Entering Contests 101

How can entering art contests help a child’s creativity?

Think back to a situation where you worked to compete. Remember the thrill of the chase? How about when you outshined the competition?  Did it drive you to pursue excellence?  While we believe that a non-competitive environment is essential to learning skills, a little pressure to use those skills can bring lessons into focus.

Here’s how art contests can help light that creative fire.  (Keep reading for tips to gain a competitive edge.)

Parents’ Support Always Helps

Presenting your child with contest opportunities shows that you believe in your child enough to put in some effort together. You also communicate your confidence in your child when you make the effort to drive him or her to art class or attend an art-related event. When we are sure that Mom or Dad stands behind us, we can conquer the world.

We Remember That Winning Isn’t Everything

Of course we don’t win every time.  However, the act of applying to the contest meant that the artist did significant work.  Sometimes it’s better not to place, as the satisfaction of creating a finished work becomes its own reward.  At times like this, the pride of accomplishment stands out most in the artist’s memory of the experience.

Still, Winning Feels AMAZING!

Of course!  Kids are naturally immature, and that’s okay. Go ahead and provide a genuine ego boost now and then.  Kids want to know: am I really good at this?  That pat on the back can motivate a deeper commitment to study. Whether it’s first place or not, the rush of learning that artwork placed somewhere of note in the competition can make that kid or teen’s entire year.

Every Artist Needs to Exhibit

Just like musicians, dancers and actors, artists need an audience now and then to appreciate their work.  Contests can provide the artist an opportunity to know that there have been eyes on that hard-earned artwork.

It Encourages Independent Work at Home

Serious art students MUST create artwork without the help of a teacher from time to time.   Spending time doing any kind of practice will present opportunities to get stuck. The student who is committed to finishing a piece will either push themselves to solve the visual problem through original ideas or by recollecting lessons. If results still do not satisfy, he or she is likely to consult a teacher for help next time art class rolls along. Either way, creative progress is made in an environment of artistic commitment.

It Develops Creativity

When a specific, real, and tangible goal is in play, creative problem-solving begins. As any artist will tell you, having no boundaries or structure can be surprisingly stifling! Contests can give your child the limits within which to create.  We must first have a box in order to start thinking outside of it.

Kids Can Apply What’s Learned in Class

Sketching at home is important, but pencil sketching is different from creating finished work. In art class, students are guided in how to polish artwork until it shines. Contests provide helpful goals!  Certain habits (see the list below), once practiced independently, can then become internalized.

Figuring Out What Wins = Figuring Out What Works

Why try to win? An artist truly wants to communicate.  Contests provide opportunities to ask one’s self, does this really say what I want it to say? Does it present my message in a pleasing or effective manner? How can I get closer to delivering my message in a way that satisfies and connects with a viewer?

Wins Look Great on College Applications

Contest wins add up, and can bulk up college applications. In some cases, job applications can benefit from this, as well.  Wins not only show that the student is capable, but that he or she is actively engaged with participation in the art world.

Click here to Contact Art Steps for a current list of art contests for kids.

Want an edge? Before they get started, go over these guidelines together:

Choose a Meaningful Contest

Be sure your child really wants to do this! Perhaps the Wildlife Conservancy contest means more to your child than the Elk’s Club competition. As with all things, the more your child cares, the better.  And be sure your child wants to compete. Ultimately, this is their journey, not yours.

Make Artwork Brightly Colored & Entirely Filled In

This is what kids do in art class. Over and over, we’ve seen this win contests far and wide.  Inevitably, first-place art seems to share this common trait.

Include Light, Medium and Dark

The majority of children’s work tends to be flat or pattern-based.  Using “Three tones” shows sophistication and makes an artwork stand out!

Neatness Counts

Clean up erasure marks and the edges of pictures.  The judges want to know that contestants care. Leave a mess only if you mean it.

Be Original!

Don’t go with the crowd! What’s the funniest, quirkiest, or most touching idea you have? Use THAT, and exaggerate it! You will stand out! And stand out work wins!

Read Contest Rules

Can participants have help from an adult? What media or dimensions are required? Not knowing can cost an opportunity to win, or, worse, make an artist feel undeserving if they do take home a prize. Do not submit art class work if that was not the original intention of the contest! Generally, we have found that kids glean the most satisfaction from submitting original artwork, crafted independently, at home.

Set Aside Time to Focus

Uninterrupted time, free from stress, siblings’ disruptions, or parents’ judgments, will allow your child the opportunity to succeed.  Provide adequate work space, materials and light, and play soft, preferably instrumental music.  Be sure your child understands how much total time they’ll have.

Praise Your Child’s Work

And show it off, no matter what you think it looks like, if it’s a genuine effort.  It’s the love of creating that counts!

Have Fun!

Don’t take things too seriously!  Is your child an Art Steps student? Let us know when you get a win and also let us know if you even applied.  We are most proud of our students who give themselves enough credit to put themselves out there.  Judges don’t know everything, but we have seen many young artists blossom by fortifying their weekly instruction with regular contest participation. Happy creating!

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