A Recipe for Judging by CDs

By Dolores M. Andrew

This article first appeared in NANthology, the NAN newsletter, in summer 2010. 

Ideally, when we judge, the two or three of us meet and choose the works (when jurying) or award winners (when judging), from actual pieces in front of us. However, in this 21st century hi-tech world with the complications of distance and time to travel, often we must arrange other variations to the judging system, which are much like assembling the ingredients in a recipe. Gathering two or three judges isn’t always easy, much less possible, so that working with CDs has become more common, and convenient, since most artists are using digital photography to record their work.

First, the CDs are collected from the Show Chair, by each judge in turn, along with the guidelines, number to be accepted, when the decisions are due to be completed, and any other details pertinent to that show. Depending on the number of entries, this reviewing can take two to four days to view and decide. This is the most time-consuming part of “the mix”.

Then, we collect the “ingredients” to jury:
1. A projector to focus the works
2. A screen or white wall (preferably) for better visibility to show the works
3. A laptop with the capability to play CDs
4. A helper/teller/assistant to list, note, record decisions and calculations

Each CD must be reviewed, examined, and evaluated—a time-consuming job, usually requiring several viewings. The first time takes the longest—the “original mix”, because, like a “walk-through” or reviewing a recipe, it helps to acquaint us with the scope of the show. This is also the best time to set up a format for evaluating: a list, a chart, a point system or other method that is comfortable to use.

Subsequent viewings can take as much or as little time as necessary. Each time the “mix” is stirred, it should be easier to handle, as the works become more familiar. Then, the last “ingredient” is added: pruning down the choices to the final number accepted.

Once these decisions are made, and all the judges have seen and reviewed the entries, the paperwork on the accept/reject forms puts it all “in to bake”. Decisions made; it’s baking. The accepted entrants are notified, and the show is hung.

Variations in the Recipe:

  1. Sometimes the show chair doesn’t provide guidelines, or many instructions for jurying, so that some must be established before judging can begin.
  2. Images on the CDs can be out of focus, mislabeled or even unlabeled. Entries could even be sent with confusing personal information that must be sorted out.
  3. Exhibitors should be given entry requirements regarding size and resolution of digital images submitted to assure uniformity. As with slides, the size of the piece should be included.
  4. Just as some recipes come out of the oven with better results than others, when looking at the live work for later awards, we must be aware that some images can look better on the CD than on the wall, and sometimes the live work is better than the CD showed.
  5. If possible, take the time to consolidate all of the entries into one PowerPoint presentation. This will expedite the viewing, and ensure that all of the judges will see everything equally.
  6. Instead of a projector, the entries may be viewed directly on a computer screen, or on a TV connected to the computer. However, be aware that the computer or TV may alter the color in an entry.

Having images in a digital format instead of on a slide is not very different, really. They both require a lot of hands-on, time-consuming attention. The difference is that seeing the images on a computer can possibly be more convenient when a projector would be difficult to locate.

Whether we look at the works in a slide or on a computer screen, there is nothing like the “real thing”. The store-bought variety of cookies can substitute, but never replace the flavor and quality of home-made cookies, just as viewing live work is still the best method for judging. We have many conveniences available to us in our 21st century life, whether baking or judging. As judges, we need to be aware of them, and know when to take advantage of them for our future judging opportunities.