Well, this sounds like an obvious one, doesn't it?
Amazingly, many of the local and regional artists with whom we have chatted enter few, if any, shows.
The reasons for this vary, but one that we increasingly hear is that the artist is unfamiliar and uncomfortable with the online entry process.
Granted, learning how to grapple the computer to the ground and become its master is an ongoing process, and frequently, when things crash and buttons don't work, the temptation is to think back to the good old days.
But the good old days involved building a supply of expensive slides, all of which had to be meticulously marked and identified before being carefully packaged and sent to their destination. Entering shows was an expensive and time-laborious process, and an artist could be excused for excusing himself from the whole scenario.
But today, once all of the ducks are neatly lined up on your computer files -- photos of your work are in their cyber cabinets; the resume is up to date; the artist's statement and bio are written and ready (and if any of these last three are non-existent, check out Especially for Artists and contact me at firstname.lastname@example.org to get this going) -- then entering shows should be a matter of filling out the entry form -- either online or off the printed prospectus -- and sending it along with your images through e-mail or snail.
Entering shows is valuable for a number of reasons:
Your name, and your work, get out of the studio. Shows take place all over -- in galleries, at museums, within private businesses -- and your paintings will be exposed to more people than come through the doors of your studio.
You analyze the quality and saleability of your work. Just because you fill out the form and send in the photos doesn't mean that you'll get in the show -- and indeed, this is another major, yet unspoken, reason why artists don't enter shows: because they may not get accepted.
It may be that your reason for not getting accepted has to do with the quality of your work. If you enter ten shows and get accepted into none of them, you may want to look at what you're doing and see where changes and improvements can be made.
But it also may be that you're entering the wrong kind of show for your artwork -- try getting a representatonal painting into a show heavy with abstracts. It doesn't happen, although, ironically, the reverse does. Analyzing shows leads to your analyzing your style and becoming aware of what it is that you enjoy doing best.
You produce more work, faster. Nobody wants you to become an assembly line artist; however, it does you no good to agonize so much over each work that you don't enter shows because you only have a half-dozen pieces, in the last three years, from which to choose.
The Norwegian Artist is a prolific and energetic painter -- he also has years as an illustrator behind him, during which time he was expected to produce whether or not the Muse was with him. Entering shows gives you a self-imposed deadline.
You interact with people within the art community. Either through letters, e-mails, talking on the phone, or physically being at the show and hobnobbing with the participants, you discover and make new contacts, never a bad thing when you're marketing yourself.
Art shows go on everywhere, all of the time. Within a 100-mile radius of our one-stoplight town, I was able to find enough local and regional shows in our first year to get the Norwegian Artist's name off the property and out into the local market.
Here are some quick ideas to find local and regional shows:
Google Art Shows and Competitions in your area -- try your town, the ones 30-miles away, the ones 30 miles beyond that.
Find the local art society and ask them -- our town has a library that is open 20 hours a week and far more cows than there are artists -- but it also has a local art society. Somewhere around you there has to be a group.
Read the local newspaper, especially the Art insert -- most papers have a Food and Family Section, a TV Listing, an Outdoor Day, and an Art section, the latter which lists and features galleries, local artists doing shows, competitions, and festivals.
Join local, regional, and national art groups and receive their newsletter -- one regional group the Norwegian Artist belongs to has a volunteer staff member who spends her time seeking out shows and posting them in the newsletter.
As with anything, just do what you can do in a set amount of time, pat yourself on the back for getting started in the right direction, and go back to your artwork, guilt-free.