Jurying the Pastel 100 Competition

I recently had the privilege to jury the Still Life and Floral category of the Pastel Journal’s Pastel 100 competition. What a difficult task that was!

Last year I was approached by Anne Hevener, the editor of the Pastel Journal, asking if I would be the juror for the 21st annual Pastel 100 competition. While I could be mistaken, I believe I’m the first Canadian pastellist to be asked to jury this competition. While I had almost a year to wait before the jurying would begin, it was well worth the wait.

2016 First Place Still Life & Floral Category - "Things Go Better With"

I have never had such a difficult time jurying work before. Typically, when jurying a show there will be a mixture of medium, style and subject matter so you have a variety of work to choose from. These were all pastels, all still life and all incredibly well done. How do you start dwindling down your choices?

I had a couple of weeks to jury the work and needed all that time to double and triple think my selections. I started off by just rather quickly viewing each entry, trying not to make any judgements yet. I repeated this process three more times, observing more intently with each pass before I started the extremely difficult task of eliminating entries.

2014 Third Place Award - "Play Ball"

So, what was my criteria for judging the work? Well for me, there has to be a story behind a still life painting. That story can be something as simple as how the light strikes an object, a unique composition, or how the objects interact with each other. But there is also other criteria that must be present and they include:
1) Composition – does the painting have a strong composition; does the design of the composition lead the viewer’s eye throughout the painting.
2) Contrast – whether it’s value or color contrast there has to be something that makes the painting “pop”.
3) Drawing – if work is created in a realistic manner, the drawing must be spot on. There is nothing that will ruin a still life painting for me quicker than an object such as a bottle of vase isn’t symmetrical on both sides. Drawing is a key factor in any subject matter, not just still life.
4) Technical ability – whether you paint abstractly or realistically, or anything in between your technical ability must show through.
5) Wow factor – that nebulous concept that can’t really be defined but you know it when you see it. It’s what makes a painting stand out and shout “Hey, look at me!!!”

There were several entries that immediately jumped out and I knew they would make my final cut. These paintings each had something that made them stand out from the rest of the field, and each one had something different from the other.

2018 Honorable Mention - "A Boy's Life"

There were also entries that for me didn’t meet the standards I expected to see at this level of competition and those were the first to be eliminated from the pack. But, between those 2 “easy” cuts, I was left with a lot of work that had to be evaluated more closely.

Over several more days I reviewed each of the entries again, trying not to let previous perceptions interfere with my new set of eyes! Each remaining entry was carefully reviewed, looking for the criteria I previously mentioned. In the end there were many entries that were more than worthy of acceptance but unfortunately became victims of the numbers game. The artists who created those paintings will probably never know how close they were to having their work selected.

I hope my sharing this experience with you will give you some insights into what jurors are looking for and how tough of a job it is to judge other people’s work. The key thing to remember is that it really is only someone else’s opinion. And, as for the works that I selected – well you’ll have to pick up a copy of the April 2020 Pastel Journal to see them!

PAC President – Kathy Hildebrandt

2016 First Place article in the Pastel Journal