Advice & Guidance

Artists of the Year ’21 – Judges Top Tips

25th June 2021 Estimated reading time: 5 mins

Entering a large competition can bring up many questions and concerns. As a bonus, this year we’ve asked our judges their Artists of the Year tip tops to give you that extra confidence boost and insight information. You can find out more about the judges by visiting the Meet the Judges page, here.

We have a wonderful panel of judges this year. Read firsthand what Neil Buchanan, Lachlan Goudie, Alison C. Board and Jeremy Ford’s top tips are in their own words.

 Neil Buchanan’s Top Tips

“I can’t wait to get stuck into judging this year’s Artists of the Year competition. What I’ll be looking for is application and engagement; for paintings that have been done in their own particular way. I want people to be themselves and I’m looking for this to be reflected in their work.
My advice for anyone who doesn’t think they’re good enough to enter is this: get a piece of white paper, scribble on it, scream at it and then screw it up. Show it whose boss and break through that “I can’t” barrier. Then get on with your idea.”

 Lachlan Goudie’s Top Tips

“Nowadays when competitions are judged, the images are viewed digitally and often on a small scale. Make sure your entries read well when photographed.
It might be worth considering entering works that have a strong sense of design, composition and colour to make a visual impact.
Judges will enjoy being surprised by images that are slightly unusual or unconventional. If you are painting a still life, portrait or landscape, think about what might distinguish your treatment of this genre from any other competitors, helping your entry stand out.”

 Alison C. Board’s Top Tips

“When entering a competition, see it as a way of pushing yourself. That might be refining a skill or experimenting with new media but try not to concentrate on the outcome, make it more about how you are reaching for a new goal.
Don’t for a single second think about what anyone else might produce – that’s a sure fire way of killing your creativity stone dead. Compare yourself to yourself, and use the opportunity to improve in a particular direction.
Make absolutely sure you have gathered your reference material from a source that can be safely reproduced. What if you painted from a photograph that you didn’t have permission to copy and then your painting won?

Competitions will surprise you. I’ve often been pleased with a painting that has not caught the eye of the judges, only to enter something that in my opinion technically lacks finesse and that’s the piece that has been chosen.

If the competition has a specific brief, don’t be surprised if the judges don’t interpret it in the same way that you have. However, this can sometimes surprise the judges and make your painting an absolute winner!

If your piece doesn’t reach as far as you might hope, try really hard not to take it personally. Just because one judging panel hasn’t seen what you see, doesn’t mean it’s not good. Try it in a different competition or exhibition or simply chalk it up to an experience which is difficult, but it will make you feel much more positive about entering things in the future.

When judging competitions myself, I like to learn something about the artist in their work. What is it that they are trying to say about what they see? What aspect has inspired them? How have they experimented? I’m not necessarily looking for the most proficient skill, I’d rather see something painted with passion than a slavish representation.

Any judging is controversial, it’s always up for debate, so try to see it as just an individual response. In the same way that we all debate the latest reality show, baking, dancing or sewing competition, it doesn’t make any of us wrong – or right!”

 Jeremy Ford’s Top Tips

“I’ve heard lots of people say, “There’s no point me entering, I’m never going to win.” It’s a fatalistic view, and a flawed one. Firstly, the imaginative spark of your creation might be the one that has that certain something which makes it stand out in the eyes of the judges. Each judge has their own opinion, and each looks for something that pleases them individually. Secondly, the judges like to see a wide variety of styles of work, mediums, subjects, etc. from as many different backgrounds and levels of experience as possible in the hope that such a varied selection of pictures will make a dynamic, exciting, and interesting exhibition. A winning artwork might not be the most technically brilliant, incredibly detailed, or dramatically impressive piece, but could be something far simpler. Art means different things to different people, and what appeals to one might not appeal to another so opinions vary enormously over what is good and acceptable.

I hope lots of people will enter their artworks and if you do, consider a few things beforehand. Your subject matter; how many other people will be submitting very similar subjects or ideas? Look for something perhaps a little different or unusual. Think about how you will tackle your subject; maybe don’t just take a straightforward obvious approach.

I like to see some thought gone into an artwork and an element of skill demonstrated in its execution. There’s nothing wrong with photographic realism which takes effort and concentration but lots of people can draw and paint this way, so if that is your preference what is it that marks out yours individually from another? If working from a photograph, don’t necessarily copy it exactly as it is but interpret a photograph in your own style with as much or as restrained visual accuracy and information as you think appropriate.

If you get to the stage where you are invited to send your work in to the SAA for actual viewing, don’t skimp on the presentation! A poor mount or an ill-fitting or tatty frame can dramatically diminish excellent work! It should compliment the artwork to the best effect and not detract from it in any way.

So go on, have a go because nothing ventured, nothing gained. And you never know…”

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