Should You Enter an Art Competition?

Advice on entering art competitions > 

“Our January PleinAir Salon judge, Lisa Skelly, is not only an award-winning artist, and gallery owner, but she’s also an art competition entrant and winner,” said Kari Stober, PleinAir Salon Manager. “With that in mind, we asked for her thoughts on this subject.”

On Entering Art Competitions

by Lisa Skelly

Well, it may seem to be an obvious answer but there is more to entering than getting an award. Don’t get me wrong, an award is an amazing honor and validation of your hard work and talent. Of course, it feels great to win! What if you could grow as an artist and gain even more than the big prize by putting your proverbial ‘hat in the ring’?

There are wonderful additional benefits to entering art competitions. Here are some things that I look to learn about my own work by contemplating these questions:

PleinAir Salon judge Lisa Skelly
PleinAir Salon judge Lisa Skelly, who has entered her fair share of art competitions

1. Visibility as an artist: Putting your work out there consistently will get you noticed. Believe me, when I enter an art competition, I’m looking at all of the other entries. Which ones are my favorite and why?

2. Study the top award winners: What is it about those really good pieces that won them the award? Is it their composition, value structure, skillful confident brushwork? It’s probably a combination of all of those.

3. Did the artist bravely paint an unexpected and unique viewpoint that set it apart from the other entries? How can you set yourself apart and share your voice in your own work?

Recently I entered one of the monthly salon competitions at PleinAir Salon – but I almost didn’t. I saw that my favorite artists had entered some beautiful pieces in the same category and I was honestly intimidated.

I thought, “No way I’ll win against these beautiful paintings.”

But then I thought more about itI was hopeful, but pretty sure it was not going to be my month to win.

PleinAir Magazine's 13th Annual PleinAir Salon Art Competition October 2023 Winner Lisa Skelly Rock Steady Plein Air Pastel
Lisa Skelly, “Rock Steady,” Pastel, 8×10 in.; Best Plein Air Pastel, PleinAir Salon October 2023

Surprise! I ended up winning and my dear friends and fellow competitors even called to congratulate me! I was touched, very surprised, and honored. It was a feather in my beret, a big win for many reasons.

I especially love that we all cheer for and support each other. We truly want our friends and fellow artists to do well. It’s an amazing rare community that we are part of.

My advice is to be brave and enter, reach for the stars, dream big, put your work out there, and be willing to learn more from entering, rather than just focusing on the big prize. Celebrate your wins and your growth as an artist, then enter your best paintings. Good luck to you all!

Editor’s Note: Learn more about the PleinAir Salon here, and enter your best works today – hurry, the deadline ends soon!


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