Being a juror of an art exhibit is always humbling, a learning experience, an avenue to give encouragement, and without doubt, an honor.

The first thing that a mindful juror will do – whether he or she is jurying artists as members into an organization, jurying artwork into an exhibit, or jurying for awards – is leave the ego, any biases, personal tastes, and friendships at the door.

A juror embraces all forms of art and all stages of development. It is a task – a pleasurable, albeit a difficult one – that is taken seriously. Every artist in an exhibit has worked hard, done their best and deserves the jurors full attention.

Most often exhibits are categorized and displayed by medium and in each category first, second, third and varying numbers of honorable mention awards are given. And then there is the matter of the Best of Show award.

So how does the juror go about it, what is the process and what criteria is the juror looking for in your art? After years of jurying countless exhibits and working with other jurors and jurying alone, I can speak from personal experience and for other jurors with whom I have worked.

An initial walk through of the entire exhibit – done quickly- is first on the agenda and then repeated – slowly. The first time through the juror is getting a feeling from the show, more specifically, what pieces speak to him – and looking for the Best of Show – that one piece that stands out above the rest in speaking to him, giving him something, taking him somewhere…it has to be a ‘wow’. The second time through it must stand up to the scrutiny according to the criteria. Many, many more walk-throughs are done in looking for and giving out all of the other awards which are judged accordingly in each category.


FIRST AND FOREMOST: Does your art impart a feeling, a mood, a sense of place. Does it tell a story, does it make a social statement, or does it embrace what the light is doing? The juror is looking to be moved by your work, to experience it, and to be taken in by its expression, its sense.

SECONDLY: After the initial impact that your art has imparted, the juror tries to understand what YOU were after – what your goal was for the painting. And then the juror studies HOW you organized the pictorial elements: line, shapes, values, edges, color, light and atmosphere, and rhythm and movement throughout the painting to FOLLOW THROUGH with your goal for the painting…..which of course is personal, but most likely will be one of the items listed in the ‘First and Foremost’ paragraph above.

THIRD AND LASTLY: Then and only then, does the juror consider the technique you used. The technique is at its best when it serves the goal – the vision, the inspiration – for the work of art. It is after all, not the subject of the painting.

A final note: It’s a life long challenge and joy to be on this creative journey. There are a myriad of ways in which to grow as artists, but one of the neatest ways is to critique the work of others. We feel more objective when critiquing another’s work…it’s harder to do when it’s our own. Make it your growth agenda to never dismiss another artist’s work, be it a friends or work in a gallery or a museum. Try to understand what they were after and how they achieved it…or how they could have achieved it better according to what you think their goal was for that work of art. In doing so, in approaching works of art in this manner, you will reap the rewards of growth in your own work. And that’s what its all about…the process of growth and understanding. Awards are nice, but they don’t define our process….and if you didn’t receive one, know that you are with all of us in the challenge of growing our art.

© Charlotte Wharton, author, “The Language of Energy in Art: Finding Your Vision”

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