Errors in submissions of digital entries

Digital Blues

by Chris Buth Furness, Chair, SE Chapter

I usually enter two juried national/international painting competitions per year. I’m very selective about these and closely look at the entry fee, handling fee, juror information and awards. The result of being accepted in and exhibiting in these juried competitions over the years is that I have developed an audience for my work in the desert southwest. It must be the big sky look in my paintings.
I submit digital images (jpegs) on a CD for jurying. In the juried competition for this story, the prospectus specified that the digital images must be JPEG Baseline Standard (not progressive JPEG), maximum 1920 pixels, under 1.8 MB and color space RGB, preferably sRGB. I have a professional photographer friend, who photographs the paintings and burns the jpegs to a CD for me. Every juried competition I enter seems to state different specifications for the jpeg. Some request 300 dpi, some 72 dpi. Some specify 600, 1200, 1400 pixels or numerous other possibilities. Both Zapp, and CaFe have published specs to create a uniform standard, but so far there is no industry wide standard. It appears to be all over the map with some of these competitions, and it’s exhausting.
Well, I’m living proof that things get lost in the translation. In this particular competition, I had the option of uploading the jpeg to an online database instead of mailing it on a CD. I uploaded the jpeg, and I received a confirmation email from Exhibition Co-Chair # 1 acknowledging acceptance of my entry. When I received the “congratulations” email from her, I was excited. I opened the attached pdf, which included shipping instructions as well as all the details of the accepted entry -- title, medium, size, and an image of the painting. A gray bar zigzagged through the bottom half of the image in the pdf, and I just assumed that something happened in the creation and transmission of the pdf. I shouldn’t have made this assumption, and shouldn’t have ignored this red flag.
I framed and shipped the painting to arrive on time. In the meantime I set off on my business vacation to Taos, NM, where I was exhibiting. I decided not to open emails while we were traveling, and when I returned home, I had an email and a phone message stating that I had sent the wrong painting. Fortunately there was still enough time in the day to reach the bearer of bad news, an individual I hadn’t corresponded with before, Exhibition Co-Chair # 2. Our phone conversation went from sad, to bad, to worse! She accused me of deliberately trying to misrepresent myself by shipping a painting that had not been juried into the exhibit. I was surprised by this accusation until I realized that she was expecting a painting with a gray bar zigzagging through the lower half. I argued that I had just assumed that something happened to the jpeg when it was pasted into a pdf and sent to me as an email attachment, and that I had truly sent her the correct painting. What a mess!
She explained that she remembered my painting when it was projected for the juror, and that she saw it “flash” back and forth from the complete and accurate representation to the altered one. She said she would investigate this situation with her Co-Chair and get back to me asap. My painting missed the opening night gala and was being stored in a closet awaiting its fate.
An hour later an apology email and phone call came. She explained that they were investigating the technical problems with their online entry procedure. Another hour later, I received an email showing the painting hanging in the exhibition. Three weeks later the juror returned to the exhibit to walk through and choose the awards. I received one of the top 3 cash awards for my painting.
The lesson in this story is to never take anything for granted. Carefully read the specs in a prospectus and make sure your jpeg meets the size restrictions stated. If you don’t know how to photograph your work or alter the size of a jpeg, buy a good camera and the necessary software needed and learn how. You can also ask a knowledgeable friend to do this for you or hire someone to do this. Instead of attaching the jpeg to an email or uploading it into an online system, burn it to a CD and mail it in, as this will keep the resolution truer. If you receive confirmation correspondence from the exhibition organizer, and your image does not appear, as it should, question this immediately. There were errors on everyone’s part in this story, but at least it had a happy ending.
With the biennial exhibition coming up, please carefully read and follow the specs.

More about Christine Buth Furness