What do judges at look for art shows? It depends on the level of entry, regulations and individual preferences of the panel members, but the qualities usually sought are:
1. Integrity: a sense that the work comes from within and is the authentic expression of the author's spirit.
2. Completeness: a coherent and integrated statement, with all aspects closely worked in.
3. Depth: a subtlety that can survive repeated viewing.
4. Originality: no clones of other artist's work or previous entries/winners.
5. Vitality: emotion-laden, taking risks that come off.
6. Quality: design and execution show panache and authority.
7. Intriguing: work leaves something unsaid or to be further imagined.
8. Innovative: extends the usual characteristics of the genre.
9. Significance: work makes some statement that enlarges our visual understanding of the world.
In an analysis of still life, or of any other genre, how realistically can you judge your own work? The short answer is that you have to. Just as good writing is essentially rewriting, so good painting means continually appraising your efforts, appreciating its strengths and weaknesses, and learning to do better.
The real difficulty is seeing your work as others see it, and that's where painting clubs, local art shows and galleries are so useful. The standing of your work is much more evident when hung with others, particularly in a large exhibition with a common theme or genre.
The above — the overall qualities and the showing against the competition — are the overriding concerns, but you may find the following criteria useful for a point by point evaluation of a particular work. The listing is incomplete, needs some painting experience to understand, and will remain only words until applied. You will probably make your own checklist in time, but this may serve as a starting point with which to compare your painting against a recognized masterwork.
Articulation: do the lines clearly articulate the forms? Entirely so?
Economy of Statement: sense of a powerfully organizing mind that has weighed up and placed the lines exactly?
Sureness of touch: more than deftness or facility: a sense that the brush was always and fully under the artist's intelligent control.
Rhythmic Quality: considered in the abstract, do the lines evoke a powerful and integrating rhythm?
Sensitivity: with what sensitively and variation are the qualities of the lines depicted?
Line Design: do the lines themselves create a pleasing design?
Solidity: do the objects depicted look solid, individually and in relation to other objects?
Organic Character: are the density, texture and individual characteristics of each object properly captured (e.g. a silk dress looks like silk and not linen)?
Coherence: considered as a design, do the forms create a pleasing and coherent design in the third dimension?
Articulation of Planes: is the 3-D position of every point in the picture entirely clear?
Range: a pleasing range of light and dark within the painting?
Correctly judged: does the tone of everything depicted seem correct given the implied lighting conditions?
Mood: if tone is being used to create mood, is that mood believable and acceptably varied?
Harmony: a good sense of color harmony — by hue, purity and tone?
Scheme: what color harmony scheme is being adopted? Is it appropriate?
Discord: are the departures from color harmony sensible — i.e. create their own dynamic, have expressive qualities and/or further the subject/mood/statement of the painting?
Appropriate: considered purely as composition, are the elements of the painting appropriate — measured, restful, dynamic, energetic, etc.?
Consistency: is the composition consistent, as a design and as an expression of content?
Integration: are all compositional elements closely and pleasingly integrated?
Richness of Formal Relationships: relationships between compositional elements are varied, original and expressive?
1. Talent is no more than persistence in recognizing and solving problems. Practice.
2. The crucial question is not how to paint but what. First decide what you want to paint and then how you'll do it.
3. Start with an image in your mind and paint that.
4. Ensure you put in every stroke as best you can, even in underpainting. Each stroke should follow naturally from the previous and lead on the next.
5. Work the whole picture at once.
6. Depict smaller than life-size.
7. Take nothing on trust but experiment continually.
8. Work from large to small.
9. Do everything as simply and economically as possible. If you can bring an element to completion quickly, do so.
10. The good painter grasps the importance and significance of what he sees. To develop that is more important than technique.
Attending competitions is the best way of getting your eye in for what wins (and sells), but good art magazines discuss the aesthetic aspects of painting — as well as providing craft articles, course listings, art materials suppliers, book reviews and a good deal else to make you feel part of the painting community.
1. World Newspapers. Good (but not complete) listing of art magazines.
2. Canadian Art. Good roundup of articles, events, book reviews, etc. for the Canadian art scene.
3. E Art Magazine. The European and Russian scene — fullest in Italian but summaries in French and English.
4. Art Daily. Free art newspaper: excellent worldwide coverage of exhibitions, museums, auctions, educational establishments, etc.
5. Art News Online. Some material free, subscriptions otherwise from $40/year.
6. DiscountMagazine Rack. Sells 'The Artist's Magazine' and 'American Artist' at an appreciable discount.
7. Magazines Now. Sells several of the better US art magazines at a discount.
8. 'How to Judge Art: Five Qualities you can Critique whether you’re an Artist or not' by 'Dan'. Empty Easel. Sensible approach.
9. 'Ten Art Resources for Teachers'. Art Junction. Also useful for individual artists.
10. 'Self-evaluation Framework'. UK Arts Council. Do you have what it takes? Aimed at arts institutions but can be adapted to individuals.
11. 'Art Evaluation: How to Appreciate Art? 'Cork Visual Arts. More a superficial history of art.
12. 'Evaluating art'. Robert Genn. Salutary thoughts of artists and jury members on the judging process.
'Marriage à la Mode: The Marriage Settlement' by William Hogarth. c.1743. The National Gallery. London. To the cartoonist's gift for telling detail and incisive drawing, Hogarth added a lively interest in contemporary foibles.