A friend and I have an ongoing conversation that starts like this: “Should I enter the _____ show? I mean, even if I get in, the shipping will eat up any profit.” Then the other person says, “Well, how close are you to signature status? If you only need one more, it might be worth it.”
The romantic version of an art show is that paintings go on display, are admired by the public, and then purchased. While this occasionally happens, more often a completely different set of priorities is driving the entry process, at least past a certain point.
In theory, the artist takes a class or two and falls in love with the medium. Seeking to gain experience, the new artist joins the _____ Society and pays dues for several years before getting into a show. Thorough addicted to their newfound success, the artist continues to enter club shows and even joins other clubs. More entries, more acceptances, and eventually awards. At this point, the dues paying part of their career is over; now the _____ Society is effectively paying the artist to stick around. The artist can provide lots of benefits to the club, but they have moved beyond needing the affirmation of the ______ Society.
Many artists never get to award status. Instead, they keep chugging along, occasionally getting into a show and always paying their club dues. This is where signature status comes into play. Realizing that artists will not stick around indefinitely with little or no incentive, artist societies have created a signature status system, usually linked to acceptance into shows. For example, five times in ten years or with a point system for each acceptance or award. The idea is a good one, both financially and practically. As I mentioned, it keeps members involved, and it recognizes a certain level of skill that is attained over the years. One of the tricky parts of signature status is that you always have to keep your membership up-to-date or you lose any points you might have gained and have to start over.
But is signature status “worth” anything? Does the general public pay more attention to having “NWS” or “AWS” after a signature? Based on the number of signature-level artists who do not add the affirmative to their signature, it seems likely that signature status falls into the same category as a vanity license plate or monogramed handkerchief.
I am currently chasing two signature statuses. I have signature status from the Watercolor Society of Oregon (WSO), though I have not added the title to my signature. I would very much like to add AAEA (American Academy of Equine Art) to my signature, but it’s going to be a long haul. My other “want” is to add NWWS (North West Watercolor Society) to my repertoire. For that one, you need three acceptances, at least one in the big international show. I’ve been accepted twice into the members show, which is still prestigious. There is very little practical reason for pursuing these markers (see reasons above.) But I do want them. So, I keep trudging along.
This weekend, I made a concerted effort to take it easy. I feel on Friday, and before I even hit the ground, I knew my back was not going to let the incident pass without revenge. So, I took drugs, slow walks with the dog, and all other suggestions. To pass the time, I worked on finishing some projects with the hope of having some inventory to include in the upcoming AAEA, NWWS, and WSO shows.
For the last two years, my luck in guessing what jurors will like for shows has been lousy. So, take a look at these and see if anything jumps out at you as “show worthy.” I’d love to hear your thoughts!