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Marsha Hamby Savage Q & A

Updated: Apr 22, 2021

Questions for Live Video Instagram Interview

We had a pleasure to speak with Marsha Hamby Savage this Sunday and she was kind enough to answer our questions about an upcoming exhibition. I hope you will enjoy her answers as much as I did.

1. When do you know that you are ready to show your work?

Most of us want to show what we are doing to someone. Be sure to share

what you are doing with family and friends.

But, showing your work in a competition or a gallery is a whole different ball

game. I would suggest first visiting galleries to see what is being shown. Go

to the local gallery as well as the better known ones, and the ones in

surrounding larger cities. See where your work fits in as far as technical

ability, vision and impact.

When you see that your work is as good technically, and you see you have a

message you want people to respond to, then you might be ready to enter the

world of showing! Sometimes it is good to have a support group that will help

critique each other’s work ... but without telling you “how” to paint “your”


One big thing to take into consideration is your ability to take the bad

comments by viewers with the good. You must have a pretty thick skin. There

are always going to be those that don’t like your work as well as those that

do. That is what makes the world go around, right? It is not personal. That is

what I am getting around to. It is not personal!

(I had started painting when my first child was born, and I knew my best

friend was also an artist and taking lessons locally. We started painting

together at times. She was the person that told me I needed to take some

lessons to learn more. She was doing so and had been for some time. She

and I have known each other since we were 10 years old.)

2. When should you start entering shows/exhibitions/contests?

Entering a “show” is a good way to make you try things that are a little

different sometimes. It is also a way to gauge your work in the big picture of

“all those wonderful artists out there!” As for timing of when you should start

entering them, that is something only you will know. How is your thick skin?

Are you ready to hear time after time that you have “not been accepted?” Do

not think of it as “rejected.” Your work will be compared to all the other entries

and it is just the opinion of a juror or jurors. We all have our likes and dislikes.

Pretend sometime you are the juror when you visit a show and keep notes

about what you would have chosen and what you wonder about... “wanting

to know why did they choose that one” ... be specific ... look at the technical

aspects and also the emotional impact, etc. Write it down. This will go a long

way to helping you decide when you feel your work meets some of those


Entering shows / exhibitions / contests is really putting your ego on the line.

You are asking someone that cannot be inside your head, cannot know your

intent, to make a determination of the worth of the product you have put out

there. This is an important word... “product.” When you are working on your

pieces, they should not be viewed as a product, but as a study. A study is not

quite as precious. It will allow you to work through the times you don’t like it,

and believe me there are those times for all of us. It will allow you to have

more successes in your own eyes. Submit those!

Paint only for yourself and only what you love. If you are in this journey for the

accolades and money, then it is ... again ... a different ball game.

3. When did you personally first time showed your work?

Take your time before you start showing your work in a retail setting. Be sure

you are producing a consistent body of work. They need to have some

consistency of style, subject matter, emotion... or something someone could

say, “I know that is ____________’s work!”

I was painting probably a couple of years when I decided I had something I

wanted to frame for myself or for my family. The frame shop was a small one

in my hometown. The owners asked me if I would hang some of my work in

their frame shop/gallery. Of course, my answer was a resounding “yes!” I did

sell a few of my pieces over the next couple of years. It was a fantastic start

for me. I had that relationship for probably 20 years and even started

teaching a weekly class in the evening at their gallery, and eventually worked

for them one day per week to help them have a day off!

After a few years, my best friend and I decided to have a little “bazaar” of our

paintings and our craft items. It was an invitational postcard, but they could

tell others or invite friends and family. We wanted to enlarge our audience. It

was a one day event only. We both had framed our pieces and the show was

a success and we did this for several years! They were lined up at the door

for it to open.

During the next 10 years or so, I put my work in a few more small galleries in

my local region. I had some regular sales, and received commission requests

because of showing my work in a retail setting. All these things have helped

me grow as an artist. I gained a local following in a couple of those galleries

and began to sell more! I had more galleries come on board, and also over

the years some galleries closed. The level of the galleries went up as I

entered shows and won awards. I also worked hard to promote my galleries

as much as I did my own work.

4. How do you select shows to enter?

To begin, I joined two art organizations in my local area during the time I had

begun to place my work in local galleries. The first one I joined held monthly

shows for their members and they were an “all medium” type of organization.

I started submitting my work to those. And shortly after that, I joined the

second one, The Southeastern Pastel Society, which held a yearly big show.

They held alternating years a “Members Only” and “International” Juried

Exhibitions. These helped me to get my feet wet easily. After a number of

years I started submitting my work to other regional juried exhibitions that I

could hand-deliver my work. This expanded my presence, which then led to

National organizations and their juried exhibitions. At that point, I decided to

attend the International Association of Pastel Societies convention, which is

held every other year. I have continued to attend those conventions and enter

their shows which has led to my inclusion in their “Masters Circle.”

How I select exhibitions to enter is sometimes just timing, and a gut reaction.

But, I do some homework. Here is a list of things to look at:

– what type of medium do they want? Does you work fit this criteria?

– what is their criteria, such as: style, sizes, theme, (we already mentioned

medium),etc.? Most times there is no theme. Size is according to the venue.

