Over the past few weeks I have had the honor to serve as one of the “Jurors of Selection” for the International Association of Pastel Societies (IAPS) International Web Show.

This means that I was asked along with two other artists – Jacob Aguair and Brenda Boylan (look them up, they are awesome btw…)  to review and select the final images that would be included in this show. I was thrilled to be asked. It is kind of like seeing Christmas gifts early… But there were 1700 entries.

1700.

Lets think about that number for a minute. I knew that was a lot of paintings to review, but I had never served as a juror of a show with that many pieces wanting to be accepted. I naively thought that I could go over all the images while I rode the MegaBus to New York a few weeks ago so I could see the PSA show and do a demo there. No problem, right? After all, I had an 8-hour ride. After the first 3 hours, I had only just barely gotten through a third of the paintings with no more than a quick glance.  Wow – 1700 paintings are a lot of images to flash by your eyes.

Which brings me to my main point. How does a painting stand out from this many entries? The final count to be included in the show was to be around 160 paintings. Just getting a rough idea of the images submitted on the first pass was turning into a monumental task.

When I was at the PSA New York show a few weekends ago, I was lucky enough to sit beside Spanish artist, Reuben Adorna Belloso. If you are not familiar with his work, he is worth checking out. http://rubenbelloso.blogspot.com

As we were sitting in the gallery waiting for dinner, we naturally got to talking about the show. One piece after another was stunning. And there were many more entries than 1700 that had been submitted to that show. Reuben asked me what I thought about the pieces in the gallery as a whole.

“I think they all have one thing in common” I answered.

“What?” he asked.

“They all smack you in the face when you look at them, and once you realized the image now has your attention, it can then whisper to your heart.”

And that is what I found with the paintings that finally got through the three of us Selection Jurors to the final group of images in the IAPS Web Show. The entries were all subjects and styles. They were all handled so very differently. (although I have to say I have never seen so many tree paintings in my life). But the ones that made us stop and take a closer look got a “yes” vote. The paintings that had all received 3 votes from each of us made it into the show. Then, we had to do some serious negotiating and debate about the other ones. I found that part fun and invigorating too. I love seeing what an artist has to share through their work. But if the painting was painted “nicely” but didn’t have much to say or reach out and slap us in the face, chances are it didn’t get in. Because we didn’t get a chance to hear it whisper after that. Too much competition.

Artists always say to me that they want in this show or that, and I always ask them why… I think a novel has to be written before it can be read. And a painting is no different. Find your story first – hone it, edit it, before you worry about getting it in front of others. Once you have something to say, then share it.

The pieces we selected – 162 of them – then went on the another Juror of Awards. I am glad I was not doing that job. Then I would have had to figure out which paintings smacked me the hardest.