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  • Writer's pictureCathy Carey

Judging and Entering Art Shows

I was honored last month to judge the North County Society of Fine Arts (NCSFA) – annual show at the Poway Performing Arts Center. A beautiful venue for an art show! There were over 170 entries  I had to narrow down to about 70 to be in the show. It was a National show – with entires from across California and also a few out of state. The  bulk were from the NCSFA, the group sponsoring the show.

I learned so much about entering shows from doing this! Here are a few pointers I wanted to share:

  1. First if you can – try to enter as many pieces as allowed. This gives the judge an opportunity to see progress in your work, and other dimensions if you enter more than one category.

  2. I think it’s hard for artists to see their strengths sometimes. Ask other people, which are you best pieces, then ask them to tell you why.

  3. Enter several categories, if you can’t win in one section you might in another. I found that people who entered several categories had a better chance of “medaling”.

  4. Don’t ever give up. If you don’t win, or aren’t selected for a show keep trying. View the winning pieces and try to see what level of finish they have, how they’re framed, techniques used, color, composition, subject matter etc.

  5. Art is a lifetime experience, being judged to be in a show is about how another person, the judge, perceives creating a group of work for display. One judge may be going for a cohesive show – and your painting didn’t fit the theme. Others might want all diversity and yours was too much like another. Always keep improving and you will be on the right side of winning.

Here is an excerpt from my talk during the awards ceremony:

“Everyone who entered this show needs recognition and congratulations for putting up their work for judgment. For me that kind of goes against the grain of the concept of ART. Art is a Communication. For me this art communication happens 2 times. First when you’re making the art, you are experiencing the emotional drama of creation within yourself. Second, for the viewer – so everyone here today – you are experiencing art by looking at, thinking and feeling in response to the communication the artists have put before you. This dialogue  is the actual art experience,  the pieces on the wall are the artifacts that spark the art experience.

So before I present the awards I wanted to give you some insight into how I did manage to judge this beautiful experience.

I viewed the pieces online, and I didn’t see the names of the artists, just a number. I went through and judged them all together, making note of the ones I thought really stood out. Then I looked at each individually within each category and determined how they worked in terms of technique – since there were pastels, watercolors oils and acrylics in the same category, I had to judge each on the merits of how expertly the medium was used in each piece. Then I looked at the formal issues of color and composition, and how they related to the subject matter. I looked to see how the artist told the story of the painting in terms of how the color composition and use of medium reinforced the ideas or action of the painting. Finally I went through all the pieces again and looked at the body of work entered by each artist, so I could judge each artist on their own, to see if they had reached a personal best with any of the pieces that merited recognition. I found this to be true in several cases.

So with all that said, I can’t just award the best technique, and uses of color and composition because the most important thing in art is how it makes you feel.  There is a magical thing that happens sometimes in artworks, and there is no formula for this magic, the ingredients of technique color composition may not be perfect, but the painting expresses a feeling so deeply that it becomes a memorable experience. You find yourself returning to the image days later and thinking about it, pondering its meaning or just enjoying its beauty or comfort.” – Cathy Carey

View the show until February 24,2014 at the Poway Performing Arts Center


PCPA Lobby – Gallery Hours:  Tue – Fri: 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. (Visitors should park at the green curb to get a parking pass from the office) Saturday 10-3 pm  no pass necessary on Saturdays

NCSFA site:

To view my work visit:

To see my handmade jewelry collection visit:

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