Information on the Annual Artist Jurying Process

Posted June 16, 2023

The successful applicant will demonstrate technical skill and knowledge of perspective, anatomy and composition, as well as an understanding of light, atmospheric effects and values. In addition, the jury is looking for applicants who display a consistent and assured individual style, and the ability to effectively convey a mood or expression.

• Send three examples of work that best represent your strengths and area of expertise.
• Send finished works, not sketches or class studies.
• Do not send more than three samples of artwork.
• Sculptors should submit multiple views of each piece.
• We strongly recommend that you have your artwork professionally photographed.

Below are some of the most common observations reported by members of the Artist Member Review Committee based upon viewing literally thousands of applications over the years:

Observation: One or two images may have been successful, while the other(s) may have been weak, thus creating uncertainty about quality, consistency, or style.

Solution: Send examples of work that best represent your strengths and area of expertise. When submitting for jury review, send finished works, not sketches or class studies. Also, try to show confidence by exhibiting a consistent style throughout your submissions. Often, artists attempt to show their full range by sending three very different examples, when it would be more effective to focus on what they are best at doing.

Observation: The artist’s intent or subject-focus may not have been clear.

Solution: It is important to show technical skill, as well as an ability to direct the viewer into the work by emphasizing specific areas while downplaying others. Knowledge of perspective, anatomy and composition (placement of objects) are essential. Don’t do the obvious – if you submit a “typical” still-life of fruits and flowers, it should somehow be special. In the case of sculptural figures, the pose should show a sense of attitude or expression that conveys more than just realism.

Observation: Lack of ability to work from life and a clear understanding of nature. Some works appear to be copied from photographs and lack a sense of “life.”

: It is important to work from nature, including light, atmospheric effects, and values. Additionally, it is important to study, study, study – including working with more accomplished artists and simply putting in a lot of time to observe and paint outdoors.

How to Succeed in the Artist Member Jurying Process

Observations from Jim Rea, an Artist Jury Member

One of the issues we hear about frequently at the California Art Club is the desire for artists to make the transition from being a non-juried Associate Artist to being a member of the juried group of Artist Members. The jurying and selection process is not an easy one, either for the jurors or the artists. In this article, we will focus on some of the critical points that artists need to keep in mind when preparing to enter the jurying process to become an Artist Member. The emphasis here will be on painters as that is where the vast majority of the entries come from, however many of the comments can apply to sculptors equally as well.

It is a Challenge – The first thing to keep in mind is that this is a rigorous and challenging process. It is not easy to become an Artist Member. Those accepted into the Artist Member category should at a minimum have a demonstrated capability to produce works of art that are suitable for inclusion in the CAC’s annual Gold Medal Exhibition. It is important to note that this is a minimum standard, as Artist Members are expected to present themselves as true working artist professionals with an overall excellence in the quality of their art. As much as we admire the work and enthusiasm of certain hobby artists, the CAC is a professional artists’ association and we only elevate professional artists to the Artist membership.

To demonstrate just how challenging it can be to pass the jurying process, in the most recent process, we had 147 applicants, 44% made it through the first round review (more on that later) and 33 were selected as Artist Members, 9 were accepted as Out of State Artist Members, and 1 was selected as a Mentor Program Member. The raw numbers indicate that less than 30% of the applicants make the grade.

Keep Trying – Perhaps the first thing to consider if you are not selected in the current round is whether you are up to the quality of work that is presently expected. It could be beneficial and instructive to review the websites and work of the artists who are accepted into the Artist membership each year to get a better understanding of the quality of work that is expected of new Artist Members. Don’t just look to see what they are producing; look very critically at the works that are presented. Consider the techniques employed by the artists. How are the works laid out? How are edges and details treated? How is color, shadow and light presented? In a landscape painting for instance, are rocks just blobs of paint or are they the embodiment of the history that has chiseled their form? Is the atmosphere captured in that landscape or is the background simply uniform from fore too far?

After reviewing the work of the current batch of accepted Artist Members, if you believe your work is of near or comparable quality, then we would encourage you to keep submitting. Perhaps your work will capture the attention of the jury next year. On the other hand, if there is a discernible difference between the quality of your work and that which you see in the new Artist Member’s work then you might want to continue to work on your technique until your work is consistently of similar quality to that of newly accepted Artist Members.

The First Cut

Your Submissions Are Just the Beginning – Candidates are asked to submit images of three works of art for initial evaluation but all candidates should be aware that the final selection is based on far more than those initial three images. The three images basically allow the members of the jury to decide whether there is enough merit in the artists’ work to go to the next level and examine more of their work. Thus, all of your images must be very strong in order to make it through the first cut.

Those surviving this first pass will move into the additional review category where the jury will visit the artists’ website to take a comprehensive look at the full body of their work, their background and the professionalism of their online presentation.

Give It Your Best Shot – With your three candidate submissions, you have three (and only three) opportunities to impress the jurors on the panel of the quality of your work. Do not waste these three precious opportunities. You want to give the jurors all of the quality imagery, in a well-focused presentation, to make them want to see more of your work. With this in mind, here are a few follow-on suggestions to help make sure your submission does not get prematurely derailed.

