28 September, 2009

How to Paint for the Prize

Blue & Gray River
10" x 14.5"
Casey Klahn

How to Paint for a First Place or a Best in Show.

It occurred to me that you might like to hear my secrets for painting to win a prize. When I knew that I was going to be in the prestigious Sausalito festival this year, I wanted to up my game, and bring the best artwork that I could. First, I decided to paint specifically for a first place prize. Cheeky, to be sure, but I hope that every serious artist would think the same way.

Very much to my surprise, I did receive First Place in my category, which was Drawing. As proof of the difficulty level, my award was a tie with the incredible Sheila M. Evans. Sheila seems to win awards everywhere she goes, and it isn't hard to see why. She's probably the most talented artist I know.

But for me, it was a hat trick. And, while the thoughts are fresh in my mind, I'll share the How To in the next few posts. We will consider the following:

Content (have ideas)
Narrow the time frame

Focus on a body of work that will "read" easily and quickly. The judges with the clipboards are looking at the work of 100-300 artists. That can mean a dizzying assortment of thousands of pieces of eye candy, all popping out and screaming "Love me! Look at me!"

The judges are on their feet, and they are there with their own sets of ideas of what they like. How will you be able to appear great, or even appear present, to these judges?

Don't bother them. If they are over ten feet away from you, just leave them alone. Ideally, your booth/display will be neat and orderly when they show up, and your best work will be available to see.

One year, I built an actual wall out of 2x4s and drywall. It was painted white, with some texture, and in the back, or deep, part of my booth. I won a top award from one of the nation's leading arts professionals, Michael Monroe. He actually gave me the award (Juror's Choice/ 2-D) two years in a row. At that show, there are three Juror's Choice awards presented for broad categories like Fine Craft and Wood and Visual Art. It looks great on my resume, and fits well in my shpeal to gallerists and collectors.

This year, I couldn't afford the space and decided to do my best with just my dark gray Pro Panels. As it turned out, that was good enough and the judges found my booth just fine.

Focus for me this year meant staying with a theme based, at one level, on subject. The River Series depicts typical American rivers. I stayed primarily with landscape (long) aspects and similar points of view (slightly high viewpoint from the near bank).

But wait, there's more! I had deeper meanings to my theme. There were fairly meaningful art related ideas as well. They included the unusual use of dark passages as "eye sumps" in the composition. Also, my ideas of coupling Modern Art ideas with Contemporary ideas. Half real and half abstract. Intensity of color, and keying on the primaries. More on this when I post on content.

Focus for clarity and to bring forward the merits of your art, and the award givers (and patrons) will beat a trail to your door.

Next, in a day or two I hope, I'll cover commitment. See you then.


harry bell said...

Congratulations on winning both a tie and a hat!

Casey Klahn said...

Har! Thanks for reading carefully, too.

Kelly M. said...

or could it be that you are just d..n good? I think there are other timeless elements in your work that take it out of the realm of the juried artfest -- a strong sense of timelessness, of not just a river but the river that runs here, in India, Russia, Brazil . . . I think you get the picture (pardon the pun!) -- I once read that an artist wanted his work to invite the viewer to step into it as if in a dream -- I think that's what you have here, Mr. Klahn. Bravo!

harry bell said...

I did, honestly. Sometimes I get carried away. Anyway, this looks to be an interesting series.

Diary of a Madd Weekly Painter said...

Hi Mr. Klahn, Just to let you know I blogged about you tonight and put a link to your blog so my friends could see your beautiful pastels.! Hope you don't mind that I'm passing you around!
Happy Trails.

Casey Klahn said...

Harry! Sometimes I wonder in this world of social media how closely anyone reads these blogs. It is becoming the slow, intent social media I think. I really consider my regular commentors and readers a tribe, and you are high among them.

Casey Klahn said...

I appreciate the comments, Sue and Kelly. Very kind and meaningful to me.

But, I can't let this Mr. Klahn go by. That was my father! To you, I should be Casey.

Adam Cope said...

Deep thoughts... that ring true.

(even in my own practise, where maybe I've spent too much time diversifying & experimenting,not focusing but rather dreaming up new avenues, 'spanish castles in the sky' & responding to the demands that teaching places on one's own personal art). We do what we can.

Your work in itself is prize enough,IMO, tho' a bit of recognition always feels nice.

Casey Klahn said...

True enough, Adam. As usual, you have jumped ahead to my end game. Even if one doesn't "win," the venture is reward, too. And, the art that lasts is the medallion.

loriann signori said...

Congratulations on your well deserved award. The river series is an amazing group of paintings.But Casey, I hate to disagree, but I don't think you really paint for the prize. It's simply that your work speaks for itself and your habits and strongly considered thought processes help make it all happen.
I am sure glad that the judges saw for themselves!

Casey Klahn said...

Stay with me on this, Loriann. There are universal applications to all of this, even if no prize materializes.

Thanks for the kudos, too. I really did visualize painting for a first place award at this show, as a motivational push in my own private mind. I had no idea it would happen, though. I actually thought the committee was coming over to kick me out of the fair...

Like Bob Dylan said, "I came in through the door while nobody was looking, and now they're going to have a hard time getting me back out again."

Abstract Expressionism, Art Criticism, Artists, Colorist Art, Drawing, History, Impressionism, Modern Art, Painting, Pastel, Post Impressionism