Saturday, March 28, 2015

Confessions of a Competition Junkie

Been There. Done That

I was raised to compete though to be entirely honest I hate it. I ended up going into every sport which was not competitive and giving up all that were. Later, when I was confronting my demons, I competed in dog shows. Skywalker and I retired shortly after his first third place finish. He liked competing. I did not. I would from time to time run him around a park and pin a ribbon to his collar.

I got lured back into competitions when applying for art fairs. Four hundred artists trying for 200 booths is a competition. I was getting the booths once I learned the rules. Winning, as it were, is all about the rules. My art vita listed all which I could count on being in. And when I stopped going to art fairs I started competing for places in exhibitions. I told myself it was advertising. It got my name out there. So does shooting at a cop in Ferguson, Missouri.

Like I used to get in fairs I always got into exhibits. And I won ribbons, and certificates and prize money. All my wins went on the Art Vita. I was a competition junkie like Skywalker. But it seemed rather hallow. I was about to give it up when my sister went big time into photography and I joined her in competing in photographic competitions. For her, of course. She always beat me. (That may be why I gave up competing in sports). One show the two of us got three of the four prizes. Heady. But the truth of the matter is only winners like competitions. And most losers hate the winners.

Been there. Done That. was my first ribbon in photography. It received a second. At the time that was one of my lower prizes. But it holds one more distinction: It is the only prize winner to have been sold. And not at the exhibition where it won second. But I got three pieces in that particular exhibit and one of the others sold. One that didn't even get honorable mention. I have sold multiple copies of both photographs after the competition.

In fact, I have never sold a winner at any competition exhibit. My losers do far better. So why enter a competition? Several recent articles I have read, including one by a gallery owner, says you shouldn't. And one by an artist of some note said they are all stacked against you. Competitions are only for the benefit of the gallery or organization putting it on. And in my competition history (including the dog shows) I know that is true more often than not. I do not care what they say about the judges not knowing the artists at the time of judging. It just isn't true. Masked signatures are just a rouse. Most judges know the leading artists' work even without the signature. And they will vote for the known over the unknown every time. I am sure we could do a blind study to prove that. This is not sour grapes. I mostly win ribbons but I lose something too.

What competitions do for me is they make me think about the quality of my work be it painting or photography and they spur my creativity. I came to especially like themed contests because it often got me thinking along new subjects. But I do not need a competition to do that. Just like Skywalker did not need the other dogs. I can challenge myself.

Loser in the MFAF Art Competion

But I recently entered another competition. I recently entered the above mixed media work in my first competition in over a year. I was depressed immediately. I felt like a Judas Goat because I did it to inspire others to enter. To get rid of that slimy feeling (maybe why I left competing) I painted what I wanted to paint.

Conspiracy of Ravens
19 x 44 Mixed Media on Canvas

I love my ravens. Working on the sketch for yet another in the series. No deadline, no entry fees, no rules on subject or size. I heard today that Glorious lost. The artist I knew would win won.

The Conversation
18 x 30 Mixed Media on Canvas

But I have hopes for Glorious. She is a loser and my losers almost always sell. The winners hang on my walls. Next to their ribbons. And she was the sourdough starter for my ravens.

In dog shows I quickly got to the point I could guess the winner by knowing the judge's name and the breeders Skywalker would be up against. Never even had to enter the ring. It was fun only while I was learning the rules like never wear slacks when showing your dog or watching your dog being shown by a hired handler.

If you want to see the winners and losers go to the other pages in this blog or visit Binford-Bell Studio on Facebook or in Black Lake.


  1. Great post Jacqui. The way I feel about competitions — merely getting your work accepted in a juried competition is a Win in itself. If it isn't a juried competition, putting forth the effort to produce and share work is a win for oneself.

  2. You're a great artist. I love your ravens too. (-:

  3. I'm not a lover of competitions of any kind. You have written about them and your feelings so well. In The Conversation and The Conspiracy of Ravens I am reminded of animations as in The Jungle Book, Madagascar and The Lion King. Maybe you should go in that direction? That would be a new adventure.


I appreciate all kind comments on my art and poetry.