Making of an (Art Show) Artist: Part V – In Summary

Tumacacori Door and Bench

Choices: Take a Seat or Explore through the Door © 2011 Bo Mackison

Although this photograph of the outdoor portico at Tumacacori National Historic Park appears to not have much to do with a post about being an art show artist, it actually has everything to do with it.

Once the decision has been made to do art fairs and festivals, there is no time for sitting and hoping that it will happen. You have to show up for your artist job, and you have to be willing to explore many options and alternatives by being open and willing to walk through the door of unknowns.  Or to say it in plain words, you can’t send in applications to a few prime shows and watch your summer schedule fill up. The application process requires lots of effort, lots of time, lots of work. Until I developed a routine, I found it the most difficult part of being an art show artist.

The first year I did the art fair circuit full time, I concentrated on local and area shows. I looked for small, locally run juried shows within a three hour drive of my home. These shows are the perfect training grounds. I could not have applied to the larger, nationally recognized shows this year if I had not had a year of experience under the 10′ x 10′ canopy. That may not be true for everyone, but I needed a year of rehearsal before I felt ready to tackle the big guys.

Even then, once I did start applying to the large shows, I kept in mind the one phrase my mentor repeatedly told me. “Doing art shows is a crap shoot.” You can do everything right, and still rack up a considerable number of rejections. But amongst the many rejection notices are the sweet acceptances, the “see you in June” notices. So far this year I have amassed 9 acceptances from quality shows, 10 rejections, and 5 spaces on waiting lists. The wait list notice puts you in a state of limbo –  do you accept your second choice show for that wait-listed weekend and decline to be on the wait list or do you wait it out? Each wait list notifications requires a juggling act of yeses, noes, and maybes. I chose to stay on 3 of the wait lists, and was upgraded to acceptance in one of the shows. With the other two, I’m still waiting.

The best I can tell you? Do your homework and learn about each show you want to apply to. How much will your actual costs be, including driving, hotels, eating out? How well does your art fit in with the art typically shown? Check last year’s website for a show. Often there is a list of participants and you can check their art on the internet most of the time.

And don’t count on making a big profit at the beginning. It takes time for you to become established, yes, established, on the art show circuit. First you will celebrate that you made enough money to cover your booth fees. Then you celebrate that you covered your fees and expenses, too. And then you celebrate that you are realizing a profit.

And all along, you celebrate that you are an artist, showing your work, meeting the public and other artists, and selling your work to clients who fall in love with your art. Those are the best benefits of all.

Here are the links to the first four parts of the series: Part I — initial questioning , Part II –  starting up,  Part III — doing the first few art fairs, and Part IV — more “on the job” training.


Bo Mackison is a photographer and owner of Seeded Earth Studio LLC.  She is living in Tucson for two months – exhibiting her photography in art shows, taking photographs, and blogging about photography, art fairs, and living life “solo” while filling each day with learning–about the Sonoran desert, about creating art, and about living a meaningful life.

About Bo Mackison

I'm a photographer, book-artist, traveler, naturalist, and creator of the Contemplative Creatives Journey, An Online Workshop and Community and Desert Wisdom Cards and Workshops. Though often not well known, I find the desert a welcoming place - a healing space. Its mysteries and gifts transformed me several years ago. Since that first encounter, I return again and again to fill my well in what most people think of as a desolate region. I'd love to share my desert discoveries and wisdom with you. Please subscribe to receive my five part mini email course The Gifts of the Desert. It's my gift to you.


  1. You have indeed gone through the door – rock on!! Good luck on the circuit.

  2. awesome photo. thanks for the informative post. i have thought about getting into the 10×10 canopy scene. but have not had the courage to delve into that, with my full time software engineer job, and with all my music engagements, and other side projects, it does not seem like i would have enough time and energy to do all that it takes to get established in that scene.
    for now, i figured i would concentrate more on just online sales, and integrate fotomoto with my blog. and of course transfer my blog to my self hosted domain for that…

    • Bo Mackison says:

      Sounds like you are really busy, Ankush, and the starting up phase of doing art shows requires some intensive time commitments. Starting with online sales seems like a good way to get started though.

  3. “The doors of explore,” I like that. So glad you linked all the other posts in this series. It’s such a good read. Please be proud of your progress!

    • Bo Mackison says:

      Thanks, Quinn. It’s amazing how much one can learn in a year. And amazing, too, how much still needs to be learned.

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