Submit What You Do Best – Avoid the temptation to demonstrate the broad range of your artistry. In more cases than not, this will work to your disadvantage. If you do great landscapes and good figurative and still life paintings, then limit your submissions to your most awe inspiring landscapes. Though your figurative and still life paintings may be well along the road to excellence, if they are not excellent when submitted, then your application will not get to the next stage. As in any exhibition, your work is only as strong as your weakest piece and if you present a weak piece, you will be out of the running.

Don’t Submit Studies – Most artists have some wonderful studies that they love to show off but there is no place for them as a submission to become an Artist Member. All work submitted to the jury should be completed, full sized works of art. The jury looks very closely at the size of the works submitted. This is not to say that a fully prepared miniature might not be appropriate for submission, but the jury is primarily interested in full size works.

No Off Images – If you have two wonderful works and throw in one more work that is not quite up to your standard to fill out the three, this will pretty much guarantee your exclusion from the first cut group of applicants. If your body of work is limited such that you only have one or two really excellent works to submit, then it is better that you wait for a future submission date when you have a larger body of work from which to choose. This leads us to one of the most important criteria for our jurors, which is:

Consistency – It is incredibly important that your work be consistent across your current body of work. We will touch on this later, but artists who present inconsistent work do not make it into the Artist membership.

Don’t Scrimp on the Photography – You are submitting photographs of your work so your work is only as good as the photographs. We strongly recommend that you employ a professional photographer who is experienced at photographing fine art to insure that you get the best presentation of your work to the jurors. This means insuring that each photograph is properly color balanced, lit, polarized, correctly exposed and meticulously focused. If the photographs of your art are less than perfect it makes it impossible to adequately evaluate your work and it reflects poorly on your professionalism as an artist.

Don’t Paint Photographs – Photographs are excellent tools for reference purposes, but are very poor subjects. Aspiring Artist Members should paint from life, whether en plein air or in the studio. When an artist paints purely from photographs, it is painfully obvious to a seasoned juror’s eye. Color, shadows, highlights, perspective, depth perception and detail are all experienced in a vastly different manner in person than when viewed through the two dimensional medium of a photograph. Paintings of photographs are not representative of the work of CAC Artist Members.

Paint Something That Matters – One of the principal differences between a good painting and a great painting is the emotion that flows from the scene. A painting that is simply a depiction of a scene or an object without any emotion or story is not one that will attract the interest of the jury.

A Closer Look

After all of the candidates are reviewed and the entries for review are identified, the jury begins the process of looking at each artist’s website. As is the case with selection of works to submit to jury, some suggestions about the presentation on the artists’ websites might be helpful.

Don’t Cherry Pick Your Work – If you pick out your best works of art and submit them and upon further review it turns out that this was not just the cream of the crop, but the whole crop then you will not become an Artist Member. When the jurors go to the artist’s website and see that the submitted works are far superior to the general body of the artist’s work then there is great disappointment. Build up your body of superior work BEFORE you try to apply to become an Artist Member.

Segregate Your Professional Work – A corollary to the rule against cherry picking would be to separate the wheat from the chaff. If you have a professional artist’s website then present only your most professional and accomplished works in your galleries up front. Resist the temptation to show the great progress along your career. Don’t even try to show everything you have done, it is a fool’s errand and will surely get you removed from consideration as an Artist Member. To the casual observer it looks like your work is highly inconsistent. Be careful only to put your best, finished works on display. Just as a photographer must judiciously edit the images presented, so must the professional fine artist filter through the works that are important and professional and those that are not.

If you must show your earlier works or sketches, put them in a separate section so that your website visitors (or jurors) can clearly distinguish them from your professional efforts.

Work Within the Genre – When submitting to the California Art Club, be sensitive to the fact that the CAC represents a movement in representational fine art with an emphasis on landscape, figurative and still life painting and sculpture. If you submit examples that are consistent with this genre and movement but your website presents an entirely different picture, so to speak, then you will likely be cast aside as a viable candidate for Artist membership.

Don’t Forget the Intangibles – If your artwork is the tangible expression of your professional efforts there are many other facets to your career that make up the intangibles. Intangibles include your biography. It should be professionally written, comprehensive and informative but brief. Documentation of your professional history includes information about exhibitions, awards, formal education, gallery representation and significant collections and museums owning your work. All of these intangibles should be clearly presented within your website.

Another important intangible is the professionalism of your actual website presentation. Does the overall look, feel and operation of your website inspire the perception that you are a professional fine artist? If your website is simply a page or gallery in a large directory for artists, then you are going to have to step up your game. Whether your website is custom designed or comes from one of the many fine artists’ website packages, it must impress upon your website visitors that you are a professional artist of the highest standing.

Hopefully, this discussion has given the aspiring Artist Member applicant a much clearer understanding of the process for selecting new Artist Members. The members and management of the California Art Club look forward to reviewing your submissions in the future and wish you all the best with your efforts to become an Artist Member of the California Art Club.

Jim Rea and his wife Jodie have been collectors of California and Southwestern fine art for over 15 years. Jim has served on the Board of Directors of the California Art Club for more than a decade. He and Jodie are also active members of the committee for the Masters of the American West at the Autry National Center, one of the largest exhibitions and sales of fine California, Southwestern and Western art in the country. They both serve as members of the Board of Trustees of the Autry National Center.