How is artwork selected for the exhibition?

Some artists will be disappointed that their work was not accepted by the selection committee this year for inclusion in our exhibition ‘Changing Seasons’.  We are unable to give feedback to individual artists about each piece of work but felt it would be helpful to give you the following information.

The exhibition space is always very oversubscribed.  In other words we always have far more paintings submitted than we are able to accept.  This year has been no exception.  The standard of botanical artwork is extremely high and we accept work of the very highest standard.  This applies both to the work of members and non-members.  The selection committee is made up of 6 experienced and senior members of the Society; they vote independently of one another and for a piece of work to be accepted the artwork must achieve 5 or more votes.  There is a casting vote, as, even if all the works achieved 5 or 6 votes we can only hang up to 500 works – so inevitably some works will be rejected on the basis of space alone.

The exhibition is a very costly event to hold and we are very keen to ensure that work is appealing and potentially saleable.  You will recall that all artwork must be for sale and we need as much as possible to present work to our audience and buyers that will potentially be sold – we always have this in mind when selecting.

We have reduced storage space this year and largely done away with the ‘accepted not hung’ category where we used to accept competent work but would decide not to include it in the exhibition.  Feedback has indicated that people would prefer not to have to frame and carry work into London for it only to sit in a cupboard.

The criteria for artwork are contained with the information document.  You will know that, while we accept a broad range of botanically themed artwork, each piece must be of the highest quality of its type.  E.g. botanical illustrations must be botanically accurate, with very, very fine detail.  Colours must be accurate and leaves, stems and petals must be modelled so that form and structure can be seen.  All work that we show must be of ‘gallery standard’ i.e. it must be the sort of work that could be viewed in a commercial art gallery.

We realise that some of those submitting will be former students, however this does not necessarily provide an automatic pathway into exhibiting with us.  One of the important skills to learn is to be become better at critically appraising your own work, so that you can be as realistic as possible about the standard you have reached and whether there are aspects of your work which may need improvement.  One way to do this is to attend workshops run by our members and also to visit the exhibition and look at the work of others and to try and assess how to achieve more consistently high standard work yourself.  For a number of artists submitting it has been a question of consistency of work, so this is worth bearing in mind for the future.

Finally, please remember that we have all had knock backs (including nearly all of us on the selection committee too) so I hope that you will feel able to continue your interest in botanical painting and use the experience to help you to reflect on where you are with your own work and how you might develop.  We are also looking at how we might support the developing artist, especially after completion of the diploma course and further information on this should be available at a future stage.

We will have ticketed demonstrations this year where you can see experienced artists at work as well as an evening event where you may see some of our most experienced artists discussing how they work and sharing their portfolios.  Details will be available soon on our website.


Gael Sellwood on behalf of the Selection Committee of the Society of Botanical Artists