Art Biz Systems – Challenges and the 2016 Master Class

Moody Blue
Note to Self

©2015 Helen Conway
Mixed Media Textiles

The Master Class and 2015 Challenges

Once a year I open enrollment for what I call the Master Class – a year long coaching/consulting/support group workshop.

I’ve written about how coaching works and it’s relationship to the master class. Today I want to share another aspect of the workshop.

While much of the focus on the master class is on the individual life and art coaching, there is also a consulting aspect with a monthly group call where every can ask me art biz questions.

Mid way through the 2015 master class one of the participants asked if I could look at everyone’s websites and give some feedback during one of our monthly group consulting call. They had all been saying they wanted to update their websites and thought this would be the perfect way to inspire them to do the work.

I immediately agreed – it seemed like a really good use of our consulting call.

I also knew it needed to be focused on them doing the work prior to the call. So I created a simple worksheet for them to fill out – they evaluated their own websites and figured out the changes they wanted to make before we even talked. For those without websites, it was an opportunity to start thinking about what they wanted from a website.

The call went well, much learning happened.

And from there – the master class challenges were born.

They’ve been a bit ad hoc as I didn’t have a big picture plan for them when the class started but they’ve been a nice addition to the class.

We’ve covered websites, blogs, newsletter and our final challenge will be social media.

Bigger and Better

As I was reformulating the master class for 2016 I wanted to expand on the challenges to be the mechanism providing a solid structure for participants take action.

Master classers are looking for transformation. Coaching is a huge component in making that happen – we focus on dreaming, getting clear, getting unstuck, and making plans during our calls. It makes the work very personal.

But without action, transformation is just a concept. The challenges provide a structure for some of that action (the art biz related things) because often the issue is not really knowing what steps need to be taken.

The 2016 challenges will be step by step checklists of action items to take to build/create/achieve specific goals. They are, of course, highly customizable, because we are individuals.

Essentially I am taking the systems I use to run my own art business and sharing them with my master class students. These isn’t just theory. These checklists work. And they come with lots of references to learn more about each topic.

[Not sure what systems are?  They are repeatable steps for things we do in our lives – sort of like habits.  I’ve been talking about using systems for our art careers since 2010.  This talk I gave in 2010 is a quick introduction to systems.

All challenges are optional AND you can work on them in any order you choose. Whatever you need for your specific career – that is what you work on.

The challenges do not require my feedback. They are systems that you can put in place at any time.

For some participants that might mean you are focusing on your studio most of the time. For others you might focusing more on marketing. Or building your website. Or focusing on health (which has a strong connection to our art).

The challenges are also quite complex and comprehensive – they all cover more material than anyone can do in a single month.   If you are focused on your art the studio challenge could keep you occupied for months.

With the individual coaching call, you learn to tailor your work to your values and dreams. You work on the challenges that fit your dreams and leave the others on the table for another time (or never.)

The 2016 Challenge Topics

While the challenge are always available to provide structure, each month I will provide feedback on a specific topic during our consulting call. Why?

Because we love deadlines. Yes – you can do the challenges at any time and create your art biz with these systems. AND by having a deadline it can help you do some work you’ve been procrastinating on.

Every challenge is optional so there is no pressure to participate. And even if you don’t, there is much learning that happens during the consulting calls.

Here is the tentative schedule of topics for 2016:

March – I’ve Got a Plan
– Planning
– Goals
– Systems
– Time Management
– Operations Manual

May – My Art and Studio

April – My Health and My Support Crew

June – My Foundation – The Art Artifacts
– Art inventory
– Resume
– Bio
– Artist statement
– Business cards

July – Sharing My Art – Building a Foundation
– Purpose / Big Picture
– Headshot
– Mailing Lists
– Editorial Calendar

August – My Beautiful World

September – Sharing My Art – Website

October – Exhibits and Sales

November – Sharing My Art – Newsletter

December – My Money and Other Numbers

January – Sharing My Art – Blogging

February – Sharing My Art – Social Media

Helen Conway

Helen’s website

Helen has been in the master class for a few years. Here are some of her thoughts on the experience:

“If you want your art career to take off, participation in the Masterclass is like you being a pilot of your life with air traffic control and a supportive cabin crew working alongside you.

