Competing in Art Shows and Exhibits

Jumping into talking about competing in art shows and exhibits as just the third blog seems sudden in the chronological order of things, but it is timely. I just recently submitted three paintings, which is the max allowed, in the Professional Division of Fine Arts, for the Western Idaho State Fair.

In some states, fine art professionals don’t submit their work in state fairs, but here in Boise, they do. This competition is entered by most, if not all, of the watercolor professional artists I know. As with any competition, judging is by an artist, and for the state fair, it is a local artist. But, why enter any competition and subject yourself to the scrutiny of another artist who may paint in a completely different style than you?

In the beginning . . . I didn’t enter competitions. It was not only scary to subject myself (yes it felt like me and not my painting) to the opinion of someone I may not meet or will most likely not see again, but also stressful in making sure I followed the prospectus – competition rules and guidelines – correctly. There’s also the logistics of getting my painting or paintings to the show safely and on time. How am I going to carry them or transport them? In the past I’ve used this type of art portfolio or used a small luggage cart, but neither one works well if you have several paintings of considerable size. I just purchased this Vergo S300BT Model Industrial Folding Hand Truck Dolley and I’m looking forward to picking up my paintings with it. I’ve seen several local artists with this type and they all seem happy. The right tools for the job, right?

Back to art competition. I talked about the main disadvantages, but as in having the right tool for the transporting, that negative is no longer there. What about the fear and anxiety of the results, and wondering if you’ll get a ribbon or not. It doesn’t always happen. Putting yourself “out there” is what’s important. If you don’t get a ribbon it’s ok. Always remember that you’re not always going to win, the judge most likely has a different style and different taste and will pick another person’s painting over yours, even if you personally don’t like the winning painting. As simply put by Neil Gaiman in “Art Matters”, if you create something for the sake of earning a prize or making money and you don’t get a prize or sell it, you’re left with something that you don’t like. But, if you make something because you like it and it doesn’t get a prize or sell, then you’re left with something that you love!  You got into the business of painting because it’s something that you like and if you work at something that you like, then you’ll never work a day in your life! Each time you enter a competition you become more attune to the benefits of it, the exposure of your work (the free marketing), the strength you obtain from surviving the stress of it. Face it, you didn’t die, you may have felt like you were, but you didn’t.

Now for the results of judging!

“Daddy’s Home!”, Honorable Mention

“Virgin of Zion”

“Under the Brambles”, Honorable Mention


Watercolor is challenging, (not really, but don’t tell anyone!)

I remember in high school painting with watercolor. That’s all I remember . . . other than it was hard and difficult to control. I instead switched to oil painting and really felt like I was a master. Heck, I could paint something, leave it for the day, then come back and with a new vision, see my mistakes and still make a change! Genius! No wonder so many people painted in oil paints, it sure wasn’t because they smelled good!

Fast forward a couple of decades. I decided to try watercolors again. There were a lot of artists so there must be a method to master the many changes that occur to a subject when painting it. After attending a couple of workshops by two different instructors, I still didn’t learn the secrets of watercolor painting that seem to elude me. Drat.

I didn’t give up, I was determined to learn what the secret was about watercolor painting. It just couldn’t be that watercolor artists were much more skilled than artists that worked with other mediums. No one could be so good with painting something the first time that mistakes aren’t made and corrections aren’t needed. Finally, I found someone to share the various tips and tricks of watercolor painting. Now many years later, and many commissions and paintings later, I am in awe of how many times that I’ve made corrections to eyes or teeth, yet the final result is void of any telltale evidence.

Here are my bits of wisdom in making corrections to watercolor paintings.

1.       Always start with the lightest layer and build your color up. It’s easier to add than it is to take away, especially if you are working with Phthalocyanine Blue Red Shade (or any other staining color)!

2.       Layer your paintings. Paint the entire subject in layers building up as you go. This is important because it allows you to see the “big picture” and balance your colors thus avoiding corrections.

3.       When lifting, lay down your water and let it sit a few seconds before you blot it with a paper towel.

4.       Again with lifting, if you need to scrub the paper, don’t litterly scrub the paper, instead gently rub the paper using a scrubber, then blot with a paper towel.  If you get too ambitious and rough up the paper, take the back of a spoon and rub it over the paper. This smooths the fibers resulting in a smoother surface receptive of paint.

5.       After lifting and before reapplying paint, let the paper completely dry. If you don’t, the new paint will bleed into the newly rubbed paper. The lifting process disturbs the fibers in the paper causing them to stand up and absorb more paint than before. Letting the paper dry allows the fibers to relax.

6.       Lifting and corrections can be made with a stiff synthetic brush or a specialty brush called a scrubber. Various sizes can be used for different applications. If you need to even out the edge of your subject, a thin flat brush would work best.

 Also take into consideration the weight of your paper when lifting. 300# will hold up better to repeated lifting than 140# will.

So, my life has come full circle with the belief that watercolor is hard. Now that I know the tips and tricks of making changes, I can now wait till tomorrow to make a change. In fact, waiting a day is even better (so that the paint thoroughly dries)!

My first blog . . . why I’m here.

This is my first blog. . . my . . . first . . . blog. . . wow. As I ponder what to write, I have to recall what brought me to this point in my life. Art, more specifically watercolor, brought me here and my desire to continue in learning and growing in this medium. 

It all began when I was a child. As a child, my favorite pastime, besides my Barbie dolls, was to color. Not a big thing, right, but I had just about every coloring book and every color that was available then by Crayola. Only Crayola would do. I was a meticulous colorer. That’s all I did, but when I started high school, one of my class options was Art. I signed up and so did some of my friends, thinking that it would be an easy “A”. Not so easy as it turned out for them because they dropped out for other classes while I remained and took all four years of Art in high school and in college. 

I’ll never forget my high school art teacher, Joyce Strauss. She was full of ideas and knowledge when it came to art. Quite advanced for her time, now as I look back. In those four years of art, we learned batik, plaster sculpture, metal sculpture, mask making, candle making, art design and graphics, pattern transfer, watercolor, oil, pastels, calligraphy, pen and ink, anything to do with art and creativity, we did, and we filled up four years of school doing it. 

She is the one teacher that influenced me the most. Today, I look to others in my circle of artists and see so many gifted persons. Each with a different style and drive forward. From the community ed instructor who influenced me to focus on watercolor to my current art class instructor who is there as a guide and critic to help me grow. What about you? Where did you get your start and what keeps you painting?