Judging quality paintings
"Do a large piece of smokestacks, Chris," said David Passalacqua, one of my favorite teachers during my senior year at Parson's School of Design. What? I thought. I just looked at him feeling a bit awkward. I didn't really like the feeling, and I wasn't sure why he said that. I looked at my work in progress. I had a decent, albeit slightly boring, illustration going. I wasn't ready to give up on my illustration. I looked at David. He was an excellent teacher – so extroverted. David's friendly eyes had an uncanny ability to bore a hole into your soul just by looking at you with the surety he had for the mastery of his craft and literally yank the guts of your creative instincts to the fore. That is what happened to me when I looked at him. He simply kicked my ass – as he was known to do with students – using a mischievous smile and an electric energy spilling from his deep knowledge of illustrative art. He made it his mission to challenge students to higher levels. "OK," I said to him calmly while my energy surged through my body. Something central changed that day for me. My journey as a painter became a passionate adventure -- a mission to capture the unimaginable.
While striving to create the unimaginable with realistic and abstract art, I still had to face the reality of competitive judgement and juried shows. I wanted to be a part of these things, of course, but it does conjure feelings of vulnerability, and well, a subtle fear of the unknown. I knew I had to be courageous to put my soul on canvas – to present my art – to discover if my work could inspire and move other people in some way. I want people to see something more than just what is before them and to feel what I do – a beauty and a great spaciousness that holds the mysterious connection living within us, and among each other, within our landscapes, and inside our communities.
Facing the judgement beast
I've been fortunate during my career to be on both sides of the judging coin. I've been a show curator, a panelist for a local event, and I've also been a Regional Artist Culture Council (RACC) for project grants. There are so many competitions. And you can expect to get rejected at least 90 percent of the time. Don't let it stop you from entering competitions though. Think of competitions as a fabulous opportunity to network and immerse yourself in the art world. Welcome rejections. You will develop a competitive strength and a dedication to total authenticity. You will stand behind your art with confidence and stay steadfast on your artistic path. You will take artistic risks and follow your intuition. You will find yourself excited and free to create. Just follow your heart and believe in your art. The audience will come. It happens.
Noteworthy elements judges seek
Edward Jonas, the vice chair, for the Portrait Society of America once told me that the standards for judging works of art will include originality, theme, uniqueness in the concept and design, technical proficiency within the potential of the chosen medium, aesthetic sophistication, and fundamental skill development. Always remember: Your artwork has an impact in general or as part of a whole. This means regardless of the competition you enter, your work needs to stand on its own as a complete and outstanding work of art.
On top of the above realities, judging is also ideally approached without subjective or stylistic prejudice under the mantle of holding an honest and fair assessment of artistic works. This, of course, begs the following "judgy" questions:
Christopher B Mooney
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