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How to win wildlife art competitions

David Shepherd Wildlife Foundation

Each year David Shepherd Wildlife Foundation’s (DSWF) Wildlife Artist of the Year competition receives over 1,000 entries from amateur and professional artists from around the world.

Wildlife Artist of the Year has become a significant date in the annual art calendar, and this prestigious competition is getting increasingly competitive.

Here are some additional tips for artist looking to get shortlisted for the Wildlife Artist of the Year exhibition from previous winners Stephen Rew and Andrew Pledge.

How to win art competitions

With the internet giving us access to such a wide variety of artists from all around the world, it can feel difficult to stand out,” 

explains Stephen Rew, Wildlife Artist of the Year 2019 winner.

It is time to think outside the box. Here is how to take your Wildlife Artist of the Year entries to a new level.

The title of your artwork

Intelligent, informative and creative titles help your artwork stand out during the judging process. Wings category winner, Ze Ze Lai played on the word ‘Modelling’ when naming her watercolour artwork.

The size of your art entry

The size and shape of your artwork can shine a spotlight on your entry. Previous exhibitions have featured the teeniest sculptures, like Paul Eaton’s ‘Ice on Snow’ to elephantine-sized artworks like the award-winning ‘Cardboard Gorilla’

“Bigger isn’t always better, but with a five and a half foot-wide wall-mounted blue bronze octopus, it was sure to get noticed,”

says Stephen.
‘Cardboard Gorilla’ by Olivier Bertrand
‘Ice on Snow’ by Paul Eaton

Choosing your subject matter

For some inspiration look for an endangered indigenous species from your home country that is in desperate need of awareness, and use your artwork to tell its story in a clever and artistic way.

It is worth noting that the last two winning artworks have been exceptionally well-executed artworks featuring rather unusual and understated species.

“I prefer painting ugly and overlooked species, like hornbills or vultures, and I use my art to add beauty and intrigue them,”

says Andrew Pledge, Wildlife Artist of the Year 2020 winner.

Selecting your medium for art competitions

This art competition values not only biodiversity but diversity in technique, medium and style. 

Wildlife Artist of the Year has been held annually since 2008, as a result, the judges have been exposed to a cornucopia of wildlife art over the years. Thus, it is essential to consider, how might I ‘wow’ them as an artist? 

Sometimes unusual and different mediums such as embroidery, cardboard, recycled materials, and magazine collages can attract attention to your creations. 

Spider embroidery entry in Wildlife Artist of the Year 2020
‘A Tale of Three Spiders’ by Magdelena Zwierzchowska

“I think if you want to get noticed, you can do one of two things, do what everyone else is doing, but do it better, Or find something unique, be creative and push the boundaries,”

says Stephen

Composition of winning wildlife artworks

Choosing how and where to place your subject matter on the canvas is essential for drawing in the eye and attracting attention to your artwork. Playing and using space is critical.

My background in design and architecture has helped me with composition,”

says Andrew

Read more tips from previous Wildlife Artist of the Year winners. Follow our Instagram account (DSWFwildlifeart) or sign up for updates from DSWF for more inspiration relating to Wildlife Artist of the Year. Enter Wildlife Artist of the Year 2021 here.

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