What I Look For When Judging a Show

By Gavin Glakas
Judge, 2018 Paint the Town Show

When judging a show, I look for a combination of originality of idea and talent in execution. Some of the works I select have both, some are stronger in one category and some in the other.

The idea can be visual, psychological or both, but I want to see an artist setting up a problem and trying to solve it in new and challenging ways.

As for execution, I’m talking about all of the usual elements – strong drawing skill, composition, color, value, edges, depth, transitions, paint quality – the lot.

I also look for ambition. If something takes a lot of work or has great ambition in some capacity, I’ll give that more consideration. Again, the artist’s ambition may manifest itself in visual ways or in psychological ways having to do with subject matter or more abstract qualities.

Conversely, if a work is technically well done but I’ve seen the same idea countless times, I tend to dismiss it.

I am also inclined to dismiss anything that looks like an attempt to copy a photograph. Working from photos is a necessity if one’s creative impulses are driving them to create images that can’t be painted from life or if photography as an art form lends itself to the aesthetic of the work, but a simple attempt to reproduce a photo – especially a photo that doesn’t have great creative merit to begin with – without any creative vision is something that makes me inclined to dismiss a work.

I will add one caveat to all of this – a sort of “get out of jail free pass” for me, the judge. Art has to exist in the real world. I love a good academic conversation, preferably over a few drinks, but I believe that people are also allowed to simply like art, the way they like music. If I really like a painting (or if it makes me laugh), it will probably get in  and win an award. I’m only human, just like all the people who have judged my work over the years.

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