Hints 'n' Tips | Visual Arts

Entering Shows in the Digital Age

An art professor recently told his class, “You can’t be an artist in the 21st Century if you don’t know Photoshop.” The truth of this statement is borne out for artists who aspire to enter competitive (juried) shows or apply to galleries that request digital images. You must know how to photograph your art, crop out the background, make adjustments so the digital image looks just like the artwork, and size and name the digital image to conform to the particular call for entry (CFE) prospectus.

Of course, if you don’t want to be bothered with all this technology, you can pay someone to do it for you. A good relationship with a local service bureau (such as Borg Anderson or Masterlab) will save you a lot of sweat and frustration. But, if you’re interested in learning to do it yourself, here are some things you should know, including an online service that makes part of the job easier.

Photographing Your Work
This is not the time and place for a detailed how-to on using your digital camera to take an adequate image of your artwork. Just know that it takes a camera capable of a high-resolution photo, as well as the right lighting, to get an image that shows your work to best advantage. As one who has organized entries for the jurying process on shows, I’ve seen a lot of common mistakes:
• Photographs that show the painting surrounded by bits of the easel, messy studio, and other background distractions.
• Photographs taken of framed art under glass, in which the glare of the glass distorts the art.
• Photographs of art in frames sitting on the floor against the wall, showing more wall than art.
No, no, no! You are wasting your money on the entry fee, if you can’t take a photograph that matches the professionalism of your competitors.

Re-sizing Your Digital Image
It doesn’t take a lot of Photoshop expertise to learn how to re-size your image to conform to the requirements of a call for entry. And you may have a different program on your computer that will re-size your photo. Just know that CFEs are very specific about the required dimension in pixels and the maximum file size in megabytes. This means you must read the CFE very carefully and adjust accordingly. If you need help with Photoshop, you can view tutorials on Adobe TV (www.adobe.com). The nice thing is that you don’t have to ask a human to explain it again (and again). You can just hit “replay” as many times as you want.

As an example of size requirements, CallForEntry.org (CaFÉ), described in more detail below, has the following image specifications:
1. Dimensions: 1920 pixels on the longest side
2. File Format: Save all images as BASELINE Standard JPEG. Do not save as a Progressive JPEG.
3. File size: JPEGs must be under 1.8 MB.
4. Color space: Save images in an RGB color space, preferably sRGB. Now, if you think you’ve just read something in a totally foreign language, Adobe TV is your go-to friend. Browse the chapters under the Photoshop tutorials and watch them again and again.

Saving and Naming Your Photo File
There are different ways of saving your digital photo files depending on how they will be used. For competition entries, a “jpg” is the normal requirement. In Photoshop and most other programs, there is a dropdown menu for file types, after you click on “save as.” Among the choices, you’ll see “jpg” or “JPEG.” Again, I refer you to the very informative Adobe TV chapter on saving and naming files in Photoshop.

Also, when you click “save as,” you can give your file a name. A prospectus will often have very specific naming instructions, so look carefully and follow the instructions. Usually, you are asked to include your last name, the painting title (with slight abbreviation), followed by .jpg. It’s always good practice to include your last name because, for example, if you send images to an arts reporter at a newspaper, it will help him/her find your image among all the others that were received.

Finding the Competitions and CFEs
There are a number of publications and online sites that maintain a list of local and national juried shows. Professional Artist, for example, is available in both print and online versions. You can find it in the magazine section of Barnes & Noble and other bookstores.

Another option is to join the online CaFÉ community. This site (www.callforentry.org) allows artist to join free of charge, upload images for current or future show entries, and access a calendar of show opportunities and deadlines. The web site has helpful “frequently asked questions,” as well as a quick video tutorial on how to use the service.

When you find a show that you’d like to enter, you fill in the required information, choose an image from those you’ve uploaded, and satisfy any fee requirements for the particular show. You may send a check or pay online with a credit card in most cases (may vary by show CFE). You may start an entry form and save it to complete at another time. CaFÉ will remind you of your incomplete entry forms before the entry deadlines.

CaFÉ is sponsored by the Western States Arts Federation (WESTAF), a non-profit that also engages in arts policy research and state arts agency development. It has other online services as well, including ArtJob.org, a job bank that lists all sorts of arts related jobs including internships and residencies; ArtistsRegister.com, which serves as an online gallery; ZAPPlication.org, which provides online applications and adjudications for art fairs and shows; and CultureGrantsOnline, a grants application tool for state agencies and other arts organizations.

If one of your goals as an artist is to take your art to a national audience, entering national shows may be one way to do it. But it starts with acquiring the tools and knowledge to find out about the shows and fulfill the application requirements.

Categories: Hints 'n' Tips | Visual Arts

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