What Do Judges Look For When Jurying a Show?

You just entered your first juried art show.  Your mind is racing with anticipation and you wonder what the judge will think of your piece.  Will it be accepted? What do they look for?

I used to wonder that a lot since I kept getting rejection letter after rejection letter.

I remember thinking What do they want? and What am I missing?

I was doing my best but to no avail. It wasn’t until I became aware of a few key things about my art that my chances of getting in the show improved greatly.

Here are a few pointers to help.

Look at your subject matter.


Is it a common subject?  If so have you painted it in such a way it is different and stands out?

I remember entering a painting of my cat Abner with my daughter’s Raggedy Ann resting on her bed…It got accepted into a big juried show and when the judge talked about the paintings he pointed to mine and said:

I hate cat paintings and I hate Raggedy Ann’s!

Everyone laughed but then someone said…Why did you jury it into the show and give it an award?

Because the painting isn’t sweet. Most cat paintings are sweet and I also hate sweet. This painting has two things I absolutely can’t stand…a cat and a Raggedy Ann but there is a different perspective with this painting and that is refreshing.

Whew!  I had dodged the bullet.

The subject was a common one and could easily be considered “sweet” but the contemporary background did the trick.

Make sure your values are clear.

I was talking to a workshop instructor when one of the students asked for help…the instructor  immediately said….put in some darks. He didn’t look at her painting but he knew that was a problem most artists have.  I went over to see her painting and sure enough…it needed darks.

Darks are usually left out because it is scary to put them in as you are afraid you will “ruin” the painting. Darks don’t ruin a painting but having the painting one value will.

What about your colors?

Is your painting warm or cool?  

If you have equal amounts of warm and cool colors within the painting there isn’t a color dominance and this constitutes a problem.  Make sure the viewer and judge knows the painting is either warm or cool.

Also have the opposite color of what your painting represents at your center of interest…example…if it is a warm painting have a touch of cool at your center of interest.  This gives the painting variety, interest and a more dramatic center of interest.

Once you understand these three things your chances of getting into a show greatly improves.

Let me know if this helps… leave your thoughts below.

Until next time,

Create brilliantly,


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