Exhibition FAQs


Q: Why must I pay an entry fee when I am a member of CPSA?

A: CPSA offers a lower entry fee for members, but the money is necessary to cover costs such as the juror’s honorarium, rent for the gallery, workshops, show programs, advertising, and other events. Membership dues barely cover the administrative costs of running the Society and the cost of providing benefits to its members.

Q: If my work is sold before the show, may I substitute another piece?

A: No, we’re sorry, but you may not substitute another piece. Only artwork submitted to the CaFÉ website and chosen by the juror during the selection process can appear in the exhibition.

Q: Is there is a chance that more than one of my works will be accepted into a CPSA Exhibition?

A: For the International and Explore This! Exhibitions, CPSA instructs the juror to select only one piece per artist in order to include as many different artists as possible.

Q: May I enter the same work in both the International and Explore This! Exhibitions?

A: The specifications for these two shows are different and mutually exclusive. If a work qualifies for one show, it will not be eligible for the other. Explore This! requires work to include some element that makes it ineligible for the CPSA International Exhibition.

Q: Does CPSA take a percentage of the commission for artwork sold during its shows?

A: CPSA never profits from the sale of art displayed in its exhibitions. The gallery hosting the CPSA International Exhibition usually charges a commission as stated in the prospectus. There is no commission involved for the sale of artwork in Explore This! because it is up to the artist to handle the arrangements.

Q: Why does the CPSA International have size limits on artwork?

A: One reason has to do with the amount of wall space available for hanging the accepted paintings. Another is that larger paintings are more difficult to handle and more expensive for artists to ship. Those who prefer to work large can enter our online show, Explore This!, which has no size restrictions.

Q: Why are the specifications for CPSA shows so strictly enforced?

A: The specifications for each exhibition need to be consistent over time and enforced consistently to provide a level playing field for members to earn signature status. Anything else is unfair to those who abide by the rules.


Q: Why does CPSA insist that artists use their own photo references?

A: The answer is that colored pencil, despite all our hard work and efforts over the past 30 years, is often viewed as a second-class medium, suitable only for children, coloring book enthusiasts, and people making fan art from celebrity photos. That belief hurts all of us. The only way to make progress against such perceptions is to place a very high premium on originality, both in ideation and execution. Copying open source photos is simply not compatible with that goal.

Q: May I depict a sculpture or some other art form in my work or may I use parts of pictures that have been published if I change them around?

A: The prospectus states that the work must be of original design, not copied from copyrighted or published material. It is not OK to use someone else’s work of art as the subject of your colored pencil piece. If someone can recognize the source from which your work is derived, it may be deemed as plagiarism, even if executed in a different medium from the original work. It is crucial for artists to be original and to nurture their own special vision and style.

Q: May I use a photograph taken by someone else as a reference?

A: CPSA requires artists to work from their own photographs, and the prospectus clearly states that the concept, design, and execution of artwork entered in CPSA exhibitions must be solely that of the artist. Although you may use other images for reference, the final work should not resemble that source in a recognizable way. Copyright law is complicated—you can learn more online or from books and art magazines.


Q: Is there a list of products that are considered legal for the International Exhibition?

A: Yes, there is a list of acceptable products you can consult. Keeping that list current, however, becomes more difficult as colored pencil brands and types continue to proliferate and evolve. To help clarify the requirement, CPSA has developed a broader definition of colored pencil that we hope will help artists understand the basis upon which materials are approved for our International Exhibition.

Q: Is there anything I may use for the International besides colored pencil?

A: The only other materials you may use are graphite (used only under or between layers of colored pencil), solvents, blenders, workable and final fixatives, and varnish. Fixatives and varnish should be used only on top of a layer of colored pencil. Refer to the list of acceptable products and the requirements for CPSA exhibitions for more information.

Q: Are water-soluble pencils acceptable for the International?

A: Yes, any product identified as a colored pencil by its manufacturer is deemed legal for our International Exhibition, regardless of the binder used. However, water-soluble pastels and crayons are not legal. Refer to our definition of colored pencil and the requirements for CPSA exhibitions for further information.

Q: May I submit artwork that is 100% colored pencil to Explore This!?

A: The specifications for Explore This! state that artwork must include some element that makes it ineligible for the CPSA International Exhibition. That means the artwork must include some other media, dimensionality or technique that would exclude it from the International. Some ways you can do that include:

  • adding other media such as pastels, acrylics, watercolor paint, ink, marker pens, wax, etc. (NOTE: colored pencil must be the predominant medium)
  • working in 3 dimensions (sculpture, bas-relief, textured surface, etc.)
  • attaching artifacts (beads, fabric, wire, thread, etc.)
  • applying multiple layers of paper (collage, montage, etc.)
  • cutting or making cutouts in the surface
  • preparing the surface yourself (gesso, etc.)

Q: How do the requirements differ between the International and Explore This! exhibitions?

A: While they have many basic requirements in common, the primary difference is that artwork for the International must be 100% colored pencil, while Explore This! allows other mediums. Consult the exhibition requirements for details.


Q: Will I receive a prospectus in the mail?

