Who Cares About Awards and Exhibitions?

Who Cares About Awards and Exhibitions?

By Wes Siegrist

Being an artist is easy. You just express yourself with no regard to anything. Trying to do something with your art for yourself or others is where things start to get tricky. Turn being an artist into a business and you’ve opened yourself up to a landslide of stuff that does all it can to keep you from just having fun with your creative sparks! Unless one is fortunate enough to be born into limitless wealth or serendipitously blessed to stumble upon a patron of the same caliber, supporting yourself as an artist’ “business” is tough work. Among the myriad ways of possibly achieving this goal are participating in exhibitions and winning awards. Do they really matter that much?

Siegrist Exquisite Miniature Exhibition at the Wildlife Experience
The Siegrists solo touring exhibition, EXQUISITE MINIATURES, on display at the Wildlife Experience (Photo courtesy of the Wildlife Experience)


Why Exhibit At All?

If others are going to appreciate your art they have to see it and nothing beats viewing art in person. Art has to be experienced firsthand to really get that “wow” just like food needs to be physically tasted ~ it’s just not the same trying to lick the laptop or TV! This is especially true for art that differs from the norm like our miniature paintings. That sense of scale, even with the penny, is only fully appreciated in person looking through a magnifier. Wowing and connecting with viewers is essential to them loving the work enough to take it home with them to enjoy forever. For most artists success is also a numbers game. One or two patrons may support you for a while but you need hundreds to take you through your lifetime when you offer lower priced works. We need our paintings to be seen by thousands of people and this translates into us participating in a dozen or more shows each year! Having exhibited in venues ranging from flea markets to the Smithsonian we know firsthand location matters and we travel, or our paintings visit, shows, galleries and museums around the world.

Cow painting by Wes Siegrist
“The Barnyard Welcoming Committee” by Wes with a penny to emphasize the small size and scale
Patrons admire Siegrist paintings at the Plantation Wildlife Arts Festival
Patrons admire and examine the Siegrists paintings at the Plantation Wildlife Arts Festival

We also have learned regular attendance at shows pays dividends since individual artists can get lost in the crowd. Especially our space that at times has people backed up viewing paintings with magnifiers. We’ve been coming to locations for over a dozen years and still have attending patrons ask if this is our first year exhibiting!

Rachelle Siegrist's 1st Award 1990
Rachelle Siegrist beside her painting that earned her very first award in 1990


Who Cares About Awards?

Exhibitions vary in nature. There’s solo to group, open or invitational and juried or anything goes. Picking the right exhibitions enables respect as the saying goes: “If you want respect you have to earn it”. Trying shows that choose what they consider to be the best up front means recognition for quality work. Really tough juries mean not only quality, but also uniqueness and appeal gets you the invitation to exhibit. Some shows also offer awards as an additional level of recognition. In most cases, these awards also carry financial reward that can cover the cost of entering the show to beefing up one’s bank account. Consistently winning awards from various shows with different judges reinforces quality vs. luck and gives esteem to artists among peers and public.

Siegrist paintings in the Miniature But Mighty Exhibit
Some of the Siegrists’ miniature paintings on display in the MINIATURE BUT MIGHTY Exhibition at the Hannibal Arts Council (Photo courtesy of Michael Gaines)

Of course, when shows are selling and awards are flowing artists feel atop their game but question their persistence when all dries up. This somewhat fickle business boils down to having the right work in front of the right person and them not being able to live without your art. A friend said it best: “Selling everything doesn’t mean your work is great any more than selling nothing means it’s bad … it’s just the nature of the business”. Thanks for following our career and personal lives via the blog! Don’t forget to subscribe to receive an email each time we post an update!


2 thoughts on “Who Cares About Awards and Exhibitions?

  1. Jim Smith

    Hello Wes and Rachelle!!
    Thanks so much for your comment of “Who Cares About Awards and Exhibitions?” Great comment!! Thanks!!

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