Competitions - putting yourself out there

Hello everyone! Apologies for my absence lately. I just wrapped up a big project (client work) and will soon get the time to start a couple of new illustrations! Thank you so much for your patience :)

First: I can't believe it has been four months since I wrote my last blog post!!! Time just flew by. Summer is knocking at my door and I hope to be able to write more, since summer is a time without client work. There are many subjects I would like to write about. Just to name a few: “Fake it 'til you make it”, “Two Freelancers living together...madness in a nutshell”, “Refilling your batteries”, “The imposter syndrome” .....

But right now I think it is the time to give you an update about WHY I was absent for four months!!

First I was engaged with clients work which I won't be sharing for different reasons. Second: I am engaged with rebuilding my portfolio. Polishing up some of my scientific work from the last two years and *drum roll* build a new portfolio from personal work for ... eh... hm... illustration. Like....not scientific illustration. Fantasy illustration I guess. In Dutch and German you would call it 'free illustration', which makes no sense in English, since it is just...illustration...without a certain field of expertise. Third: Sending out portfolios and solicitations and finally: Fourth: taking part in competitions.

When I finished my study I made a list of interesting competitions to take part in with my final exam and for future fantasy illustrations. Back then I just randomly googled for illustration competition, design, drawing, painting etc. Now I found a really neat website who does that for you and has a broad variety of competitions for you to chose from:graphiccompetitions.com

Over the last six months I have taken part in six competitions, although I planned to take part in thirteen competitions until this summer. Three of those didn't go through with their annual competition, making it ten. Out of those ten I decided to postpone two until I have better/more fitting work and missed two illustrations due to client work. All in all.... six out of ten in six months is still good. But let's have a look which ones paid of to take part in. I didn't make the first round in two out of those six (one of these did'nt come as a surprise), in one case I made in the 'selected but not hung'-section, in another case my work got in the exhibition, one I made the short list and the last is still pending.

Some of my friends ask my why I would take part in so many competitions. So here is why: Working from home, living in a small, but artistically overcrowded city, I think this is one of the best ways to get my work out there. Not that I would purely rely on taking part in competitions. It is something you can do next to networking and sending out your portfolio. I myself think it is a good way to showcase your work and (which is maybe even more important for me) to up my game. If I don't make the selection it is either because: 1) The quality of my work compared to the other illustration not good enough 2)It is not what the judges were looking for in this competition. The first reason wants me to become a better artist, the second makes me think about my target audience (aka the judges in the competition). But there is a third reason for taking part in competitions: Developing a thick skin for the right moments. I know quite a few people who would get discouraged when taking part in a competition and not making it in the selection, or not winning. Of course I don't like it either. But it makes me realize that it is nothing personal. It is not that the judges didn't 'like' my work (or me for producing it), it is just that there may be 200 or 2000 other works and just 50 will be selected. If there are 500 mermaid illustrations 1500 various illustrations and 50 submissions will be chosen, then it is just pure bad luck that you sent in a mermaid illustration. If there are just 5 mermaid illustration in the 2000 submissions your chances are a lot higher to get in with a mermaid illustration. For some competitions you may even want to develop a good technique how you present and when to send your work, as Dan dos Santos points out in his Muddy Colors blogpost: The Strategy of Submitting to Spectrum.

For those of you who are curious about my competitions and exhibitions: I made the 'selected but not hung' catalogue of the David Shepherd Wildlife Foundation: The Wildlife Artist of the year with this little fella:

I made it into the biennial exhibition of modern birdpainters, the MoVo, in Halberstadt, Germany with my Ara and the Blue heron:

(I just remembered that I didn't post anything about finishing my Green-winged macaw)

I couldn't attend the official opening personally, but a dear colleague, Lisa Pannek, took a picture for me!! - and I feel honoured to have my drawings next to the painting "Montagu`s harrier male preening" made by Paschalis Dougalis!

And I made it on the shortlist for the World Illustrators Award by Association of Illustrators and the Directory of Illustration with the illustrations of my final exam:

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