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Sometimes I write about stuff.

In my beautiful home state of Wisconsin, there is one juried art fair that rises to the top in prestige, crowd size, and reputation: Art Fair on the Square.

This art fair has been going on for 66 years. It attracts artists from all over the country and each artist makes a pretty penny in sales. If you've done any shows, you know that some can be hit or miss and applying to shows with a stellar reputation can help you avoid ones that are total duds. All that being said, when I moved my focus towards in person selling, this is the show I set my sights on.

I purchased everything I thought I would need to take a nice booth shot and made a crap ton of paintings to fill it with. I thought my submission looked pretty good, though I wasn't sure what to expect really.

Now the day results were finally delivered... I was not invited. 💀

You know what really sucked about the rejection though? It wasn't the rejected status, it was the wondering why?

Why was I rejected? Were my photos blurry? Was my booth shot bad? Was it my art? The sizing? THE PRICING? WHAT WAS IT THAT HAD ME REJECTED? Was I just not good enough?

That all leads me to today. This Spring, I was asked to help jury a larger art fair. I, of course, said yes so I could learn more about the behind the scenes and figure out what was generally looked for and what "no no's" I would find amongst the submissions. I don't know about you, but if you look to the internet for help when researching how to submit to these shows, you mostly come up empty.

I just knew the experience would be such a treasure trove of information that I could share with all of you.


I knew the process would be fast, but I didn’t know how fast. It was very much a 'go with your gut' type of judging. The statement the artist provided (250 characters or less) was read while you flipped through images individually. Each of us were looking at the same artist simultaneously. When the statement was over, the jurors would announce their individual score one by one and we’d move on. If there was a question or comment, it was deliberated over at the end. That was it. Then another artist's submission would be on the screen.

I'm guessing each artist got about 2 minutes or less of facetime with their work.


The work was judged individually, but all submissions were grouped by medium. So all ceramic artists were presented one after the other. And then painters, 2D, fiber, etc. This was the process for the entire day. Judging criteria is generally stated in the information an artist should have read before submitting. Most follow similar themes with originality, proficiency, professionalism, and technique pushing the best submissions to the top during scoring, but every show (and juror) can be different. Artists were scored on a sliding scale, 1-10. Most artists ended up at a 6 (pretty good).

There are sneaky things that can lower a score really quickly though. The most common ones were: identifying information in photos, poor photography, and no booth shot.

One point might be the make or break it for your submission so I'll go through the 3 most common mistakes I noticed while judging submissions.

1. The artist clearly didn't read the instructions.

You could have the most beautiful art in all the submissions, but if you didn't read the instructions and the submission criteria before submitting, you might not get into the show. Little things like removing your name from work, blurring or cropping out your logo, making sure your tent is white and your photos are clear, really does matter.

2. The photography was blurry and poorly lit.

It was very obvious who had submitted to shows before and who was just getting started with art fairs. Well lit, clear, and focused shots that showcased the color and textures made admiring and assessing the artwork that much easier. With paintings, the ones that were cropped crisp with no identifying signatures were scored higher than paintings being held by the artist that were slightly out of focus.

3. The artist identified themselves.

Jury processes are meant to be anonymous. This allows the no-name artists a fair shot into the show on their art and skill alone. Unfortunately, a lot of artists would forget the painting crop, take a booth shot from a show (with their signs and logos on full display), or write a statement with that was actually a bio.

When asked to write a statement about your work for submissions, the best ones focused on the interesting techniques, the goals for the work, and the individual choices that made the art stand out and draw the viewer in.*

*Bonus tip: don't say "my work is a one-of-a-kind, unique X" - everyone writes that.


  • Screenshots of white tent product listings for booth shots.

  • Grid photos: i.e. photos of multiple objects rather than one things.

  • Putting yourself in your submission photos. Do not hold your work.

  • Work on the ground and piled up around tables. 

  • Presenting multiple mediums in your shot.

  • Using your statement to talk about what you make, not how or why you make it.

  • Booths with very little product in them (ex. one bench).


Hopefully this post will help you craft the perfect submission for your next show! If you want to hear more of my thoughts about being a juror for an art fair and other things I noticed (but maybe didn't write about in this post), check out this episode of Art Crisis on Spotify.

If you listened to and liked the episode, don't forget to follow my podcast and share it with your creative friends! 😊

Ever since I started doing outdoor art fairs again, I'm constantly getting swept up into new ideas for bigger and better booths... well maybe not bigger, but definitely more efficient ones for my art. I mean, have you been on Pinterest lately? There are so many drool worthy ideas and I wish that my art was a good fit for them.

That being said, as a PAINTER there are a few things that have elevated my work at art shows (one being my mesh panel walls from Flourish Canopy). After doing weekend after weekend under a tent, I've gotten into a good groove and I know exactly what I want to bring (and what I don't) to make my weekend a success. Towards the end of 2023, I did a few indoor Christmas markets and those allowed me to use this:

More specifically, my Montessori display bookshelf. This shelf was awesome when it came to stacking prints and showcasing my most popular prints! Individuals could view almost all of them, pick up their favorite, and I wouldn't have to worry about replacing it. It also helped keep the crowd flowing so people didn't always just stand and browse print bins for 20+ minutes (unless they wanted to of course).

The problem with this shelf is it's really only good for indoor shows. It's not the most stable on a table and it's decently heavy (25lbs). It also doesn't break down and takes up a good amount of room in my car. One thing I noticed when people browsed it was even if they were extremely careful, when bumped all the prints would fall forward and I'd have to rearrange them.


Shoutout to Pinterest browsing where I saw a $600 print display rack for sale. 💀 But while I stared longingly at the possible potential, my IKEA furniture building skills prompted me to confidently think, I could make that. So I started buying supplies to do just that.




