Thursday, March 13, 2008

Juried Art Contests

Bass Harbor Head Lighthouse, Maine
7 x 10 soft pastels on Art Spectrum Colourfix (the last piece in the house)
Miki Willa
I just got my April issue of Pastel Journal with the winners of the annual Pastel 100 contest. I always look forward to this issue to see what the judges liked this year. I was quite amazed to see how many photo-realistic paintings were honored. Is this style coming back? Has anyone told the art schools? I did like almost all the winning paintings this year. I especially liked the landscapes. The still lifes very interesting, as always. There was a non-representational piece that surprised me. The artist used soft pastels to create a Jackson Pollock style painting. It is hard to believe it is not poured oil paints. The one thing I thought was lacking in many of the paintings was emotion. I totally appreciate the skill, patience, and dedication it takes to do photo-realism. That is what I aspired to when I first started painting. I guess that I am more interested in showing how I feel about something these days. I don't always achieve it, but I am working on it.
Now that I have said all that, I want to address my feelings about juried shows. This is just how I feel, so if you think juried shows are fantastic, you don't have to read any further. I am an educator and I loathe standardized testing, and especially teaching to the test. They are a "snapshot" of a moment in time of a student. They don't take into account the whole student. I feel the same way about juried shows, but for different reasons. First, I don't think it is good to compare yourself to others in that way. Especially if you have been painting for five years, and the others have been painting for 40. But the juror does, so the same people win over and over again and the newer artists are only discouraged. Next is the idea that someone who is not your teacher makes judgements about your work based on their own prejudices. I have always thought that art classes should be credit/non-credit. Who really has the right to grade/judge someone else's creativity? I have seen paintings I thought were so terrible win big prizes in juried shows. I have entered the local pastel societies shows, to support the society, had paintings accepted and rejected. I have celebrated with the winners, and consoled the rejectees. Have I grown as an artist from the experience? No. Not at all. Especially when I see paintings honored that I think are really poorly executed. ( I would love to be able to post this picture and see what you think, but I can't.) Okay. I think I have said my piece.
I have read that painting lighthouses can be so cliche. I have been looking at the reference photo for my painting for a long time. I have a friend who is in Iraq. He loves lighthouse paintings. I was thinking of him this morning so I decided to finally do this painting. I used the last piece of Colourfix in the house. It is not finished, but I wanted to post it anyway.


Julie at Virtual Voyage said...

I agree with the drawbacks of the juried shows you have outlined; suppose the competition does provide a stimulus for artists in some respects.

I think if you look closely at my profile pic you might recognize it - I believe it is the same Maine lighthouse you painted today. It was my interpretation of a photograph some years ago, done in acrylic.

Thankyou for all the feedback on mine, it has been a great encouragement.

Tom said...

Wonderful lighthouse painting. The shadow on the rocks really is great. I took a close look at julie's post I found hers to be a unique acrylic interpretation. I really like it a lot,too.
Juried shows a neccessary evil? Competition in our society is the achievement. Creative excellence is nutured by inspiration, committment and positive energies.
How do I get to post a profile image with my comments?
Painters paint to share something is lost when the paint to win.

Casey Klahn said...

I like it! It remind me of another one you did with rocks, and you have that down!

Pastel as a medium is certainly big and broad, which is the reason its in a renaissance now. I don't blame the PSJ 100 for being one way or the other. Could the contest submissions have been weighted one way? It is probably true that these represent what people are painting nowadays.

I haven't entered these comps before, but may start in the near future. My friend won a spot last year and I was thrilled for her, and I think the benefits are there. I'll have to study your opinion closer, Miki.

I'm glad you like the free and loose style - we'll be fast friends!