On competitions...

So, my entry for The Big Sleep at SXSW comp didn’t win, but that’s not the end of the story. I thought this would be a good opportunity to share my musings on why these challenges are useful and why I love taking part in them:

I have to say, with so many amazing tee designs in the mix, my humble offering didn’t stand much of a chance of actually winning (big congrats to those who did win – your victory is thoroughly deserved!), but then, at the risk of sounding like a Christmas special here, that’s not really the point in doing these things. Even though, admittedly, there’s no point entering a comp with anything you don’t really believe could win, you still have to be realistic: with so many great entries, the odds stacked against you at any one time are HUGE.

So, it’s good to remind ourselves of all the other positives that come from doing this sort of thing. For me the real value in entering competitions and challenges derives from:

1. Having a clear, fun brief to follow (not always abundant in the real world!)
2. The chance to step out of one’s comfort zone and do something different
3. The opportunity to contribute to the redbubble community (or relevant community if it’s a competition outside of redbubble)
4. Enhanced exposure, not just for the entry in question, but for an artist’s whole profile

But there are rules that I follow when entering competitions. A friend of mine said recently that he “doesn’t do competitions as a rule”, which is fair enough, as there are dangers to be considered. The most important of which is the fine print regarding ownership of submitted materials. Basically, if by entering a challenge you are signing away ownership of your image to the people running the event, then my personal opinion is JUST DON’T DO IT! Not unless you really feel it’s going to be worth your while.

The unfortunate truth is that a great many organizations that run big competitions basically treat them as a chance to pool loads of really cool ideas that they can then use without having to pay the creators a penny for it. In some cases, said creators have even paid an entry fee for the privilege of having their ideas shanghaied by giant, lazy events-organizers!

That said, I don’t personally advocate my friend’s approach of simply never doing comps, ever. Entering competitions is fun and has many benefits beyond those listed above.
I always ask myself a few questions before I consider entering an art competition:

1. Do the competition rules state that entries henceforth belong to the organizers running the event? If the answer to this one is yes, then 99.9% of the time, I just won’t bother. It’s not worth losing control of your own work for the sake of something you may not even win.
2. Is the brief interesting? Does the challenge really promise to push my abilities? If the answer to this one is “not particularly”, then it’s not going to be worth the time and effort
3. Is it relevant to my area of expertise? For instance, I may be perfectly capable at landscape painting (actually that’s a lie – I’m not!), but if I don’t describe myself as a landscape painter, then what’s the benefit of entering a landscapes competition?

The bottom line is: competitions are fun and can be great practice, just so long as you make sure entering is going to be worth your while. What that means exactly is entirely up to you – when it’s right, you’ll know it!

Journal Comments

  • Cindy Schnackel