For the past couple of years I have entered both Patchings and the SAA Artist of the Year competitions. I am not sure why I suddenly decided to give it a go, but it was with great trepidation and no expectations that I sent my entries in. In the first year Patchings were very nice and awarded me a Highly Commended. The SAA obviously had no such warm and fuzzy reaction to anything I had sent in and I scored a duck there. The second year I tried again and was rewarded with an HC in both competitions. All very gratifying but did it do anything for my painting progress or confidence? Well, in one way it did do something for both, but in another I think it put unwelcome pressure on me. Once you experience a bit of success at something, the inference is that you can do even better next time which adds up to pressure. I don't normally do well with pressure of any sort, so not sure this was a bonus. Some university or other did an experiment with school children a few years back about expectations and pressure. One group was given loads of positive feedback, told they would wing the up coming SATS test and that it would be easy for such clever children. The other group were not given any of this feedback at all and were just left to go along at their own pace. Both groups sat the same exam and - you've guessed it - the group that had all the positive feedback did significantly worse than their individually projected scores. And the other groups - well they came out firmly on top with higher than their projected scores. It would seem that the pressure of too high expectations scuppered the much praised group. It could very well be the same with competitions as they can be a two edged sword. If you win, it's a nice feeling but the pressure is on to do even better next time (and you may not be able to) and if you win nothing, then your confidence could be dashed. This year I have entered (yes - I know - putting myself under more pressure - silly twit that I am) the EAC awards and will definitely enter the SAA Artist of the Year (mainly as a member it is free to me). I am not sure about Patchings as the problem there is if you are selected for exhibition you have to get your painting physically to the Patchings Centre to be hung and then go back to collect it later. I went to Patchings this year with my art society and it took up 2 1/2 hours to get there - so a 5 hour round trip. Mmmm - not sure about that. The HC is ok as they only appear on the website as digital images so you don't have to submit the actual painting. If I entered Patchings I think I would end up keeping my fingers crossed that I wasn't selected for exhibition - very unlikely I know, but a bit of a pain if a painting was. Still mulling about that one. So, why with all this going on am I bothering to enter anything at all? Well, even although there are upsides and downsides, I do feel, for me, that competitions help to keep me on my toes and provide that little frisson of excitement when the letter drops onto your mat telling you the judge's verdict. Also, to place your work to be judged alongside other artists does have a benefit I feel. After all, I do that by posting my work on the gallery all the time. Now deciding which paintings to enter....... here we go again - more pressure!