If you are at the very beginning of your art journey, maybe not even sure where you are heading, Lisa as coach will help you prepare your flight plan, set your goals, find your guiding core values. Each coaching call helps you take the next step from ‘ chocks away’ to the gentle taxi to the runway and the gathering of speed as you open up the throttle.

You put in all the work, but Lisa acts like a traffic controller helping you find a clear route and allowing you to see and avoid obstacles. Then you remain accountable to her checking in as you need to keep you on course.

The individual calls to Lisa in ‘the tower’ are personal and tailored to the destination you set for yourself.

The class calls and material are like generalised information for all artist-pilots equipping you to fly high and safely.

And you are not flying solo but are supported by a close community of others all working in their own way to take off in their own art careers. There is daily support, sharing and socialising via the Facebook group. For classmates who left after the first year that has continued on a more occasional level on an alumnus group.

When you reach your first destination the process can be repeated, stopping you crash landing but rather guiding you to refuel and regathering and take off again for even more exotic climes.

In the two years I have been in the Masterclass I have been supported and equipped to go from wanting to be an artist to being taken on by a gallery for my first solo show. I have learned about the business of being a professional artist and I have been aided to overcome significant obstacles. I cannot now countenance being without a coach and my classmates.

~Helen Conway, UK

Wrap Up

Do you have on operations manual for you business?



Enrollment is now open for the 2016 master class (through end of February – or until it is full).

Learn more about the master class.


Don’t forget the Love



I’m going to be honest – I have a hard time sticking with a “traditional” gratitude journal.   You know – that list of 3 or 5 things that we are supposed to write down each night so we can stay focused on the beautiful and positive.

My lists tend to look something like this

  • my daughter had a friend over and they were silly – I love seeing her happy!
  • I saw a double rainbow – so pretty!
  • dinner was really yummy.  I love fish!

I get bored with it.

How many variations of “my kids”, “my cats”, “my friends”, “nature”,  “my house” can I really come up with each night?  It stresses me out and feels forced to me.

Maybe I’m doing wrong but I just can’t see the point and can’t keep up the habit for an extended period of time.

Instead I prefer to focus on a more concrete list of ways I see that what I’m doing is making a difference.

I write a nightly list of affirmations and accomplishments.


This is a list of everything that came my way during the day as an affirmation I’m on the right track.  As an artist my list might be things like this:

  • Someone buys my art.
  • My work is accepted into an exhibit.
  • I get an email thanking me for my workshops.
  • I get a thank you from a collector for adding beauty to their home.
  • A friend likes my work.
  • A gallerist shows interest in my art.
  • Someone smiles at me.
  • My workshops fill.
  • My artwork receives an award.
  • I over hear a friend telling someone my artwork is awesome.
  • They said YES!

While I’m indeed grateful for these things – it is a more tightly focused list.

I see these things as signs the world loves me.  They are generally actions other people are taking that have a positive impact on me.


In addition to the affirmations I also keep a list of my daily accomplishments.  This isn’t just crossing things off my todo list.  I write down in my journal a summary of the things I did during that day that moved me forward.

Writing it down connects with the power of my actions.  It reminds me I AM making a difference.

Some days the list is big and impressive:

  • I worked in the studio 5 hours on work for my upcoming exhibit
  • I wrote 2 blog posts
  • I helped 2 artists during our coaching calls – one had an aha moment about what is blocking her.
  • I updated the sidebar of my blog.
  • I handled a challenging email exchange with grace.

Some days the list is less active:

  • I took a day of self care to rest – I got a massage, a pedicure, took a long walk in the sun and bought some tickets to go see my favorite performer.  I did think of a great idea for a blog post which I wrote down and I’ll write it another day.

I see these things as signs that I love myself and am moving towards my dreams.  They are generally actions I took that have a positive impact on me.

Wrap Up

One of themes I see over and over in my coaching is clients that have no connection to their own power.  Or recognition that they are growing with their artwork.

They tend to focus on what went undone.  What failed.  The rejections.  They lack confidence.

When clients start focusing on their actions and the affirmations they are receiving the result is confidence.  And with confidence – they become unstoppable.

How do you stay connected to all the good coming your way and all amazing things you are doing?

I invite you to become a fan of MakeBigArt on facebook where I share additional tips and comments about thinking big about your art.



Art Education – Form and Content – It’s time for Content!


