Monday, August 18, 2014

BP Portrait Award 2015 entry goes digital

It could only be a matter of time before the BP Portrait Award switched to digital entries - and so it has come to pass. Next year, in 2015, the entry process for this very prestigious and world renowned portrait competition will be digital.

Main Entrance to the National Portrait Gallery
Banners for the BP Portrait Award either side of entrance

I applaud the move. It makes such a huge contribution to cutting the expense of entry for artists living outside London - both in the UK and overseas.

In all the art competitions where I have seen this happen, I've subsequently seen many more selected artists coming from places at some distance from London - notably from Scotland.

It also tends to increase the number of entries so competition becomes even more fierce!

The RA's Summer Exhibition switched to digital entry last year and I haven't heard any squeaks or rumbles following on from that change so there's every reason to expect that the switch to digital for the BP Portrait will work as well - so long as you get your photography sorted of which more below in
  • the importance of an excellent digital image; and 
  • how to produce a digital image for an open art competition.

Notification of the change

This is the letter which Sandy Nairne, the Director of the National Portrait Gallery has mailed today to all those signed up to the mailing list for information about the competition in 2015.

Dear Artist,

I wanted to update you on some recent changes that are taking place to the BP Portrait Award. Next year’s competition will have a new entry procedure which will mean that artists should submit a digital image of their work for the first stage of judging. The entrants who are successful in this round will then be invited to hand-deliver or courier their work to a judging venue in London for the final selection.

This is an exciting time for the BP Portrait Award and we hope that by making this change we will ease the entry process for everyone. We are so grateful for the commitment that past entrants have shown towards the prize but we are aware that the process of delivering your portrait can be lengthy and often very expensive. We have listened to your comments over the last few years and we are keen to bring the competition up to date so that we can make it as accessible as possible.

More details will be announced about the actual process of submitting your digital image when the Call For Entries goes live in November later this year. I urge you to look at these details carefully. We will ensure that they are as user friendly as possible in order to make the transition to digital submissions as smooth as possible.

If you do enter I wish you the best of luck for next year’s competition.

Yours sincerely,
Sandy Nairne
National Portrait Gallery

The importance of an excellent digital image

What the letter doesn't highlight - but I will - is the importance of the quality of the digital image.

I've recently judged a competition via digital entry and the quality of the image is important and potentially influential.

Typically artists think hard about framing and choose carefully to get the best presentation of their painting which is being submitted to an open competition.

Now you need to think carefully and make the effort to get the best digital image of your painting. That's not to say the most flattering.  Do not "overegg" the digital editing to make it look more like the painting you'd had in your head rather than on your canvas!

Bottom line - virtually all open art competitions which have switched to digital entry do so to produce a long list of possible contenders for the exhibition.  Most selection panels feel that there still needs to be an element of selection from the works themselves - and consequently most reduce the long list to the works selected for exhibition via a selection panel sitting in a very large room or warehouse or basement!
The way to get your work selected for:
  • the hypothetical long list is by a very good quality image of your work which accurately represents your work
  • the works selected for exhibition - by producing an excellent portrait which looks like the digital image!

There's no question the worst thing you can do is send in a painting for the long list review and for that to look less good than the digital image - because that immediately creates the wrong impression.

The competition is also so fierce that very little is needed to knock a painting out of the running - and a painting which disappoints relative to its digital image would certainly be one of them.

How to produce a digital image for an open art competition

This is the advice which was published by the Royal Academy of Art last year.


PS  Dear NPG - something similar for next year's entrants would be very helpful! :)

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