  • Drill w/ appropriate drill bit

  • Scissors/Utility Knife (cutting bungee cord)

  • Screws + Wingnuts (equal quantities and a width to match drill bit choice)


The most important thing to me with this build was that my shelves would not just be sturdy, but removable. I drilled holes into the acrylic shelves using a 3/8" bit (the pre-established shelves didn't have holes in the right spot) and then another hole into the wooden border around the chalkboard of the same size. My shelves are 24" so it was important the measuring was precise since there was not enough room for an error hole (my specialty).

I repeated this drilling on each side of the stand where I wanted my shelves placed. Each shelf is 15" apart with a hole drilled for the bungee 5" up from the bottom of the shelf. The shelves are held in place with a 3/8" screw and coordinating wingnut on the back.* This lets me attach the shelves at the show and remove them when traveling! The bungee cord will be trimmed to stay out of the way, it's simply threaded through the hole and knotted off on the back.

*This is the size that matched the pre-existing hole size already in the shelves. I picked up new screws at my local hardware store.

That's it! This display board now has 6 different shelves on it (three on each side) and can hold a LOT of prints. I chose a 58" tall chalkboard but you don't have to pick one so big. I wanted a tall enough one to be put outside my tent when I have extra space or to eliminate the need for 2 tables inside the tent.

Either way, being able to display MULTIPLE prints at once vs. one front and center print in a bin has brought more customers into my tent at shows.

The start of my 2024 show setup - Trimline Canopy with Mesh Panel Walls. AND the new print rack.

🎧Before we start... did you know this post also comes as a podcast?

Ah Hem

Do you consider yourself ambitious?

I think most individuals assume ambition is either something you have or something you don't. You are either wholly ambitious or wholly... unmotivated? Slow? Stopping to smell the roses and take a photo or two?

Here's what I think. I think in order to find your ambition, you have to uncover the deeper interest and look forward from there. What I mean is, you have to be in love with what you're doing so you can cast an accurate vision towards the future. It's hard to make a 5 year plan, let alone a weekly plan, if you don't know your foundation.

But I believe everyone can be ambitious if they're grounded in the right place.

And so now that you know you are capable of tapping into ambition like you've never seen, I'm going to ask you a question:

Would you rather have a goal in mind and never quite hit it OR give up on the goal completely to avoid the failure of never achieving it?

When I heard that (yes, it was asked of me), I was stumped. What a deceptively simple question! Even if we all say we’d never give up on art... we all have those moments where we want to. Because it’s embarrassing. Or hard. Or nothing is happening and we aren’t selling or we aren’t growing. Or maybe we already did give up in a way.

This question is nowhere near as straightforward as it looks. 👀

Ambition is the key component to whether or not you'll push through or quietly quit your art. But in order to find your ambition, you have to understand your art practice; you have to understand what gets you going in the first place.

What are you currently ambitious about?

This art goal can't be all your art goals lumped into one. (Hint, it’s not full-time artistry.) Your goal needs to be tangible and have an obvious finish line. That could be anything from getting into a show or selling out a collection. Whatever you land on, you just have to be able to define it.

Being ambitious towards this goal means accepting that there are going to be moments of extreme embarrassment and vulnerability on the way to achieving it. If you want to be an artist, you’re going to have to stomach the failure with the successes. You'll have to embrace the annoyingly weird way our progress happens. And not only that, but you'll want to acknowledge each hard moment out loud.

Yes. I did launch that collection of sunsets and no one showed up for it. Yes, it was embarrassing to have 20 pieces that did not sell until heavily discounted. And even then... barely any sold.

Sharing these moments with others makes them easier to navigate. The experience creates great resiliency to the online environment (and occasional hostile pockets of social media). Being an artist is hard and this is one way to lighten the burden of doing it solo.

Making a name for yourself or taking the time to create something new is going to require a deeply rooted fire so that in the face of adversity you can achieve. You can push forward. You can announce your goals and your obstacles because you know at the end of the day it would be way worse if you were to abandon your creativity rather than see your art through.

Ambition as an artist isn’t a one size fits all, you get to tailor it to your individuality and art practice.

In the past, ambition to me was always residencies, gallery representation, 100k profit, or basically anything society or art culture considered worthwhile and prestigious. This was so difficult to navigate when I began selling because I thought my goals were just not good enough. The way these "ambitious achievements" made impressions on my belief about success as an artist... they changed how I made art, not just what I wanted to do with it. My goal of wanting to explore my creativity and see what I could do was swallowed up by the inner chants of "you won't be taken seriously if you don't have gallery representation!"

It's hard to map out your own path as an artist but it's the only way to make sure you aren't in the act of trying to ghost your practice because it makes you uncomfortable. This is your chance to be honest with yourself and define ambition. This is your chance to confront the external pressures that you are allowing to impress on you.

How are you allowing other people’s ambition change the way you see yourself and the success you are striving for?

Your art will only work when you make it work for you. You’re not a full-time artist if you’re making work you hate and selling it in a way you’re not okay with. That is abandoning the goal to avoid failure. (That's my original question again!)

Your work needs to be made, but you can’t pretend like you’re digging for your best work when you’re only moving around the surface soil. You have to go deep within to find the passion that will spark your ambition and begin to move you forward. It’s hard to not allow compromise into art and art into business and business into my art. But I’ve made major progress by slowing down, consulting myself, and giving myself the time and space I need to harness my ambition for a goal that’s purely mine and purely about my work.

What I don’t think artists at the beginning of their journey realize, is that your path becomes clear while you make the work. Your art is what opens up the opportunities. But you can’t commit to your art before it’s made... you have to commit to the process and the unfolding while you're in the midst of it.

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