The Agony & Ecstasy of Competition Entry

It’s that time of year again.  Competition entry season.
Multiple deadlines. Each with its own rules and hurdles.

Quilters are working towards International, handweavers for Convergence, SDA members for Interface….and I’m not even going to mention all the global competitions!

You wonder:
Is your art good enough?
How far can you stretch your artistic abilities?
Should you even try?
Do you really want to show your work?
How much are you willing to sacrifice to achieve this goal?

Once you grapple with these internal questions, you need to consider the specific competition process and rules.
What are the fees?
Is the art insured?
Are the winners published?
Is it a gallery show?
Does it embrace new media?
How is the competition supporting you, the artist?

Here are some questions I ask myself before entering any competition
and some answers I’ve found the hard way.

Who is the juror?

Does their aesthetic make them inclined to like your work?
Research their art and review what events they have judged.  Sometimes their aesthetic preferences will simply not match yours.  The more informed you are, the more likely your work will support the competition’s theme and juror’s vision for curating a show that fulfills it.

How will the organization contact you once decisions are made?

Will they notify you of acceptance via mail, phone or email?  If you’re traveling and they mail information to a physical address will you be able to reply in a timely manner?  If you are outside of your home country how easily can you access your phone messages?  You don’t want to miss an opportunity simply because of a communication snafu.

What does ‘First Right of Publication’ mean?

Some organizations require that your submitted pieces have not been published.  But how are they defining”‘published”? Does that mean the out-of-focus snaps you post on your social media site for your mom to see?  What are their rules for electronic, print, televised and international media?  If you are unclear about their regulations, contact the competition organizers before submission and request clarification.  You don’t want to be disqualified because you hastily shared a process pic on a personal blog.

Does the entry allow hyperlinks?

Many of us now document the majority of our lives on the internet: portfolios, interviews and videos of our projects, classes and installations. Verify if the entry process supports embedded hyperlinks. If it is a paper submission, can you send a CD with a pdf document containing links to your online documentation? You don’t want to be rejected because the entry process did not allow you to present your work and accomplishments to the best of your ability – using 21st century practices and formats.

Does the entry process allow for video?

Most competitions allow for static images only.  If you are creating interactive art the best documentation is video. If the entry states JPG and TIF format, contact the organizers and ask that this be expanded to accommodate new media and contemporary practices.  It might not happen for that specific competition – but perhaps the next year they will update their rules to support video submissions.

What rights does the organization have to your photo?

Most competitions state that upon signing the entry form you have given them the rights to publish your images. But does this give them rights to publish your work even if you do not win?  Read the fine print – because their publication of your work will disqualify that piece from other competitions that require first rights of publication. Let the entrant beware!

Are they releasing images that include your copyright?

Most competitions require submission of JPG and TIF formats for jury review as well as for publication. Are you allowed to include your copyright on these images?  If not, are they requesting watermarked JPG and TIF for publication purposes?  You don’t want to expose yourself to copyright infringements because an organization released images that did not include your name, date and copyright notice.

After answering this checklist of questions, I can determine if entering the competition is a worthwhile venture; one that will enhance my portfolio and augment my list of exhibition credits. If the competition’s rules are unclear or do not protect my work, I will contact the organizer to request clarification or revisions in their documentation.

I hope these insights and tips help you with your own decisions this competition season.  I look forward to reading your comments and experiences (below) on how you evaluate which competitions you are supporting this year.

GOOD LUCK. See ya at the shows!

Lynne Bruning is the creatrix of exclusive wearable art, eTextiles and adaptive technologies. Fusing together her BA in neurophysiology from Smith College, Masters in Architecture from the University of Colorado and her family history in textiles, Bruning jets thru the universe creatively cross-pollinating the worlds of science, textiles, fashion and technology. Her introductory electronic textiles classes infect textile artists, electrical engineers and computer hacks with the love of wearable computing and spawn local eTextile groups. Her innovative, award winning designs will inspire and challenge you to see beyond the fabric and into today’s technologically complex surface designs.
Experience her world at; on twitter; on facebook; on pinterest; and on youtube


  • Pat Vivod says

    March 25, 2012 at 3:03 am

    Lynne this is a fabulous article. You've brought up ideas I hadn't even dreamed of. Thanks for the information.

  • Jack Brockette says

    March 26, 2012 at 11:05 am

    Great Article. I hope that everyone reads. Thanks for taking the time to share this information.

  • Mary Vaneecke says

    March 26, 2012 at 1:37 pm

    I wish the venues were as thoughtful in preparing their entry forms and policies as you have been in pointing out the pitfalls and benfits.

  • lynne bruning says

    March 26, 2012 at 2:30 pm

    Happy to be of help! Mary - if the organizations entry form is not well thought out it is likely that they haven't an organized plan of how to take care of your art work at a show. Please share your ideas and experiences so all of SDA is smart and informed about how and where we show our artwork.

  • Morna Crites-Moore says

    April 4, 2012 at 1:52 am

    Thanks for this article. Some interesting points I've not considered ... like whether they publish your non-winning entry and the issue of displaying copyright on a "blind" entry. It occurs to me that maybe the various professional groups (SDA, SAQA, etc.) should get together and brainstorm standardizing the rules and regs and then try to "sell" an established norm to at least the major competitions.

  • lynne bruning says

    April 4, 2012 at 7:31 pm

    Morna I do hope the organizations come together for a standardized entry system. Until that day comes I believe the artists have to scrutinize every entry and contact the organizers with their questions and concerns. Its a new era and the competition rules and regulations should be updated to reflect this.

  • lynne bruning says

    April 6, 2012 at 8:47 am

    A recent example of why entrants should consider how a competition releases images. Fantastic Fibers posted their winners. These pieces demonstrate amazing talent, skill and dedication. As a viewer of this website you can: copy these images to your computer place the images on Pinterest Yet, the images do not contain a watermark nor embedded attribution to the artist the images do not hyperlink back to the artist's website. As artists we spend time and resources to create out work. Please take another five minutes to consider how a competition will release your images and provide attribution.

  • neki rivera says

    April 20, 2012 at 9:32 am

    great article thanks! agree w/ morna on the standardisation of entry rules. but come to think of it there's not even a standard for __________ (fill it)

  • Della Reams says

    April 23, 2012 at 3:10 pm

    Very thoughtful article. Thank you, Lynne.

  • Lynne Bruning says

    April 24, 2012 at 7:46 am

    @Neki art competitions might not agree on 'entry standards', but if the artist states that they won't submit because of _______ (watermarks, hyperlinks, videos) then the organizations will have to evolve their entry regulations to reflect current practices. thanks Della!

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