Spectrum Call for Art: To Submit or Not To Submit, That is the Question...

Recent poll about how artists prefer
digital over traditional submission processes.
Probably you´ve read about the reminder to participate in the Spectrum competition at James Gurneys blog or muddy colors and what Donato Giancola wrote there the other day.


FTP or snail mail, that is the question...


It has to be said ( for those not familiar with the book) it is the holy grail of fantastic contemporary art I´m touching here.
With this post, I dare to put the status quo into question, (which is part of my work as an artist), and want to debate if submitting to Spectrum is really worth the stress.

As artists its important to show your work to as many eyes as possible, a competition can be such an opportunity, but it also can be a waste of valuable time and money.

I mentioned in another blogpost that putting just images without tags or context sensitive keywords on a blog is nonsense, since search engines are blind and so its equally a waste of time participating in each and every competition.

If you want to stand out, be picky and better tell a story instead!

Why are book competitions like Ballistic Exposé, and Underwoods "Spectrum" to name just these two books, so popular, and what is it about anyways?

The reason artists should participate is simple; some of the competitions have a jury or judging panel that has decorated names in their list. Being seen by these judges alone is reason enough to participate. The entry fees can pay off without being included in the book either; when a juror asks you for a commission or put you on their specific whitelist of  "artists-to-hire".

To think as artist you can benefit from being included in the book, by submitting once, is ridiculous.
To the disadvantages of the artists who doesn´t properly keyword and highlight their work, some art-directors prefer to search online for images or artists.
I cannot say how many decision makers buy these books, but I know that a lot artists do, however, to benefit from being published in a book like Exposé or Spectrum, you must be in it more than 5 times to be recognized at a certain level.

A lot artists buy artbooks, but do decision makers?

Sure the artist of today, can be the decision maker of tomorrow, and vice versa - its always important to keep that in mind. Although its better focusing on their story instead of plain publishing just for the sake of being published.

I can agree and understand what Donato said about it, from his point of view he is part of the book Spectrum like a brand, everyone loves his work and there is a decent pressure on the judging panel to include him. People expect it. My cutup here is not that always the same artists are in it, not only...
The general critique is that the submission process for the SPECTRUM competition is too uneasy to submit "just in time", that I can´t believe all the great artists from the world are really in the book.

$150 for no guarantee to be published?

A bargain, I know.
I have experienced that express shipping via UPS which still takes long to deliver overseas, plus the participation fee makes for 2 submission pieces a little expense of $150.
Some artists from  Russia, China or somewhere more off like Australia may have easily twice the cost. For no guarantee to be in it!
If you multiply the number of artists who did submit once but then not anymore and how they have developed their work to be much better since their first submission, this judging fees and process isn´t just "not economic" it keeps the growth out of play.

If one even think about how much Co2 is wasted on the process to transport all the submissions via airmail... but I guess, THIS would go too far.

Randy Pausch said in his last lecture:" Walls in your life are there for a reason, those who really want something hard enough, will find a way through, the others just stop and turn."
The only thing that I would add to this wise quote is that you have to be absolutely sure you want through that specific wall, because you have to hit through it 5 times and more, if this conception comes uncomfortable to you, you better leave.

Be polite, be different and make decisions by yourself and stand behind these decisions

Another thing that a lot people forget is that Spectrum is a book and brand that was established when the internet was not so sophisticated as it is today, while Ballistic is a publisher that takes advantage of the sophisticated networking possibilities of today, they can afford to skip the entry fee.

What medium you use to reach your goal is absolutely unimportant. It will eventually open up different doors if you jump on the publishing / competition train but depending on what someone will achieve in the long run, it can lead to the same ultimate goal, sooner or later.

I do not need to justify my reasons why I am not part of Spectrum,
If the submission process will be more economic and environment -responsible someday, its possible that I can identify myself better with the book.

What are your reasons to submit or not to submit?
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Oliver aka Fantasio is a creative blogger who likes to share his insights about art, marketing and social media. Follow Fantasio on twitter or facebook

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