, or makes me wish I’d thought of that idea, chosen that subject, or used that technique. I will take a painting that tells me a good story over one with perfect technique any day of the week.
I want to leave you with this: think of a painting as a conversation between the artist and the viewer—your job as an artist is to invite the viewer in to your painting and get him to stay there awhile before moving on to the next piece.