Form and Content

Art is a combination of form and content.

Form is the physical manifestation of the artwork.  It answers these types of questions:

  • what is it made out of (the medium)?
  • what techniques are used?
  • how were the design elements and principles used?
  • what is the style (abstract, impressionistic, etc)?

Content is the essence of the artwork.  It answers these types of questions:

  • what is the subject/theme?
  • what is the context?
  • what is the meaning/intention?
  • why was this artwork created?

Art Education

Most artists seek out instruction and education to hone their craft.  Outsider artists are an exception – they are truly self taught and have no formal education.  Of any kind.

The rest of us – we look for help.  Some artists attend formal education and obtain a degree.  Others (myself included) take workshops and night classes and do a lot of reading.  We patch together an art education with bits and pieces.

The majority of workshops and classes available outside of the formal education system focus on form.

A large portion of independent workshops teach medium/technique.  Indeed, if you don’t have the skills and craft to make your artwork, you can’t begin.  These classes are essential.

Another focus of these workshops is style – learning to make landscapes in a certain style, or learning how to create abstract artwork.

A smaller portion of these classes focus solely on design.  Design elements and principles are an essential tool for a visual artist.  They aren’t a set of rules on how to make art – they are insight into how artwork is viewed.  And once you understand how your choices on the canvas impact the way your art is viewed – it is much much easier to make impactful artwork.

Teaching Meaning

What about content?  Where are the privately run workshops that focus on the meaning of your artwork?

I’ve never found such a workshop although in our post-impressionist work content and meaning are a strong focus in formal art degree programs.

The topic of content is most often assumed in private workshops.  The subject matter in technique classes is generally a given:  the subject is a landscape, or a still life or an abstract.

But where is the why?  Why are you doing what you are doing?  And what does it matter to know why?  What does it even mean to ask why?

I’ve decided it’s time to teach such a workshop.  One that addresses the content side of art – Finding Meaning in Your Art – Find Your Voice.

This workshops will cover some of the formal aspects of content and its relationship to art (aka be prepared for some powerpoint presentations – I do believe in rigorous university style lectures where you learn something).

It will also explore the more personal side of content.  And this is where my training as a life coach will be leveraged.  This class is about you – not just art theory and history.

The assignments include both studio work and self exploration.

Are you looking to go beyond “I do it because I want to – it has no meaning” or “I just like making beautiful things”?  Do you want to find a deeper meaning behind your artwork?  Do you want and artist statement that talks about your ‘why’ and feels authentic?

If so please consider joining us in my latest workshop – Finding Meaning in Your Art – Find Your Voice.

Class starts on February 14 and runs for seven weeks with six assignments with your first assignment due February 21st.

Wrap Up

Do  you know your why?  How did you discover it?

I invite you to become a fan of MakeBigArt on facebook where I share additional tips and comments about thinking big about your art.



PS – Not sure that knowing your Why can bring to your art?  Check out this video – it’s pretty amazing what the right Why can do for you.


Learn more about Finding Meaning in Your Art – Find Your Voice.


How I plan to win the ongoing battle with email addiction

How I plan to win the ongoing battle with email. ©Lisa Call and MakeBigArt - Empowering Artists to Think Big

The Email Trap

Well it happened again.  I sat down Monday morning to check email and I realized I have dozens of emails from the previous week that I didn’t answer.

Email is the life line of my business – ignoring it is really not a good idea.

I’m checking it several (okay LOTS) of times every day.  How can I have so many important unanswered emails?

Thing is I’m only checking it.  Mostly because I’m in the middle of something else when checking and I’m just distracting myself.  Or I’m out and about and looking on my phone to fill in the time.  Not a good time to respond or take action.

So in all that checking of email – I’m not actually doing anything important.

Except for the really really easy ones.  If I have to look up something, or do something that will take more than 10 seconds, or answer a longer question, I pass it by and think “next time I’ll deal with that”.  And honestly even some of the easy ones I ignore.

And of course every next time I’m right in the middle of something else.  So again I don’t respond.  Ditto for the next time.  Very quickly the email I was for sure going to respond to gets lost in a sea of dozens more like it and I forget about it.

A whole lot of checking of email and a whole lot of not responding equals a full inbox packed with people waiting for me to respond.

