Thursday, August 17, 2017

Oil Painters of America Jury

As a Signature Member of Oil Painters of America I am eligible to be selected as a juror for their shows. When I accepted to be one of the five jurors for the Western Regional Show, I did not know how much work, how fulfilling, and how inspiring the process would be.
The jury consisted of 3 Signature members and 2 Master Signature members. I did not know who the other jurors were and was charged with telling no one that I was a juror.
Before accepting, I asked if I would be able to submit art to be considered and how that would be fair. OPA has a very equitable system. While I could vote on my own work, my vote would be replaced with the average of the votes from the other four jurors.

The jury process is a two step system. For the first step, all submissions are reviewed and given a number to either pass through for additional consideration or to recommend that the piece not be included in the show.
I did not know the artists' names, but could see the image, size, and description. Each piece could be seen by the jurors online at Juried Art Services as a large thumbnail and then blown-up to almost full computer screen. Before we started, it was suggested the jurors look at each piece before going through them to vote. A detailed voting criteria was given to each juror so we would be looking for the same things. (A note was added to the criteria that we were not to consider subject matter.) You can imagine carefully reviewing almost 900 pieces at their largest on the screen while constantly referring to the criteria would take some time.

On my first pass I knew this was going to be very difficult. There were so many good to outstanding pieces that I had no idea how I would recommend to pass through only 200 - 250. Well, I didn't succeed. I passed through quite a few more for additional consideration. For each piece I did not select to continue, I spent additional time looking at the full screen version to make sure my decision was based on OPA's criteria and not whether I would have approached the subject that way. (Who wants a show without variety?)

It seems the other jurors (still don't know who they are) had the same difficulty I did and when it came to the second round we had almost 350 pieces! The Western Regional show has a maximum of 100 paintings. The scoring system for the second round was much more detailed. Using a scoring system of 1 - 7 (7 being the highest) we were to rank each piece based on the same criteria as before. The criteria is focused on design (values, harmony, center of interest, balance) and execution (drawing, value relationships, color temperatures, variety of hard and soft edges, paint application.)
As a summary:
1.) Very Weak
2.) Weak
3.) Some Competence
4.) Average
5.) Competent (top 15 - 25%)
6.) Excellent (top 10%)
7.) Outstanding (top 1-3% of entries.)

As I worked through all the pieces carefully looking at the full screen version, I voted. For 7's, I had 10, which was within the top 3%. These pieces were truly outstanding and I thought any museum would be happy to include them in their collections. However, when I finished my voting pass, I had over 260 5's and 6's. Back to the drawing (painting) board. Time to carefully review each 6, then each 5 and so on. After several more passes, I had a reasonable number of pieces with a rating of 5-7 with the remainder 1-4 .

The above was the mechanics of the process but being a juror was so much more than that. Looking at a variety of approaches to subject matter and the choices artists made from color to its application was inspiring. I saw pieces that made me gasp at their beauty. Bold choices in lost edges, dramatic and subtle decisions in color, and deft uses of the medium which I exclusively use. Judging with no regard to the subject matter freed me from more subjective voting and opened my mind to a fuller range of possibilities for oil painting.

I was completely impressed with OPA and how organized and very available they were to answer questions. What I was unprepared for was how rewarding the jury process would be.

Like the other OPA members who submitted pieces, I anxiously awaited the notification date and was happy to see that my piece Shore Leave was accepted for the show.

Oil Painters of America Western Regional Show
Illume Gallery of Fine Art
St. George, Utah
November 10th - December 9th
Shore Leave by Linda Besse

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