It’s all hands on deck at Buxton Museum and Art Gallery as our dedicated team toil to get the Derbyshire Open Art Exhibition ready by next weekend. For those artists whose work didn’t get selected or those who are considering entering next year, Derbyshire Museums Manager Ros Westwood has some golden nuggets of advice. It’s over to you, Ros:
As I write, the selected pictures for this year’s exhibition are being hung, creating a stunning celebration showing all that is special about Derbyshire. Next Friday we will announce the winners, particularly the two purchase prizes. Over the last 33 years, the museum has added over 50 works by local artists to the collections, work by people who are truly astonished that their artwork will be kept in the museum forever.
Two things keep the Derbyshire Open special. The Derbyshire Open remains free to enter. This means it is truly open, to professionals and amateurs, of all ages. We realise people are travelling a long way to bring work, incurring not just one journey because you usually have to collect work, whether rejected or selected, at some date, and that incurs cost. Secondly, the judges see the actual work, not digital images. This means they can really see the quality of the artwork – there is no hiding.
The rules are quite simple but it is surprising how many people slip up over them. Each year, good work gets rejected for simple reasons. For instance, the judges will reject works that were completed over five years ago because the dates are on the work. Pictures are submitted without appropriate frames. We ask you to earplate your work so we can hang it. We anticipate that the paint is dry and won’t rub off; wet paint is a sure way not to impress the judges when their hands or worse, clothes, get paint on them.
One of the perennial debates is framing. So many pictures come in with either a poorly made frame or mount, or the frame does not enhance the work. This is subjective, but it does pay to get some advice if you are new to entering work into competitions.
In the end, the better your picture looks, neatly framed or a canvas with keyed 90o angles, earplates attached and all other hanging systems made tidy or removed, and neat protective corners, the more receptive the judges will be. They are immediately seeing your art.
Then there is the theme, to show what is special about Derbyshire. Each year the visitors say they cannot see the Derbyshire connection, as if they only anticipate Derbyshire landscapes. But Derbyshire is about more than landscapes, and as artists you explore the diversity of the county. There have been occasions though, when the maps have been consulted and work has been rejected because while the picture represents the Peak District, it may not represent Derbyshire.
Over the years we have tried to encourage submission of more three dimensional work, with the Friends providing a specific prize for this. A small number of works do come in, but there is a long way to go to lift the standard so that these meet that of the works around the walls.
All that said the quality of the submission gets better and better. The pictures this year were engaging, and allowed the judges to follow the artist on their journey through the artwork. Sometimes the judges err on the side of caution, but in other years, they are keen to see more challenging work, so they are looking for abstraction or forays into digital work (no, not true photography). We cannot know what the judges will like, but each year, many familiar names are selected. There are always new comers, and surprising works that are accepted. Come and see for yourself, and help select the Visitor’s choice (closing date 30 July).
Derbyshire Museums manager