The Addiction

So right – this is not big news.   And probably many of you are doing something similar.

Here’s why: Why We are Addicted to Email

Addiction.  My little rat brain loves getting new emails – reward reward.  “Look someone is writing to me!”

I’ve known this for years.  We all know it – checking email is an addictive time suck.

Lots of people have solutions.

I’ve tried many.

  • I’ve turned off every notification of every type. I never get interrupted with email.  No dings, no popup messages, no little icons in the system tray, no messages on my phone screen.  No notifications of any type at all, ever.
  • Email does not arrive at my computer or phone automatically – I have to go get my email intentionally – only when I want to read it.
  • I’ve shut down my email program so I don’t see it at all so I’m not tempted.
  • I’ve made a commitment to check it only a couple times a day.
  • I’ve refrain from checking email first thing in the morning.

Sadly none of these things work for me consistently.  Email never goes away.  The reward for checking email is never gone.

When I’m really diligent I can beat the email addiction.  But it never lasts long.  A few hints at the reward and rat brain takes over and I’m checking more frequently, again.

While – yes – I am more productive when I’m not checking email often – the consequences of checking frequently really aren’t that high.  I still get most of the things done I want to.

I find that the effort needed to beat the email habit is a bit out of proportion to the value it brings me.

So basically I’ve caved in. I admit to having a rat brain when it comes to email.  I’m addicted to “checking email” and well, so what.


So what?

Well – the what is: I don’t want to be the lame person not responding to emails in a timely manner.  I teach online workshops – email is my connection to my students.  Timely emails matter.

So here’s my solution…

Three times a week I now have this item on my todo list:  “spend 30 minutes responding to email”

This means that I’m actually processing and responding to email.  Not just shuffling it around like deck chairs on the titanic.

I have no rules about not checking often – because I have better things to spend my discipline energy on – like not eat huge piles of crappy sugary food in the afternoon.

So what if I’m “checking” email often!  I’m now addressing the real problem – unanswered emails.

Lower the Clutter

Until a year ago I had a goal of getting my inbox to zero at the end of every month.  The months I was successful at this  I did keep on top of my email.  The lack of clutter made it easier not to forget important things.

And I liked having an empty inbox so I did deal with things rather quickly to keep the inbox clear.

Unfortunately that fell by the wayside a year ago when I started traveling and my inbox has been a mess ever since.

With my new plan of actually responding to my email the last few weeks, my inbox has gone from over 300 emails that needed a response to fewer than 50.

The back log is clearing, and magically – I find myself “checking email” a lot less frequently now that the clutter has been reduced.  No discipline needed – all I need is a todo list time 3 times a week giving me permission and the space to respond to the longer emails.

Decluttering – it’s not just for rooms.  It works magic on email also.


Wrap Up

What is your relationship with email? Do you have any tips for staying on top of the inbox and either functioning with the addiction or beating it once and for all?

I invite you to become a fan of MakeBigArt on facebook where I share additional tips and comments about thinking big about your art.


The Guest Book – Gathering Information at Your Art Exhibit


The Guest Book

Mounting an exhibit is a huge undertaking.  I believe building repeatable systems is one of the keys to managing the huge list of tasks.  One of the stresses I had every time I held an exhibit of my art was figuring out how to gather visitor information.

It’s a small detail yet it always seemed to loom large in my head. I couldn’t sort out a good solution to the problem.  I had no system!

They make lovely guest books for weddings but they are just not appropriate for an art show. I’ve seen a few smaller ones that are a bit more generic yet they never feel right.  Too formal and creamy colors with a bunch of flowers.  Or the fields provided don’t make sense.

I want it to be clear that I want email addresses so I can add them to my mailing list.

At first solution was to find a notebook laying around my house at the last minute and hastily hand draw in a few lines.   This was generally a rather unprofessional looking book with pages torn out and hand drawn lines.

Next solution as to print out sheets of paper and use a clip board.  It worked but was really ugly and corporate looking.

At my last show I finally sorted out a solution that was quick and easy and looked great (almost).


Handmade Book

The solution was, of course, a hand made book.

This first time around I went with a very simple solution.  I printed out pages with the information I wanted and used a manila folder for the cover.  One quick line of stitching from my sewing machine held it together.

