Australian Fine Artist

Why I Like Criteria

When you know why and how you win or lose.

There are a number of reasons why I like studying at a TAFE or University especially when you can see that the tutors do not have a bias towards one style of art in preference to another. The main reason is simply put, criteria. You are given an outline of what you are to achieve to obtain a passing grade.

For example: Produce a black and white painting. The painting can be done using a tube of black but to mix your own black will show that you understand colour theory better. Adding a pile of other colours means you will not meet criteria. After that basic composition, understanding of the medium, choice of subject and ability to portray either an image or story, anatomy if figurative and so on.

For each one of my paintings for assessment for Visual Art I have produced an artist’s statement which includes the process to produce as well as the reason why if required. The process is nice and simple. I read the criteria, I produce the art, I explain the artwork, I am marked on how I have met the criteria.

When I start getting nervous – and this is a lot for art competitions, is when there is no real target to aim for and you just don’t know if you are near the mark or not. Even worse is when you have no idea why you may not succeed in a particular event.

I have started to really watch demonstrating, visiting and invited artists and judges as they judge artworks for prizes. I want to know how much time and consideration they put into choosing an artwork as a winner at any event. I also want to see how much influence is around them and how much interference. It has been interesting. Some judges take very little time to even look at the works which makes me wonder how they make any decision about the quality of a work given so little attention. Some are so busy chatting to committee members the same applies. Some don’t like judging but want to do the demo so they just pick a few artworks that they like. Others, which are rarer take time to really look and analyse works before making a decision.

It has been sad to see at a few events, people standing in front of works obscuring the view of the judge so that their attention is pointed to other works, whilst they are being distracted at the same time.

What happens at nearly every single event is that there is no list of judging criteria available. There is nothing to look at to see where a particular artwork was selected above another. Often judges do not even want to discuss their decision making with artists and get defensive if you ask about their process. Some in my experience have even been very rude when you do ask. This is where we as artists need to get a thicker skin, I think. You can walk into a competition with a work that has recently won and is in your opinion your best to date only to not even get a mention or a place.

Personal taste of judges is something you can not plan for in all cases and if you start painting to please a herd of different ones for different events your style will go right out the window. You may also cause yourself heaps more stress than it is worth. This is why I like criteria. If I knew that in every event my work was being judged by a set of basic criteria that a lot of fine art is produced to, I would feel a lot more confident.

Let me give you an example:

Does the painting conform to basic criteria for

  1. Composition
    Golden Rule (thirds or fifths) for example.
    If these have been broken, has the artist shown a clear plan as to why and how, for drama or effect for example?
  2. Colour Theory
    Does the artist show a good understanding of complimentaries, using colour perspective etc?
  3. Perspective
    Does the artist show an understanding of basic single or multi point perspective?
  4. Balance
    Has the painting got colour and compositional balance?
  5. Materials
    Does the painting show that the artist has a good understanding of the surface, paints, mediums and application?
  6. Subject
    Does the artist show they have an understanding of their subject?
  7. Style
    Is the painting of an existing style or method and has the artist achieved it?
  8. Presentation
    Has the artwork been presented to its best advantage and in a professional manner?
  9. Does the painting meet hanging requirements for this event?
  10. Do the subject and materials meet the requirements for this event?

The above list is just an example and by not means exhaustive. I am a practising artist and am studying to become a more informed one. I also have a Certificate IV in Training and Assessment which means that I have studied methods of assessment, mostly aimed at art, in my case.

So if I was asked in future to be a judging artist at an event I would be making up a list of criteria to check off as I looked at each work. I would then be able to discuss with any participating artist what my decision making process was and what it was set against. Of course this is going to take longer, but at these events the demonstrating artists are usually paid for judging. It would also reflect a higher standard of professionalism for everyone concerned.

So I really like criteria. How about you?

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