Why I am Entering the National Open Art Competition.

Last year, I very nearly didn’t enter the National Open Art Competition. It happened at a point where I had just suffered a slew of rejections and I couldn’t see much point in setting myself up for another disappointment. Luckily, I had already registered a few weeks previously during a more positive patch so when I received the reminder email on the day of the deadline, I thought “Why not?”

I also took a gamble. I was so sure the whole exercise was futile that I entered one of my weirder paintings.  I would normally enter something a bit more ‘crowd-pleasing’ into a competition.

My brain was so attuned to rejection that when I received the ‘Congratulations, you’ve made it onto the shortlist’ email, It remained unopened in my inbox. It wasn’t until I received a further email asking me to send my painting in for the judging round that I realized I got through to the next stage.

I went back to read the email. Twice. I got shortlisted! Exciting times…

One of the rounds of the NOA Competition is a public vote and this worked well for me. I shared the link on social media and the response was extraordinary. There was a real swell of support from friends, family and complete strangers… I even got messages from established artists whose work I admired.  I’d always had a modest following on social media but my inclusion on the shortlist took me beyond that, it helped me achieve a greater visibility.

It also gave people an opportunity to support and share my work, to become actively involved with me as an artist. That exposure led to 2 commissions and 3 sales in the weeks following and it also gave a boost to my Etsy shop which was struggling to get off the ground. The swell in social media helped to direct people there to see the various cards, prints and pin badges I had designed. I’ve now sold 150 items over the last 12 months.

It also helped to consolidate my reputation with those who already knew me as an artist. I now have an exhibition of portraits in Bristol Spirit, Bristol and next month I have a painting in an exhibition in Vermont, USA.

The painting I entered into the competition also sold – to the Chairman of The NOA, no less – now there’s a seal of approval if ever there was one.

All of these wonderful things happened to me and guess what? I didn’t even make the final exhibition. All of these things happened as a result of merely being shortlisted.

But the greatest thing I took from this is an increase in confidence and a greater trust in my own artistic style.  My ‘weirder’ painting I entered turned out to be more crowd-pleasing than any painting I actually considered to be crowd-pleasing before.  It taught me to not second-guess what people might like but instead to present them with my own unique take.  the National Open Art organization enables that. Open is the operative word.

For anyone thinking of entering this year’s competition, just go ahead and do it.  I have found The NOA to be a truly welcoming and accessible organization.  Their exhibitions are expertly curated, they are inclusive, diverse and inspiring.  But be quick! The deadline is this Sunday (23rd July) and yes… there is still time… which is why I need to stop writing and get back to my painting.  Good luck!

Link to the competition is right here —> National Open Art Competition

Richard Fry


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