I glued one of my rejected compositions to the cover to tie it to my exhibition and tada – a book that matched my exhibit and requested the information I cared about.

I was in a bit of a hurry when making this first book (as is evidenced by the scrawled exhibit title on the cover.  Next time around I’ll spend a little more time on the book to make it a bit more classy.  Maybe even hand stitch the pages to the cover.

I was thrilled to have finally hit upon a solution to my guest book problem.  Next time around it will be just one more task in my system of exhibit preparation:  make guest book.  No stress – and instead a fun creative project making a book that matches the style and theme of my exhibit.





Some Tips on Successfully Gathering Information

Unfortunately just having a place to gather data doesn’t mean your guests are going to provide you with their information.  People and their email addresses are not easily parted.

Here are a few of my tricks that seem to  help.

  • Ask your guests to sign the book.  I’ve found that when I make a direct request “I’d love it if you could sign my guest book” I’m much more likely to get them to sign up for my newsletter.  If I just leave it to fate I can come away with no information.  Don’t be afraid to ask your visitors to sign up – they may not know it’s an option.
  • Clearly state the information you’d like them to leave.  Do you want just names?  Comments? Postal addresses? That said don’t be surprised when people leave only bits and pieces of the requested information.  I used to have separate boxes for each bit of information but found people tended to ignore the headings.  I now just provide 1 big box and let them go free form.



  • Create a beautiful space for the book to live.   Flowers, a nice pen holder, and have the book at a comfortable height for your guests to sign.  
  • Prime the pump.  It’s not a bad idea (this is kiwi speak for “it’s a good idea”) to ask a few close friends to sign the book at the start of your opening, to demonstrate what a nice entry looks like.
  • Include Opt-In language for email addresses.  If you will be adding collected email addresses to your mailing list be sure to let them know that is what they will be getting.  Anti-spam laws in some countries require this.  Plus it is just polite and good business.
  • Make it clear what the book is for.  I put my name and info on each page so guests didn’t have to flip back to the beginning to figure out what they were signing.


Wrap Up

What is your experience with a guest book at your events?  Any tips?


I invite you to become a fan of MakeBigArt on facebook where I share additional tips and comments about thinking big about your art.


Bigger Than Buying Underwear – and the return of MakeBigArt

The Money Conversation in the Head

This is a story about how a comment about underwear revived MakeBigArt.

Last week I was having a bit of a panic over money.   It is workshop enrollment time for my new session of online classes and I was freaking out that I might not get enough students enrolled which in my brain turned immediately to thinking I might have to go get a job.

Eeek!  Panic.  I don’t want a job!  I just got rid of one!

So lets back up a bit.  In the 2 years (wow – 2 years!) that MakeBigArt has been on hiatus my life has changed dramatically.

Big change #1: I quit my day job as a software engineer.  This happened in April 2014.  On my birthday.  Best birthday present ever.

Big change #2: I became a trained co-active coach and am a few months away from getting my CPCC – aka – certification as a co-active life coach.

Big change #3: I fell in love.  With a guy in New Zealand.  I’m in the process of exploring what it means to leave the US and live in New Zealand.  I’m starting to try on the word expat.

Each of the above events have impacted my relationship with money in big ways:

  • The days of a steady (and quite lovely) paycheck are gone.  Ditto for amazing health insurance coverage. Instead I support myself solely through sales of my art and my teaching and I am thankful for the affordable care act.
  • I have added life coaching to my stream of income generating activities (yay) and I am still in the process of paying for my training and certification.  The year long program was about $12,000 (ish) and worth every penny.
  • In addition to normal living expenses in New Zealand, I am still a home owner in the US.  I’m still paying for my health insurance, car insurance, cell phone plan, etc.  So basically I have living expenses in 2 countries now instead of just one.  Much to sort out here as I’m still on a visitor visa in New Zealand.  Once I have a work to residency visa I will be able to drop such things as health insurance in the US (imagine!! wow!!)

Anyhow – the result of these changes brings us back to my first sentence.  Having a bit of panic over money.

And the fabulous conversation that resulted with my coach.

Track It

First a bit of tactical nuts and bolts as an aside then we’ll get back to underwear.  If panicking about money (or anything – like say not putting enough time into the studio) one thing that can help is to put a stake in the ground and declare “here I am today”.  It gives us a place from which to peer into the future and see what changes are needed.

