'Open exhibitions and juried competitions can be ideal ways to get your work noticed,' says Ian Sidaway. 'If you’re a prizewinner it will be a big boost to your CV and, dare I say it, ‘marketability’.

'Over the years I have had my work accepted and rejected for open exhibition. In recent years, I have served on several juries and selection committees and see that above and beyond the artistic qualities inherent in a work, there are many other factors that can result in success or failure'.

Submitting your work

Open shows should provide a level playing field, and for the most part they do. But there is no denying that submitting work can be costly, both financially and in terms of the time it takes to deliver and collect work from the venue.

Digital submission saves some time and transportation costs but for all its pros and cons, this process is not without its problems.

Check the call for entry details

Information about submitting work will be listed in the terms and conditions or the ‘call for entries’. Read this very carefully to make sure that you understand the points regarding copyright or the licensing of your images.

It is important to make sure that your work suits and will fit in the intended exhibition with regard to medium used and, if appropriate, subject matter.

Who are the judges?

It can also help to know who is on the selection committee, and what type or style of art they like – although their aim is to be objective inevitably a degree of subjectivity will creep in.

Which work to enter?

Select only your best work. Work in series, or works that show a consistency and relate to each other in terms of subject matter, format or colour, uniformly framed, will always look better and more professional than several disparate images in a selection of different frames.


Content continues after advertisements

Take a good photograph

Submit a good digital photograph or scan of your work; this image does not need to include the frame.

I always frame my paintings after I have heard the results of the initial selection.

The image needs to be cropped to exclude any background. It should be taken in good even light, be in focus, square to the camera, ie not taken at an angle, and it should be a good colour match to the original.

With modern digital cameras and the basic photo manipulation software found on most computers, there really should be no problem in achieving this.

Resize the image so that the file size is no larger than the file size stipulated in the terms and conditions.

Poor photographs of work – and I have seen many – make it very difficult for the selection committee to assess the qualities that may be inherent in the original.



Check the framing criteria

Think carefully about your frame choice and do not exceed the maximum size.

Attach the correct hanging system if called for, do not use oversized frames and mounts, do not use clip frames and avoid frames and mounts that are an unusual colour.

Go neutral

It is hard enough to hang a show well, given the range of different subjects and styles, without trying to find a place for work framed in an eccentric manner.

The current trend for images for works under glass is for the mount or mat to be neutral in colour and light in tone.

Consider the costs

Framing can be very expensive. I frame my own paintings and tend to use about six sizes and formats. This means that I can recycle frames, mounts and glass very easily, saving both time and money.

Early Morning, Richmond Park, watercolour, (53x53cm), framed

Problems arise when you try to photograph framed paintings. It is almost impossible to get the frame to look square and if the image is under glass you will have problems with reflections.

Notice the clean sturdy neutral frame and mount, which complement the image and will not give the hanging committee problems when it comes to fitting the work within a show.



If your work displays good technical ability and interesting subject matter, that perhaps shows a degree of innovation and originality, or clearly indicates an innovative and intriguing personal vision, there is every chance it will be accepted.

Do not be too dismayed if your work is rejected, it’s not personal. Try to assess, dispassionately, why your work was rejected; it could make all the difference next time you submit.

This Notebook feature is taken from the January 2015 issue of The Artist