Advice to Arts Council Grant Applicants
by Leslie Parsons
As a career Art Director and longtime judge of artworks, including fine arts, graphics and woodturnings, I have noticed there are common points of presentation that should be taken into account by all artists.
Therefore, as you prepare your application materials, I offer you a simple piece of advice:
SHOWCASE YOUR BEST WORK.
What does this mean? Let’s break it down:
‘Showcase’ means to display something to its very best advantage. This includes every element of your entry, every aspect of your presentation, not just the artwork itself. It means mats, frames, the display background, table, pedestal, sketchbooks, etc., as well as any accompanying written material. Even if it’s just a little sign with your name on it, it should be the best possible little sign you can produce. Be mindful of the size, the design, the font choice, the background color, etc. It all counts.
Two artists could present two very similar sketches, with similar techniques and subject matter; the winner will be the one that is professionally showcased. Pay particular attention to Artist Statements and description of work/techniques. If your writing/grammar
skills aren’t up to the challenge, get help. People are often glad to help, if only you ask. Remember, it’s all your work, and if we’re seeing it, we’re judging it!
‘Your’ means work that originates solely with you. Original art, fresh and unique. Nothing copied, nothing “borrowed” (from the Internet or anywhere else) without permission and attribution, nothing plagiarized. No work from photos, unless they are also your original photos. (The judges know the difference.)
‘Best work’ can be tricky. Ideally we all would present the work that’s the strongest, both artistically and technically. Yet we’re almost never good at evaluating our own work, simply because we can’t be objective about it. [This is why best-selling authors have editors, top vocal artists have music producers, and Oscar-winning actors have directors.] Sometimes the pieces we choose as our very ‘best’ are in actuality simply the ones that have personal meaning to us, the ones we’re the most emotionally attached to. It pays to get an outside opinion about your selections, preferably from someone with an art background — a gallery owner, an art teacher, a professional photographer, another artist, etc. If you show your work regularly, pay attention to comments such as, “I wish I’d done that,” and “Are you willing to part with that?” or “Is that for sale?” and, best of all, “Wow!” You may be surprised by which pieces elicit interest, and which are repeatedly passed over.
These are clues that should inform your choices.
Invest some time and effort in your presentation; it will pay off eventually!