Category Archives: Tips

Why I Stopped Entering Juried Shows so I Could be an Artist


My #1 Tip for How to Move your Art Practice Forward

Stop entering juried shows.


Because they are a distraction without a solid end game.

I’ll explain why I think this by sharing the history of my art practice.


First a quick aside.

What is an end game?  It’s the part at the end – after you’ve done all the set up work.  End games that are challenging and offer rewards for improving your skills are the hallmarks of good games.  It makes all the hard work at the beginning of the game and time spent mastering the skills worth all the effort.  You want to keep playing games with great end games.

Take monopoly for example.  The beginning of the game is moving around the board buying up all the properties.  The middle game is trading properties until you have full sets and buying houses and hotels.  The end game is cycling around the board until all but one person goes bankrupt paying rent. Kind of fun but there isn’t a lot of strategy or challenge and after playing a few times the game gets boring because it is the same thing every time.

There is no opportunity or need to expand or grow your monopoly playing skills after you grasp the basics of the game because there aren’t new paths to winning.  It’s the same each time. There are also no greater rewards to be had at the end if you invest years of your life into mastering monopoly strategy.

Monopoly, like juried shows, lack a solid end game.]

Now back to my story…

Early Game – Juried Show Confidence

When I first started working as an artist (mid 1990s) I had a very simple process:  I would come up with an idea – I would make a piece of art.   I had a notion that working in a series was a good idea but other than “make it in a different color” I really didn’t know what that meant.  I made a lot of one-offs.  And one-offs in a variety of different colors.

I also did what many new artists did because I had no idea how else to share my art. I entered my one-offs into juried shows.

Because coming up with a brand new idea for each piece of art is a lot of work.  I often used the juried descriptions to guide the themes and topics for my artwork.

The end result of this effort was a lot of confidence – because I got in to most of the shows I entered.  I even won several awards.

Juried shows can be a good way to get into the art game.

By working this way, what I didn’t have is cohesive body of work.  I never found my voice. 

I also didn’t end up with many sales.  Or even have any idea how I might start selling my artwork on a consistent basis.


I had an art practice making work for juried shows for many years.  And I knew there was much more out there.  And I wanted more.


Middle Game – Education and Focus

In early 2001 I made two significant changes to my approach that greatly enriched my art practice:

First – I learned how to work in a series and I started doing it.  I stopped making one off art work.

I completely stopped entering juried shows for a few years.

I was no longer distracted by other people’s themes and size requirements.  I was making work that was meaningful to me.

I also freed up a lot of energy that was being used to enter juried shows.   I refocused that energy into making a cohesive body of art.

As a result I found my artistic voice.


Second – I learned how to be an artist and how to market my own artwork. 

I took classes, read blogs and did a lot of research to understand the life of an artist beyond the juried show circuit.

Prior to this it was a mystery to me how one might sell art or find gallery representation.

Essentially what I learned (and what I practice today) boils down to this – you have to take responsibility for marketing your own artwork and getting it out into the world.

Juried shows are the easy way out – because you don’t really have to interact with anyone.  You fill out a form and send in a photo.  There is little invested and if it doesn’t work out you just enter another because there are hundreds of juried shows every month.

With juried shows you don’t usually don’t connect with the public.  You don’t have to have a mailing list – you rely on the show to get people in the door.  And those people are there to see the art of dozens if not hundreds of artists.

Basically juried shows are really easy.  And they feel like progress “look another line on my resume!”  Every once in a while they even result in sales.


After learning how to be an artist I was super charged and excited to start down the path of having solo shows and selling my artwork.

Instead I fell right back into the trap of juried shows because, as I noted above – they are easy.  I didn’t build my own art practice – I built a resume full of juried shows.  Sometimes entering and being accepted into 15-20 exhibits a year.

I was no longer making one-off artwork and I had a cohesive body of work.  But I was too scared to put to use what I had learned.  I wasn’t up to the task of taking responsibility for own career.

Juried shows were an easy out – I was exhibiting my work, but I was running in place.

I couldn’t get traction on sales.  I couldn’t show my body or work together in one place.  I wasn’t building an art practice.  I was treading water.

And I wanted more – sales and a chance to exhibit my work in a solo show.  And I knew how to do it.  I was just scared.


End Game – Taking Responsibility for Me

What we don’t do is as important as what we do.

In looking to grow my art practice it became clear I needed to stop entering juried shows, again.

I needed to stop getting that occasional confidence hit when I was accepted into a show.  It was deceiving me into thinking I was making progress.