Which was a bit of a problem as I had ignored my bookkeeping for the entire year.  I really had no idea where I was.  How much money I was spending or how much I needed.

Right?  This is so natural. The money thing was causing panic – why would I want to look at it?

Yet I knew I needed to untangle the mess and last week I bit the bullet and I got my accounting records caught up. Having some concrete numbers helped a bit in easing the panic.  I now know exactly where I stand and what is between this place and the ideal.

The other thing this allowed me to do, besides ease the panic, was make some beautiful donations.  I gift 5% of my gross income to things I care deeply about.  I believe that money flows in a circle and to receive I need to be giving.

This energy of the cycle of money became blocked the last 7 months and it’s now flowing as it should.  And yes – within hours of giving a big chunk of money away I had more workshop signups.  I don’t give to receive – I give because I love knowing my art makes a difference in this world (someone in Nepal will have a house, someone in Africa will have clean drinking water, the art museum can purchase beautiful art, the organization can stay afloat, etc)  – but it is amazing to see the connection between the two.

Cultivating a mindset where I can do the giving without panic (5% of 7 months of income was a pretty big chunk of the spare cash I had on hand last week) is something that took me a while wrap my head around and every time I do it I am grateful for the practice.

So step one – do the tactical work – check.

Claim My Value

Step 2 was/is a bit harder.   I was having a little freak out about finding students that will want to take my classes.

I know when I spiral into this place it isn’t good.  And my coach was brilliant at helping me identify my limiting beliefs and find a better way to look at it.

There is a lot more competition in the “teaching online workshops” space today than there was 4 or 5 years ago. Many of them are a lot cheaper than mine.  Eek – queue freakout over pricing.

The key to overcoming this was reconnecting with what I know to be the true value in the classes I teach.  Going back and reading pages and pages of testimonials from students that have said my classes have changed their lives and art is helpful.

Reconnecting with what I know to be true and what I have to offer was huge.  My mindset completely changed.

Yes – my workshops are not $37.  Yes – my workshops are worth every penny I charge.  And infact when I look at what students are getting I’m under charging for the value.

So now we are getting to the underwear.

When I explained my workshops were bigger than just a simple art class my coach said (most enthusiastically I might add)

They are bigger than buying new underwear!

Yes yes yes!  She got it.

The aha lightbulb moment – I am PROVIDING BIG VALUE.  And it is not about making money – it is about helping other artist do exactly what I say here – “think big about their art, their marketing and their lives”.

Yes – I knew this.  I just forget.  This is why I have a coach.  I need help remembering sometimes.  The gremlins in the brain refuse to stay in the back of the bus sometimes.

So check – item #2 is done – new mindset.

Instead of feeling like I am grasping and trying to GET more students I know am much more relaxed and am trusting that what I have CREATED will attract exactly the right people.

This distinction between getting and creating is a big one for me that I have to remind myself of occasionally.  Its about the value I put out in the world and attracting those folks looking for that value.

Hello MakeBigArt

So how do I attract them?

I could go totally law of attraction here and just assume they will appear.  But I’m just not that woo-woo spiritual.

I’m a firm believer in the type of coaching I do – “co-active” – which can mean co=being and active=doing.

Yes – I need the right mindsets so I’m not undermining myself and putting out the wrong energy.

I also need to do the right things – like behave like a business. Aka – I need to do some marketing.

Yes yes yes!  And I need to tell people what the value is that my classes provide.  I forget that not everyone knows the history of my classes or how they are set up.  That I keep them really small and that they do transform lives.  I need to actually write this stuff down and share it with my people.

And much bigger than this I want to write about mindsets.  I want to write some of the things that I share in my workshops. Because this desire to help other artists isn’t just about money. I want a forum/community where we can have these sorts of conversations.

So I told my coach I used to have this website called makebigart but I broke it a year+ ago trying to stop hackers from destroying my web hosting account.  Makebigart was created specifically for this sort of stuff.  For inspiring other artists.

I have been wanting to write articles about mindsets and they just don’t fit on my art website so it was getting all jammed up and muddled and going no where.

Solution: at the end of my phone call with my coach I committed to fixing makebigart THAT DAY.  And I did.

So here we are – makebigart is back (I even added an about page!)

I look forward to reconnecting with everyone.



