Improving the Quality of Art at Art Shows
by Larry Berman
| Since the art shows started jurying digitally, artists have been reporting
a drop in quality of the artwork seen at those shows. This may be a
jealous backlash from the higher than normal number of artists applying -
and being rejected. But with the growing number of artists reporting this
phenomenon, there must be some truth to it.
| Digital jurying has made it easier for artists to apply
to shows. So much so that the majority of shows using ZAPP have seen a ten
to twenty percent increase in application numbers. Initially, a number of
artists rejected the technology and thought it would go away (like the
horseless carriage), but with over 300 shows using either ZAPP or
Juried Art Services, and many more asking for digital images instead of
slides, the artists have had to jump on board or get left behind.
| So whoís responsible for the quality of the art at art
shows? You canít fault any artistís dream for wanting to do a ďCherry
CreekĒ or ďAnn Arbor.Ē And with current imaging technology, more artists
than ever have higher quality jury images, compared to only those who used
to hire professional jury slide photographers. Responsibility to maintain
a quality show has to lie with the art shows and how they jury the artists
Improving the System
| The concept of ZAPPlication is a great concept on an intellectual level. A
universal storehouse for artistís jury images making it easier for artists
to apply to art shows without leaving their homes. The back end of the
system provides only the images of the artists who apply and
manages the scoring. This allows shows to run their juries using less
staff and have more accurate information.
| Whatís missing from the system appears to be the management of the jury
process itself to insure that itís universally fair for all artists
applying to the shows.
| Additionally, the suggestions I make in this article can
apply to any art show looking to improve the quality of their jury
results, whether their jurors are looking at digital files or 35mm slides.
| The process should be set up so as not to tire the jurors.
Let me repeat, the process should be set up to not tire the jurors. For shows using
projection equipment (digital projectors with Roku media players), there
needs to be recommended guidelines on proper distance of the projectors to
the screens based on the size that they want to images to appear, type of
screens used, and distance that the jurors sit from the screens to not
tire easily when viewing thousands of images. Additionally there needs to
be recommendations on jury room light levels and the background and
contrasting text color on the laptops used for scoring. It needs to be
adjustable to not create a tiring or distracting environment. Now
obviously the recommendations on projection room set up may conflict with
what the shows have been doing for years prior to signing up with ZAPP,
but nevertheless, guidelines should exist for a show to consult if
| The ZAPP monitor jury process should be set up to not tire the jurors. PC
computer monitors should be a uniform size and set at a specific
resolution with text and background color set to be easy to read. Jury
image placement on screen should be positioned to not force the jurors to scroll to
see the entire enlarged image. Room brightness should also be controlled.
Currently there is no standard monitor size or resolution or even specific
placement of the 700 pixel square image on the page. As a result of this,
some juries have reported having to scroll to see the bottoms of the
images. Juried Art Services, as a point of comparison, brings in matching
monitors and their system makes sure that images are seen by jurors
PC Monitors and the sRGB Color Space
| The artistís jury images are their most important asset in applying to
shows, and the accuracy of those images can make or break their careers.
If the images have been prepared properly, they are in the sRGB color
space, which is the universal standard for browser (monitor) or projection
viewing. The RGB color space is used for printing so it doesnít apply
here, and RGB files viewed in a browser or digitally projected, show a
decrease in color accuracy with a muting or dulling of the image. Images
uploaded with the correct (sRGB) color space, get resized and keep that
color space tag, but images that have been uploaded without a color space
tag do not have one when resized. PC browsers treat all untagged images as
sRGB, but MAC browsers, in trying to be more accurate, do not treat
untagged images as sRGB. So for monitor jurying, images seen on PC
monitors will be more accurate than images seen on MAC monitors.
Improving the Jury Process
| Iíve attended a few open juries but have never been a juror myself, so I
canít say that the solution is black and white. But I can offer some
suggestions based on what Iíve experienced or heard from others who have
been jurors or observed the process.
| What Iíve seen is a two step process per medium. First,
the jurors view a five second
slide show. Then there is approximately a ten second viewing while reading the
artist statement and simultaneously scoring and then moving on to the next
artist. I feel that there are two problems with this jury process. The
images arenít viewed long enough to actually see what the artist is doing
and the artist statement isnít accurate given its restrictive length. The
ZAPP system only allows 100 characters (includes spaces) in an artist
statement and you canít describe art in 100 characters. Juried Art
Services, as a comparison, gives the artist up to 1,000 characters to
describe their body of work. And to make matters worse, some shows donít
read the artist statement at all.
| What I propose is after the initial five second slide show, the work stays
on the screens for at least twenty seconds, thatís approximately ten
seconds after a more accurate artist statement has been read. This
additional ten seconds will give the jurors time to see in the artwork
what it is that the artist is describing in their statement, which will
result in a better understanding of the creative process and hopefully a
more educated decision from the jurors. I realize that my suggestions will
probably double the amount of time that the jury process currently takes.
But if the artists feel that they're not getting juried fairly, they will
stop applying to the shows they get rejected from.
| Alternatively, asking for more than four or five art images can give the
jurors a better feel for a body of work, and make it more difficult for
those three piece wonders, with no depth to their style, to get accepted
into shows. But asking for more images will still require an accurate
artist statement and maybe even more time to evaluate the work.
| Two suggestions for combating juror fatigue. Alternate 2D and 3D mediums
so the jurors arenít visually overwhelmed. For example, if categories are
viewed alphabetically, photography follows painting which means hundreds
of screen filling similar images are seen one after another. A second
suggestion is for the shows to have separate 2D and 3D jurors. That will
ensure the jurors only see half the number of images, and if the jurors
are chosen correctly, may be better educated in the processes they are
judging. Whichever process is used, the jurors need to be given more
breaks so as to not tire themselves. Maybe have breaks where they are
given a choice of natural fruits and juices instead of carbohydrates to
Iíve heard both good and bad about peer artist jurors, gallery owners,
museum curators, teachers and lay people. What I do suggest is jurors should be chosen based on their knowledge and familiarity of the categories they are judging and
encourage discussion among their fellow jurors. Having artist advisors (or at least one exhibiting artist on the
jury) can also help because
there should be someone knowledgeable enough to answer questions.
| Hopefully my suggestions will be taken seriously by ZAPP and
any art shows
looking to improve their jury process. As a result we may begin to see more great
art at the art shows.
| As an unpaid consultant for both ZAPP and Juried Art Services, I monitor to
make sure images are asked for and viewed in a format that is fair for all
artists. At my recommendation ZAPP
changed their initial image format request to the square image format with
black borders so that all images would be viewed at the same size. Besides
working on digital jury images for hundreds of artists, I answer
every image related question on the ZAPP forum and all other art show
forums. In my spare time I write for Shutterbug Magazine, beta test Adobe
Photoshop and even do an occasional art show with my own original
photography. My instructions for preparing images for ZAPP has been downloaded
from my web site over 3,000 times.
| If you either agree or disagree with my position, or have other ideas,
please e-mail me to let me
know your thoughts