So I stopped.  And instead I took my terrified introverted self out into the world and I found galleries to represent my work. I started selling my art direct to the public. I secured and held solo shows. I found art consultants and placed work with them.  I took my contact list seriously.  I built a following on social media.

I took responsibility for my own marketing and exhibits.

I now have consistent sales (over 300 in the last 5 years) and exhibits (7 solo shows in the last 5 years).

Basically all that I learned worked.  I achieved my goal of having a much more rewarding art practice.

How did I do this?  I started working with a coach.  Not a business coach that told me how to run my business – that really isn’t coaching – it’s consulting.  I worked with a life coach – someone to help me with my mindsets.  To help me get over the fear.

And now in this end game of art – any thing is possible.  I see no limits to where I can take my art practice.  The end game is so much more exciting than “make a piece, exhibit it”.  If I want to focus on sales, I can do that.  If I want to focus on museum exhibits, I can do that.  I have the tools to build exactly the career I want.

And to make sure I keep headed in the right direction, I have to actively fight my urge to enter all the cool sounding juried shows out there.  Why?  Because they give me a false sense of growth with little to no real benefit.

Master Class 2017

One of the major motivators in creating my Master Class was to help artists move beyond the juried show circuit.

There are two flavors of the year long program – the first focuses on studio practice.

This is for artists that don’t yet have a cohesive body of work and are looking for the structure and feedback to make that happen.

It is also for artists that are further down the path in their careers and feel like they have lost sight of the studio and they are looking for a year of focus back on the studio.

If you’d like monthly feedback and critique of your artwork (along with coaching and a lot more) this is the group for you.

The second group is focusing on exhibit and sales. 

It is easy to say “stop entering juried shows and have a solo show” – it’s a lot harder to do it in practice.  What steps do you need to take?  What should your website look like?  Where do you start?

I have an extensive artist blueprint that walks you through step by step how to exhibit and market your work beyond juried shows.

And that fear piece?  I worked with a coach to help me sort that out.  And so I became a certified coach to help other artists do the same.

The combination of coaching and practical how-to art business advice from a practicing successful artist makes the master class a rather unique program.

And as a bonus – I’m also a software engineer with a master’s degree in computer science so I understand how all of the technology we are using to run our businesses work.

I actually understand facebook, twitter and Instagram and can help you understand them also.  Social media and marketing are an important part of this program.

Enrollment Open Now

I only open enrollment for the master class once a year.

The next session starts in March – if you want more information please check out the webpage:  The 2017 Masterclass

There are currently 2 spaces available in the studio focused option and 3 in the exhibit and sales.

If you have any questions please let me know.






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.


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


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

Work for Yourself and Let Your Friends Know

Help Your Friends Find Your Art

Do you have the new facebook profile?

Do you have a facebook fanpage (or like page or community page or whatever you want to call it) for your artwork?

With the new profiles on facebook, there is an opportunity to promote your fanpage from your profile, by setting it as your employer.

On my profile page, shown below, if I click on Lisa Call – Textile Art in my profile (circled in red), it will bring up my fan page.

When I checked a bunch of my artist and entrepreneur type friends, they had a similar job appear on their profile (artist or owner at Their Company Name), but when I clicked on the company name link it brought up an empty community page and not their fan page. Not very useful.

Step by Step Instructions

1. Go to your fanpage. Find the name of your page (see below circled in red). Mine is Lisa Call – Textile Paintings. Remember exactly what it says.

[Or make this easier Copy the text: you do this by first highlighting the text with your mouse and then in windows: type + C, or with mac: type + C].


2. Go to your profile. Click on edit profile (in box in red below):


3. Select Education and Work (see in red below):


4. In the box for employer name (see in red below), type in the name of your fan page exactly as it was on your fan page.

[Or if you copied the text you can now paste it: in windows: type + V, or with mac: type + S].


5. Then hit enter. Facebook should then find your fan page and give you some boxes to add in the rest of your employment information. Give yourself a title, add in anything else you’d like, then click Add Job.

You can tell facebook found your page because the image from your page will appear above the info box.


6. View your profile and test out the link.

Note that only the top most of your “jobs” will appear on your wall so make sure to add this entry last.

Also note that even if you didn’t switch to the new profile, all of us that did – we see your profile in the new format.

Wrap Up

This change takes only a few minutes and adds a link to your artwork for all your friends to see.

All those old high school classmates would love to see your artwork. Think big and share it with them.

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