Just a few comments that might bear on various points in this discussion:

It is quite possible to imbue still life paintings with meaning, emotional power, poignancy, etc., but it is seldom done. More often still lifes are assemblages of objects or flowers in a decorative arrangement, done as potboilers to keep the painter's bills paid. They are much less of a challenge to paint than a good figure composition, and that is one reason why art show judges who can paint figures as well as still lifes tend to value good figure paintings over good still lifes. Secondly, the judges are human, like normal viewers, and thus relate more strongly to images of people. In all my years of painting, selling through galleries and otherwise, entering competitions, etc., my figures have always done better than my still lifes and landscapes, and I can do them all pretty well. It's a psychological thing. People relate to people in pictures. A human subject gives more range of expression, more potential for interesting the viewer, than any other subject.

In judging paintings in art competitions, a very important criterion for me is how well the overall ensemble works, grabs my eye and holds my attention, but if there are amateurish errors in execution, the picture is out of the running for an award, and might well be rejected from the show. A charming overall aspect is not enough to warrant overlooking basic flaws. To award the work of a painter who obviously needs more study does that person a disservice, by giving the impression that there is less room for improvement than there really is, indicating that the person is ready to step out as a professional, when he/she is really not. Since there are always more entries than room to hang, and than there are awards to be given, it is reasonable to eliminate those pictures with errors a good artist knows better than to make, and then judge the ones that remain on their comparative merits. This is the only way to have a quality show. The quality of the works exhibited reflects on the organization holding the competition, and the prestige of the organization is what will compel the best artists to enter and participate. The most important factor is the choice of judge(s).

Virgil Elliott