Back in the day I used to enter a lot of painting contests. I would win awards at local shows and such but I always found the experience to be... odd. I'm not sure that I liked the feeling of waiting for somebody else to tell me how good they thought my work was. So, even though I did win a lot of awards I eventually stopped doing it because I didn't enjoy it.
I recently let a friend of mine talk me into entering Privateer Press' painting contest (P3 Grandmaster something something). I think I mostly did it so that I would have an excuse to push myself a little further than I normally do. With all of my painting mainly going to paying clients I'm always balancing quality with time. This is the mini that I entered.
Overall I'm happy with it. I didn't lavish as much attention on it that I might have, but it did get a lot more attention than anything I've painted in years.
On the first day I watched the entries as they came in. I was the first one in so I had a lot of time to consider the other entries. Not too many showed up on day one. I was feeling pretty good about my chances.
By the end of the second day it was clear that, while my mini was good, there were a lot of other good entries. By by the final day it was clear that all of the best painters waited until the last minute to do their entries. Holy cow... some of those minis were incredible.
In the end I got a bronze. I'm actually pretty happy about that. With all of the great painters in the competition it was nice to be recognized at all. In the final hour before the prizes were awarded there was a lot of milling around the booth of the other painters who were participating. Many of them knew one-another. I didn't know anybody. It was nice to talk with these painters about their work and feel like we were all in the same boat even though some were clearly on another level entirely.
I would say that this was a pretty positive experience for me. I'm already thinking about next year - assuming I go next year.