Artist residencies and artist grants are great opportunities for creative growth. Grants help by giving you the economic power to accomplish projects that might be impossible for you to complete on your own because of cost and scale. Residencies are wonderful opportunities to create art and interact with other artists in a creative community. Residencies also offer refuge from daily distractions so you can generate new ideas and develop your craft in a dedicated space.

1. Hone Your Writing Skills

It’s tough out there, and the competition has only grown in recent years because of the economic downturn. When applying for grants or residencies, you aren’t going to be judged on your artwork alone; you need to be able to communicate well in writing. If you live in a major city, it’s possible to find free writing workshops available through arts councils and other nonprofit organizations that help artists. For example, in the Washington DC area, the arts and Humanities Council of Montgomery County, Maryland (http://www.creativemoco.com) offers a variety of free workshops for working artists. Organizations like this often keep track of opportunities and calls for entry on their websites. Search online to see if there are organizations in your area that offer free programs for professional artists. Community colleges typically offers writing workshops for working professionals as well.

2. Select Your Work Carefully

You want to show a cohesive body of work in any application—pieces that “go together” and have the same aesthetic. In most applications, you want to demonstrate depth rather than breadth. If you haven’t been creating art for very long, it can be hard to try and figure out a cohesive set of pieces to submit. It can also be difficult to decide how to represent yourself if you were doing a particular type of work in the past but have recently begun taking your work in a new direction.

3. Take High Quality Images of Your Work

Don’t undermine all the hard work you’ve put into your writing by taking low-quality cell phone photos of your art! If your photography is low quality, it’s going to make your art appear low quality. Use a good digital camera or DSLR and also make sure to submit the image files in the correct size and format. Different places may have different requirements for image submission, but generally it’s safe to submit files that are around 500x600 pixels and 300dpi.

When you take photos of paintings, drawings or any other rectangular works, be sure to crop out any backgrounds, frames or other visual noise on each side of the piece. Photograph in good light, use neutral backdrops for 3D work, and always steady your shots. If you are not accustomed to working with a digital camera, you may want to have a friend help you or even hire a professional to take photos of your artwork. You don’t need an expensive DSLR to take good photos. A point-and-shoot digital camera in the $120 - $300 price range should do the trick. Cell phone cameras have improved greatly in the past few years and some models may be capable of taking higher quality photos, but not all.

4. Follow Directions and Re-read Everything!

Follow all directions exactly. There can be a great deal of competition for artist grants and residencies