PS – Barb – see – I told you the first article would be titled “bigger than buying underwear.”

PSs – in addition to my usual line up of online art workshops this fall (see them listed in my course catalog) – I am launching a small coaching group for beginning artists called the artist cartography group.

Please let me know if you have any questions.


Is Your Art Blog Boring?

Tell a Story

Do you wish you had more blog readers?  Do you wish you could inspire your readers to take action?

Try this format for a few of your posts:

1) Watch this TED video , The Secret Structure of Great Talks by Nancy Duarte.


2) Remember that you are the mentor.  Make your reader the hero.

3) Resonate with your audience (who are they? what do they care about?)  I find that transparency is a key component of resonating.

4) Start with what is and then move to what could be.

5) End with what could be and a call to action.

Want to learn more from Nancy? Her book Resonate is an excellent resource.

Wrap Up

Who is the hero of your blog?


I invite you to become a fan of MakeBigArt on social media where I’ll be sharing additional tips and comments.

MakeBigArt on Facebook
MakeBigArt on Twitter

In addition you can also find me here:

My Blog
On Twitter
Lisa Call – Textile Paintings on Facebook


Thinking Big about Art


PS – Are you read to focus on your future?  My 2 online art business classes can help!

1) Setting Goals – Starts September 15, 2013

2) Get Your Art Business running smoothly with Systems – Starts November 3, 2013

I recommended taking both class in sequence.  The first will help you get clear on what you want, the second is all about setting yourself up for success in implementing your goals.

“This workshop [Setting Goals] helped me to FOCUS rather than spinning aimlessly for another year. With the assignments and Lisa’s encouragement, I now have an intentional plan centered on my long-term goals. I developed a 1-year, 5-year and a 10-year plan in order to achieve these goals during this workshop.

Breaking this down into realistic tasks with measurable time frames, gave me the courage to move forward with my art.

I was worried that this might be another time management class. I am even embarrassed to say how many of those I have attempted. But, this class was more meaningful because it allowed me to dream and then plan for what comes next rather than waiting for it to magically occur.

I have a dream and with planning that dream, it can become a reality.

Thank you, Lisa, for another great class. It was organized, informative and a big encouragement to start the year strong.”

~Colleen Kole
Grand Rapids, Michigan

You can read more student reviews here:  Alumni Directory

You get details and register for all of my online art classes through my Online Course Catalog

How to engage your readers with emailed replies while keeping the conversation public (WordPress Blogging Tip)

Responding to Readers

One of the issues a blogger must work out is how they will respond to reader comments.

We love getting them on our blog posts and it often feels right to respond via email directly to engage the reader in a personal discussion.

But then we lose the public conversation which is one of the wonderful features of blogging – community discussion.

I use a wordpress plugin – Comment Reply Notification – that solves this problem most elegantly.  When someone comments on my blog post, I will respond to them on my blog – nesting my comment immediately below theirs.  The plug will take my reply and email it directly to the reader.

I keep both the public conversation and the personal response.  And on those needed occasions I can also still respond in private.

How to Install

If you have a blog (this will not work for blogs) you can use these steps to install this plugin:


  1. Click the plugins tab
  2. Click on Add New
  3. Type “Comment Reply Notification” into the search box
  4. Click search



  1. Click “install now” on the desired plugin (it should be the first one on your list)



  1. Click activate plugin after it installs.



  1. Click settings tab
  2. Click “Comment Reply Notification” tab
  3. Choose the “” radio button
  4. Click Update Options


Next you really should test to confirm your plugin is working:

  1. Logout of your blog
  2. Visit your blog and leave a comment with a different email address than you use for your blog (Only have 1 email address?  Ask a friend to help or create a free gmail account.)
  3. Login to your blog as admin
  4. Respond to the comment – be sure your comment is a nested comment (click the reply button directly under their comment do nested comments vs just commenting in the box that appears normally).

Bonus geek tip:  you should thoroughly test every change you make to your website – because even the simple ones sometimes go bad.

Wrap Up

How do you engage your blog readers in discussion?


I invite you to become a fan of MakeBigArt on social media where I’ll be sharing additional tips and comments.

