After being out of the studio the past week, some ramblings today on . . . 'the jury process' . . . since having it fresh in my mind after having sat, for the second time, on the jury for the annual members' exhibition of the Society of Animal Artists. The last time I participated on a jury was almost ten years ago but the general rules of procedure, altered slightly for a more 'blind' presentation, were pretty standard of what I think most juries for selection of art and sculpture must represent. Any artist who is interested in having his or her work reviewed and selected from hundreds of submissions by fine and creative people from around the globe, needs to approach a jury process with great care; the representation of one's art before a jury of knowledgeable individuals must show to its best.
First and foremost, the photography of an image of a work of art for jury consideration, whether three or two dimensional, must be presented in a simple straightforward and succinct way. This sounds intuitive, but I can't tell you the number of images we saw that were fuzzy or slightly out of focus or not lighted properly to enhance the image rather than to detract from it. No juror is going to lean toward selecting a work for exhibition if that juror cannot see it to its best advantage, especially if there are hundreds of other works to choose from. The time involved in reviewing sometimes as many as a thousand individual entries can be staggering and a juror's eye must be captured, almost instantly, when an image is flashed on a screen to be able to make a meaningful judgment. No matter how fine a work of art may be, if the photographic capture of that image is not top notch, it is going to have less of an impact, to a juror, than it possibly should and often, will be disregarded for another image of, perhaps, a lesser work that is presented in a completely professional manner.
With the proliferation of fine quality and relatively easy to manipulate photo programs for digital imagery and computers these days, there really is no reason for a less than professional looking, in focus, color true, high resolution image for jury submission. And if an artist does not have personal access to such programming, there are friends to call upon or many professional businesses who can do this for a minimal cost. When considering the possible future ramifications of having a fine work of art accepted into a major exhibition, the time and effort involved in generating the best image of a work of art possible, is of utmost importance. Last minute, meet the deadline photography for jury purposes just does not, usually, result in putting an artist's best foot forward
As to the method I use for photographing my finished drawings, I take them outside into my back patio on a bright sunny day and shoot the images in full shade, not direct sunlight. I do this as sometimes the sunlight will capture just a bit of 'sheen' from heavy dark areas of graphite on a work which does not happen, in general, when shot in full shade. I am sure that most of my painter friends shoot their works in full sun to render the colors more precisely but do know a few who will also take a shot or two in shade and make a comparison in their computer photo program to see which lighting situation shows the work to its truest color indications.
As to photography of three dimensional works, I believe suggestions coming from a sculptor friend would be advisable, but of the images that I have seen, the ones that seem to read best and show a work to its truest form are those that are shot against a sold, rather colorless background; sometimes a draped cloth pulled tight with few if any wrinkles, directly lit to show no shadows is used, other times a large sheet of paper or other stiffer material can achieve a similar result. In any method used, the focus should be on capturing the sharpest essence of the work in two different angles of the sculpture, lit so as to highlight the important features of the piece.
I noted, as we viewed the three dimensional works last week, that a number of submissions were represented with only one image and, in some cases, not showing that particular work to its best advantage. I believe that in most jury situations, a three dimensional work may be submitted for consideration with two images and don't quite understand why a sculptor would not take advantage of that possibility. In several other instances of works submitted for our jury last week, a piece was shown in two images but the second image submitted did little if anything to further a truer understanding of a particular work and often, in the opinions of some of the jurors in post jury discussions later in the day, questioned why a particular side or aspect of a work had not been shown. Jurors knowledgeable in sculptural works wondered, out loud, if the sculptor had intentionally not highlighted a feature that they were not completely pleased with or feared would not read appropriately to the jury. This may not have been, at all, the reason for such questioned images from a particular sculptor, but the slightest concern along those lines on the part of a juror will, quite often, leave that particular work in questionable light and, perhaps, knock it out of contention when viewed alongside other more appropriately presented images.
With time of the essence in a jury process, if an artist's image doesn't almost immediately grasp the attention of a juror through complete professional presentation, the opportunity for that work to be considered more deeply will, often, have been lost. It behooves the artist to take the time necessary, therefore, to not only produce a work that may connect either emotionally or for whatever significant reason with a juror, but one that is photographed and presented in a way to register to its fullest ability and imprint in the mind of that individual for more than the 40 seconds it is seen on the screen in a darkened room.