15/07/2024 2:48 PM


Adorn your Feelings

MAKING A MARK: How to assess entries for an open art society exhibition (Part 2)

4 min read


Today’s Part 2 of my focus on assessing entries for an open art society exhibition is going to focus on a method I’ve devised for giving every entry in an open exhibition a specific mark.

Yesterday I wrote about How to assess entries for an open art society exhibition (Part 1) which focused on the increased use of digital selection following the introduction of digital submissions and, in particular, the pandemic

The rationale behind a marking system

I have 100 marks to award to each of a very considerable number of artworks. 

The challenge for me is to 

  • make the allocation of marks make sense to me 
  • try and achieve consistency across all entries during the time required to mark each one
  • ensure the marking is fair i.e. that each and every artwork ends up being ranked “correctly” in terms of my views of the relative merits of the different artworks

So how best to do this? 

My marking system

I decided I would split my 100 marks over 5 categories which are:

  • Subject 
    • the idea / concept behind the artwork
    • “same old same old” versus “new and innovative” perspectives or novel subject matter
    • complex versus simple
  • Design
    • evidence of thought re design and composition 
    • e.g. whether it follows good practice or whether it is just copied from a photo with no editing
  • Use of Colour / Tone:
    • at a very basic level – demonstration of awareness of the use of colour and tone
    • ability to raise an artwork from 2D to something more i.e. demonstration of how best to use colour and/or tone to make an artwork more effective
      • eg colour palette
      • eg tonal range and whether appropriate for subject
  • Technical Proficiency re Media
    • drawing skills / perspective 
    • skill in application of the medium eg. precision and refinement versus clumsy heavy handed application and/or finishes
  • Overall Impact
    • presentation for judging (eg good quality image at the right sort of size – with no frame or mat in evidence)
    • degree of “finish” i.e. Does it look good?
    • “Wall Impact” – whether it will “read well” from a distance in an exhibition

Here’s an anonymised example of how it worked in practice.

Example of how my marking scheme works in practice

I also took the spreadsheet listing of all the (totally anonymous) entries and added on columns for my marking criteria plus a total column which automatically calculated the total as I added in the marks for individual criteria.

How it worked in practice

It’s much easier to allocate 100 marks on a spreadsheet IF you:

  • use a spreadsheet 
  • only marking out of 20 for ONE specific consideration in the first instance.
  • work on a desktop/laptop and got the images open on an iPad/tablet. 
  • use a formula to calculate the totals!

The way I looked at them (by viewing the database via Chrome) meant I got a large full image – which I could enlarge if the file was big enough to look at specific aspects of the artwork.

I found I started to develop shorthand marking after a while with specific marks standing in for a “weak” (5) or “impressive” (15) judgement. Below or above those marks you needed to be very bad or very good as against specific criteria!

For example specific weaknesses automatically attracted a mark of 5 out of 20 or even 3 if particularly bad e.g. very small image – making it impossible to assess the image!

The trick is always to make sure you only mark for one aspect of deficit once and not repeatedly.

Once I started I found I also wanted to add a column for “remarks” which would remind me why I had marked as I had and, in particular, reasons why I marked up or down.

In my opinion, it’s impossible to do all the entries in one go. However it’s a good idea to 

  • have a quick look through all the thumbnails before you start
  • work in batches so you remain fresh and marking does not suffer due to becoming tired

As somebody who has both marked and moderated marking schemes for professional examinations on the past, I also checked periodically how I was applying the marking scheme when comparing one artwork with another to ensure consistency

What about the other Judges?

The other Judges will have worked out their own ways of determining how to allocate marks fairly. 

They may have done something similar to me – or something completely different.

Since there is more than one Judge and the marks are totalled, there is no way my system determines the outcome of the final selection – except as a contribution of one person’s perspective. 

I’d be interested to hear other perspectives on how to mark or grade artwork submitted for an open exhibition.


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