MakeBigArt fanpage
MakeBigArt on Twitter

In addition you can also find me here:

My Blog
On Twitter
Facebook Profile
Lisa Call – Textile Paintings Fan Page


Thinking Big about Art

I’ve Already Tried That


I have a friend that is stuck. She knows she is stuck, she wants to become unstuck.

On occasion we’ll have chats about her situation and I’ll talk about passion and mindsets and gratitude and she listens attentively to what I have to say.

Up to a point.

Then she’ll say “I hear you,” which is very often followed by “I’ve already tried that”.

Aw yes, we’ve all been there. Who among us hasn’t used this line?

“The definition of insanity is to do the same thing over and over and expect different results.” ~Albert Einstein (Letters to Solovine)

Exactly – We know we’ll get the same results, Einstein was no dummy.

If we’ve tried it before why bother trying it again?


Why? Because getting up and moving forward sound infinitely more pleasurable than wallowing in defeat.

I think about when I use this excuse, often I might have only sort of tried something, but never really followed through with any real conviction.

Does this count as trying something and it failed? Or does this count as not really trying at all?

And since when were we promised that our first try would always be successful?

Is it just an excuse to not try? Trying takes effort. And doing takes even more effort.

But isn’t doing better than wallowing in defeat?

Next time you hear yourself saying “I’ve already tried that” call yourself on your lack of effort, think big and try again.

Wrap Up

“Do, or do not. There is no ‘try'” ~Yoda

Where do you need to try again?


I invite you to become a fan of MakeBigArt on social media where I’ll be sharing additional tips and comments.

MakeBigArt fanpage
MakeBigArt on Twitter

In addition you can also find me here:

My Blog
On Twitter
Facebook Profile
Lisa Call – Textile Paintings Fan Page


Thinking Big about Art

A Simple Tip to Gain Control of Your Inbox

Too Much Email

If you are like me, and I suspect you are, you get way too much email. Hundreds a week piling up demanding attention.

I get email from friends, students, galleries, other artists, businesses, airlines, coaches, etc, etc, etc.

Most of it I want (gratitude here for good spam filters), but that doesn’t mean I want to read it right now.

Personal email and email from my students are important I want to see them right away but the newsletters from businesses can wait to be processed in chunks a few times a week or month.

Sorting it Out

We need some sort of tiered email system where the good stuff appears instantly and the newsletter wait in the wings for when we feel like dealing with the input.

Most people I know use filters to direct email into folders to try to solve this problem.

I find that solution unsatisfactory because the email still appears in my main email account begging for attention. I see it come in, I see it sitting in the folder. It takes some of my attention.

Out of Sight

My solution is to use different email addresses for different types of email. Only non-newsletter email comes to my normal email address and gets my attention. (All student email is sent to another email address that is also given high priority action.)

All other email is filtered into different email addresses that I only look at a couple of times a month, when I have time to go see what’s new or noteworthy.

I categorized the types of newsletters I receive:

  • newsletters to keep in my inbox (I limit this to a very small list – currently only 2 – the artbizcoach and NotesFromTheUniverse).
  • newsletters from artists
  • email from galleries, museums and art centers
  • newsletters about creativity, spirituality and positive mindsets
  • newsletters about marketing and business topics
  • emails from businesses, restaurants, airlines, etc

and of course:

  • newsletters I don’t want

I decided to create a separate email address for each category. So if I want to read gallery news – I can check into that email address.

It took a few weeks to sort everything out and update my subscriptions so the newsletters go to the correct email address but once set up, it works like a charm. The amount of noise in my regular inbox was greatly reduced.

I now get to control when I read what without out distraction.

An Added Bonus

Because newsletters are not sent to my regular email address, I can tell immediately when someone signs me up for their newsletter without my permission. It suddenly appears in my regular inbox, uninvited. I usually unsubscribe immediately as inbox bloat is annoying.

Artists, please don’t subscribe someone to your newsletter without their permission. This is called permission based marketing. If you aren’t familiar with the concept, I strong encourage that you read the article that I’ve linked to in the previous sentence.

Wrap Up

How do you keep control of your inbox?

I invite you to become a fan of MakeBigArt on social media where I’ll be sharing additional tips and comments.
MakeBigArt fanpage
MakeBigArt on Twitter

In addition you can also find me here:

My Blog
On Twitter
Facebook Profile
Lisa Call – Textile Paintings Fan Page


Thinking Big about Art