This is a question I’ve been wondering since I’ve received an email from Communication Arts reminding me of their illustration competition. For the record I entered their competition last year, I also entered American Illustration, 3×3, and Society of Illustrators. I’ve “lost” all of them. I could just assume that I’m not as good as the winner, but then some of the winners’ artwork leaves me perplexed.

Because competitions are never free, it’s important to understand what increases your chances of winning, or else you’re just throwing money away. I asked a couple of illustrator friends what their opinions on competitions were. They were unanimously negative on the matter: judges don’t select the best artwork, they pick people they know, and editorial illustrations have a better chance of winning than any other type of illustration.

So after hearing that I’ve decided to not enter illustration competitions again. I pay money to those companies to judge my work, the least they could do is tell me why I didn’t make the cut or send me a scorecard. As it stands now, I feel like these competitions are more interested in getting money than accurately reviewing artwork. Anyway, the illustrators I’ve talked to said they didn’t get new business from winning a competition, so it’s really a pointless exercise.

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