– have I created something that fits the first two questions above? Go no

further if you have not!

– what is the time frame and can I meet the deadlines?

– what is the cost? I definitely pay attention to this one!

– must I ship to a distant location? Have the sturdy art box? Afford the cost?

And, it will be required to be shipped back if not sold. If sold, you want the

box shipped back to you... this is another cost of this particular type of show.

– who is the juror? Are they well respected? I don’t necessarily want to paint

for the juror.

5. What type of work should you enter?

We are all admonished to only submit our best work.

– Don’t submit something you have lying around “just” to enter a show.

– Do submit work that the materials are archival and created on and with the

best art materials you possibly can.

– Don’t submit work that looks like it has been lying around the studio for

years, or in a bin, etc.

– Do submit work that is your current work, and speaks about where you are

at this time in your journey.

– Enter more than one piece if at all possible.

And, what you enter should be consistent in either style, subject matter,

technique, etc. Don’t be all over the board with the images you submit. As

said in another question... do not enter work to impress the juror. They will be

much tougher on the style of work that is more like their own work.

Remember they know all the pitfalls, the tricks and gimmicks, etc.

Try not to submit artwork that is seen all over the place. Do look at your work

and see if there is something unique about that particular piece. A new way to

look at an older subject matter, etc. Is there a story implied in the piece?

Compare what you are doing with what has been accepted into this show

before.... or accepted by this juror in another show! You might get an insight

into what that juror is looking for. 6. Online exhibition vs offline?

Physical exhibitions are always fun to visit. Be sure to submit to some of

those. That way you can invite your friends, family and potential clients to see

the work in real life. Real life viewing shows things about a piece of artwork

that an image on a screen cannot do.

That said, submit to online exhibitions because you don’t have to ship work,

purchase a frame, etc. Many online exhibitions will allow you to submit work

that has already sold. Believe me, my best work is targeted for the galleries

or my patrons first and usually sells before I can enter it into a physical show!

When you submit to a physical (offline) show, you are starting the process

months before the actual event. That means the pieces you submit will be

sitting around waiting on the notification of whether you were accepted or not.

Then if you are accepted, you wait for the shipping or delivery date, then the

exhibition itself, and then the shipping back to you if it does not sell. That

could be as much as six months or more before it comes back to you for the

possibility of selling it.

Make a decision about what you really want. Sales, gallery representation,

local shows... or name recognition if it gets into the more prestigious show.

7. Should you enter just one work? Or more?

There have been times I only had one work that was available to enter a

show. I will do this, but I prefer to have 2 to 3 works to submit.

Some jurors are more likely to see something in your work if they can see

more than one piece of art work. Consistency is the key here as mentioned

before. It gives a sense of style to your work to see more than one.

Entering more than one image gives a little continuity to your work, style,

impact, etc. Jurors like to know that you are not a one-trick-pony!

But, if you only have one to enter, do not let that stop you from entering a


Many times there are two or three shows competing against each other for a

time frame, though I think the better shows try not to do that. I know I juggle

submitting to a show, with sending the painting physically to one of my

galleries. You must decide which means more to you.

8. What are you paying attention to when judging the work?

Technique? Idea?

What do I look for in a work when judging a show? My judging “criteria” list is

after my explanations here.

I make one pass around whether physical show or on-line. This first pass I

will make notes about what grabbed my attention quickly. What makes me

stop and want to look further. This is sometimes called a “wow” painting. But

many times it is not so much “wow” as it just draws me into it easily.

Second pass through I start looking for those that do nothing for me, but I

make notes as to why? What was the idea behind the piece... if I can tell that,

and if possible try to think about “what were they trying to do?” I do evaluate

them on their technique. This “removal” technique only applies to a minimal

number of the works usually.

Third pass I have narrowed the numbers down to what I liked on that first

pass through. Those get a numbering system as to some of the techniques

and theories we are taught. It starts the “ranking” from best on down the line

technically. I also give it a grade on what I think the emotional quality of the

piece has. Think about if I like two paintings how would you determine which

was best? Technique is not always the determining factor. Sometimes

emotion in a piece not so technically well done will win over one that has

technique down to a science but has no emotion! Here we are getting to the

likes and dislikes of the juror. They do figure into it, but only when getting

down to the nitty-gritty of evaluating a piece of artwork. And, the other side...

honestly I have chosen a piece I was not in love with as much just due to

their sheer virtuosity of technique!

Judging Criteria:

– Intrigue or Potential Viewer Response

– Emotion or Expressiveness

– Innovativeness or uniqueness with chosen medium

– Composition, color, value, temperature, aerial perspective

– Knowledge of medium, stroke production

– Technique (ability) – least important

It is never an easy task to look at artwork, know what was in the artist’s mind,

and then “judge” whether it is good or not … only an opinion of the viewer!

So, I try to take the personal likes out of the equation by assigning values to a

set of standard criteria. Of course, those assignments are still just my

personal opinion.

When it comes to the award process, I let myself look closely at the artwork

for maybe a couple of minutes each. Again, I am applying my criteria to the

live piece. Remember, I also look for a “wow” factor…. A certain confidence

that might show… boldness… something different or unique. An emotional

reaction, or a mystery or question in my mind … a story

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