I also just submitted my application to St. George's Easter Art Festival. I have not yet determined what it takes to be chosen consistently every year.
What I've been doing:
I've almost completed a series of "rock" studies in watercolor. This involves a technique that prepares the watercolor paper with oil color thinned with turpentine. Here are some examples:
The turpentine wash creates a great background texture for rock images. This can be used for brick walls and stone fences as well as creek beds. More examples:
In these I began adding other images such as the fish and a leaf. more examples:
I've also been doing a few cowboy scenes:
and just finished this one....another watercolor on gesso textured surface...