A: To reduce expenses, CPSA does not mail printed copies of the prospectus, but you can easily download one in PDF format from our website. Each year the prospectus is available on December 15 for the International Exhibition and on September 15 for Explore This!

Q: The prospectus states that when the paintings arrive, they are juried again. Is this true?

A: The paintings are not really “juried” again, but each piece is reviewed to ensure that it meets the “specifications” in the prospectus and that it was accurately depicted by the digital image submitted with the entry.


Q: What constitutes a “good image” for entering?

A: Your digital image should be cropped to the edges of your image without showing the mat, frame, or any background objects. The CaFÉ system requires images to be a minimum of 1200 pixels for the longest dimension and less than 5 MB in size. You can find information about preparing images in the show prospectus or on the CaFÉ website at www.callforentry.org/imaging_tips.phtml

Q: My artwork was not selected for last year’s show. Can I enter it again this year?

A: Yes. Each juror looks for different things and what one may reject, another may accept. Please remember that submitted work must have been completed within the 3 years prior to the entry deadline of the show.

Q: Why is there so much time between the entry deadline and the juried selection for the show?

A: Due to the large number of entries submitted for the exhibition, it takes time for CPSA to prepare the images for the jury process and for the juror to evaluate and make selections.

Q: What criteria regarding standardization of color are used in selecting artwork for CPSA competitions? Is it best to use sRGB, AdobeRGB, ProPhotoRGB or some other program so that color-managed programs like Photoshop know the true definition of colors in the file?

A: First, don’t be overly intimidated by the technical aspects of preparing digital images. If an image looks good on your computer, it will probably look fine on the juror’s computer as well. Here are several things you should know regarding color settings for digital images:

  • The individual (whether you, personally, or a professional photographer) preparing the digital images for a show entry should always review the specifications at the callforentry.org website first. This will ensure that you start with a good quality digital image. (You will note, however, that there is no mention of color settings on that website.)
  • Basically, saving digital images in any of the RGB formats (rather than CYMK, Lab Color, or Multichannel) should be fine. Tip: In Photoshop, RGB formats can be found under Image > Mode.
  • The sRGB option works best for CPSA purposes, enabling our printers to reproduce color images as accurately as possible in To The Point.
  • Although CPSA has no way to control the calibration of monitors and projectors used to view the images, we make every effort to preserve the quality of images submitted by the artists.
  • And finally, the juror views all images on the same monitor which makes for an even playing field. In addition, the juror chooses the award winners for the CPSA International Exhibition in person while viewing the actual pieces of art.


Q: Why must I pay a “handling fee” to ship my work to the CPSA International? What does this fee cover?

A: Such fees are standard for many major exhibitions. Most galleries have neither the storage space nor the staff to handle the number of pieces in a CPSA exhibition. The fee goes directly to the cartage company which receives and unpacks the artwork, stores the boxes, delivers the paintings to the gallery, retrieves them from the gallery, and repacks them for shipping back to the artists. CPSA simply cannot afford to pay for cartage services and requires accepted artists to cover that expense.

Q: Does CPSA provide any information about shipping my artwork?

A: CPSA will post detailed information and instructions about shipping your artwork on its website (www.cpsa.org) soon after the selected artists have been notified.

Q: Which shipping company is the best one to use for shipping fine art?

A: Although selecting a shipper, such as FedEx, UPS, DHL, is an important decision, CPSA cannot recommend one shipper over another. Artists should not use the U.S. Postal Service because it has no pickup service for return shipping. Ask your fellow artists what shipping company they use.

Q: When should I send my artwork for the International Exhibition?

A: The acceptance notification and prospectus give the exact dates when artwork must be received each year. It is important for your work to arrive within that window of time. Be sure to research shipping methods early, so you will be prepared should the shipping window be short.

Q: On average, what does it cost to ship my artwork to an exhibition?

A: It is impossible to determine the average because shipping costs vary based on the size of the box, its weight, and the shipping distance. Insuring your work will also add to your costs, so it is good to do some advance research on these important items once you are notified of acceptance. You may incur additional costs if you have a professional mailing service pack and ship your piece.

Q: What type of container will best protect my artwork during shipping?

A: It is best to use a sturdy cardboard reusable shipping box made especially for the transportation of fine art. When you first receive your box, we advise you to put extra clear or beige shipping tape along all of the edges. This will help your box last longer and will protect it during shipping.

Q: What is the most common damage done to artwork when it is being shipped?

A: The most common problem happens when the artwork has not been secured properly to the mat prior to framing. During shipping, the artwork shifts and the painting may move out of position behind the mat. Remind your framer to use strong hinges to secure your work and, if necessary, put a piece of masking tape at the bottom of your piece to prevent it from falling down behind the mat. Other problems can occur when metal frames have not been assembled properly or wood frames have not been secured tightly in the corners. This may allow your acrylic glazing, if any, to loosen and damage your artwork.

Q: Should I insure my artwork before sending it to the exhibition?

A: Purchasing insurance for the full value of your artwork is not cost-effective because shipping companies typically cover only the actual cost of the frame and materials used to create the artwork. You may, however, be able to insure work for more if you are an established artist with a documented history of sale prices for your work.