Application Sunday, Part XIV: The key to the optimal artist call submission


Every Sunday I share the weekly open call I submit my work to and the lessons I learned from a year of following a relentless application regimen!

This week’s open call: This week I applied to the project kaos open call (in Greek).

What I learned from a year of artist call submissions, Part XIV: The key to the optimal artist call submission

In last week’s article Applying to artist calls: Speeding up the process I shared the method I have come up with in order to save time and be more effective when submitting work to artist calls.

Adopting a tool like my “Essential package”, a folder in my computer where all the essential elements that are frequently required by an artist call are placed, is invaluable. It makes things easier and takes some of the complexity off the whole process.

What defines a successful application process is managing to submit work consistently and in a way that the work you have created thus far can serve as leverage to propel your career forward, rather than just keep piling up in your workshop. Building your Essential package is only part of a strategy that can contribute to this desirable outcome.

The key element to a successful application process

Out of the things that lay within our control, there are three basic factors that are instrumental in having a favorable outcome from an artist call submission:

  1. The quality of the work we submit

  2. The quality of our application material, including the artist statement, the bio, a project or work description, etc.

  3. The compatibility of our work to the nature of the artist call: Applying to calls that aren’t a good match for our work is a waste of time.

And then there is one thing we can do that can bring these things together and make their value shine through and can act as a catalyst, raising our success rates significantly: Adopting a system

Having a system in place when applying to artist calls can be the difference between an optimal and an adequate artist submission, optimal being one that allows for our artistic “capital” to shine. This can be the difference between success and rejection.

Sure, an optimal submission is not guaranteed to turn into a successful one but it certainly stands a better chance than one that is merely adequate.

Here are some reasons why applying with a system can be more effective than applying without one:

  • Less stress. When one has a system in place things are more under control and this sense of confidence in regard to how one can manage the application process reduces the usual stress/anxiety when confronted with the task.
  • Less time spent applying. It is natural that when a system is installed in a task that we aim to be doing repeatedly we become more effective in completing it and therefore faster. We can now spent more time in the core of our practice that should be our workshop.
  • More submissions. Making applying faster means that we can apply to more calls if desired.
  • Morale boosting. Ultimately, managing to apply more effectively, that is, faster and with higher success rates, will most probably lead to more successes. In time you will start to feel confident in your own capacity in getting your work out there and acquire a stronger sense of control. This feeling of control is bound to uplift your morale and it is a sense that cannot but affect the work you do in the studio as well. You will be able to work more calmly and with more focus in the studio when you feel that you have the skills to get your work out there.

Applying with a system: My interpretation

Applying with a system can mean a lot of different things to different people. For some the famous Shakespearean There is a method in my madness may be a good fit and furnish results.

My interpretation though is somewhat more conservative: Having a system to me means managing to keep the individual elements that make for a successful application process as much under my control as possible. Again, we are referring here to the elements that can be under our control and not to those that lie in the control of the organizer or even chance. We cannot be stressing about whether we are going to be selected once we have sent out an optimal submission.

Having seen that it indeed furnishes results I would like to propose here the five basic characteristics of the system I myself have in place.:

  1. Periodicity. Determine every how often you want a submission sent out and then be strict about keeping that periodical activity in place. The key here is to set a realistic goal and stick to it. After a while it will become second nature. For me this frequency is 1 submission/week. Sometimes I manage to send out more, but I try to never send less. Periodicity also refers to other essential activities connected to the process, like checking the latest calls that are posted on certain artist call sites you have come to trust.

  2. Keeping the application material that is requested often in one place and updated. This has to do with the practice of the Essential package. Allow me to refer you to this article.

  3. Keeping a record. Make a habit out of documenting the basic elements of your application process. Have a document on Evernote, Google drive, or another application were you include each call you apply to in chronological order along with basic information about it such as the date you sent that submission out, whether you applied by e-mail, through a submission form or by regular mail, the artist call site you found the announcement on, etc.

  4. Creating an archive. Create a folder in your hard drive where you place the application material you sent out each time, organized chronologically. For example, I have a folder called “2015”, and in it individual folders that refer to each month. Into “September” I have 5 individual folders referring to the 5 submissions I sent out that month. The folders have the name of the artist call or its organizer, something that I can identify it by preceded by a number, from 1 to 5, indicating the order at which I sent out the applications. Creating an archive is invaluable for many reasons (I am certain I haven’t found all of them yet, but I try to be ready when I do), if not only for making it easy on yourself to find that amazing project description you had crafted that could be the basis for the one you wish to send out next.

  5. Assessment. Assessment is essential in advancing in all activities and overcoming obstacles and this is the case here too. Keeping a record and creating an archive will be instrumental in you being able to make an assessment when you deem it necessary. Maybe you are rejected way too often and you wish to look into what you may be doing wrong or what practice can use some improvement. Checking the compatibility factor that we talked about earlier, you may find that what you should be more careful about applying to calls that are a good fit for your work. Maybe by inspecting the data in your spreadsheet where you include information about the submissions you send out you see that an artist call site recurs way too often as a source for the calls you apply to, which leads you to reach to the conclusion that perhaps you should diversify and/or expand your sources.

Do you follow any particular system or strategy in your application process you would like to share and maybe recommend to other artists? Is there an element you would like to add to my five system components, one that maybe you have tried and have found effective?

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