Art Competitions: Nothing Ventured, Nothing Gained

Many moons ago when I was a bank manager, I remember giving my sales team this simple advice: “Every no leads to a YES.” When we were going out prospecting leads, being turned down was not a great feeling, but the more we asked, the better our rate of success was. You had to go into your call or lead prospecting prepared for objections and solicit the right candidates based on your desired outcome.

For instance, if you were looking for mortgage refinance customers and calling on a college student who was not a homeowner and didn’t have his or her first job yet, chances are your desired outcome wasn’t going to end well. If you found a customer with a high rate on their mortgage, good credit and room on their mortgage to refinance, your rate of success would be much higher with this prospect. If you don’t call on these customer prospects, the answer is always going to be a NO. Granted, you might get a few lucky breaks with people that come to you, but you don’t want to ‘bank’ your career on lucky breaks. You want to make your own path to success by taking calculated chances that fall in line with your goals.

Mixed-media art inspiration | Jodi Ohl,
“It’s Not Complicated” Mixed-media art by Jodi Ohl

What does this all have to do with mixed-media art, you might be asking? I’m glad you asked. My advice to the bankers on my team really applies to you as an artist, too. Taking a chance on asking for the business or doing something slightly outside of your comfort zone can have some really great benefits and rewards. The first time I was published it was as simple as deciding to risk putting my work out into the world and facing rejection. I took the best pictures I could of my work and sent in an idea for a prospective article. As ‘luck’ would have it, my article was accepted and published a few months later.

The work I sent in was in line with what the magazine was publishing at the time with a slightly different spin. That’s where the calculated risk comes into play. I didn’t send in a charcoal sketch to a mixed-media art magazine. Rather, I sent in a colorful mixed media collection of work. Sending in work that makes sense for the magazine you’re trying to get published in is half the battle. The rest depends on the quality of work, its uniqueness, your spin on it, and the pool of candidates that also have sent in work the time you choose to send in your work. Take a chance–you never know!

Another risk-taking venture for artists is the call for art for collaborative collections of work. North Light has a variety of different collections for virtually every genre of art you may be interested in that feature the best of the best for that medium. Entering contests that feature the highest caliber of art for a particular medium can have a wonderful benefit if you’re looking to add a note of recognition to your resume. It can also become a source of pride for your hard work, and give you and your work a moment in the spotlight. That name recognition along with the accolades for your resume can be invaluable.

Three years ago I entered my first call for art for the mixed-media art collection, Incite. The call asked for works featuring the broad category of Color. I didn’t think I’d win but I knew I had a knack for color and most of my pieces fit that category perfectly. What’s the worst that could happen? I’d get a no? I’d live if that were to happen. If I received a positive answer, the best possible outcome would be that I would get published and I’d have a beautiful book in which I could say I was a part of the best of the best.

I entered my favorite piece at the time, followed the rules for the entry and a few weeks later I was notified that I had received the honor of being accepted! It was an amazing feeling! When I received the book, not only was I published, the designers added a faded overlay of my painting on the front and back insert of the book. How cool is that? Since that time, I’ve entered a few more calls for art. Not all have been successful entries, but three more have! I wouldn’t be able to say any of this if I weren’t prepared for hearing a no but ready to celebrate with a yes.

If you would like to enter one of the many calls for art within the North Light family of books, consider the newly announced Cloth Paper Scissors Mixed Media Excellence Awards.

Other tips:

  • Take the best photos you can of your work! You need to have your work shown in the best possible light, true to color, and with a resolution of 300 dpi for publishing.
  • Send in work that matches the guidelines required. Sometimes it’s common sense: don’t send in a watercolor painting for a drawing contest. Other times, it’s more of a theme request that you should follow. If it’s a color theme, sending in a dark and gloomy painting probably isn’t going to work. It might, but it’s going to be a harder sell then something at the core features color and light, and or contrast.

Remember my first words of advice to my bankers: Every no leads to a YES. Don’t be afraid. Nothing ventured, nothing gained.


Learn more with Jodi’s mixed-media art workshop DVDs:


Jodi Ohl

About Jodi Ohl

i'm a mixed media artist, writer and instructor who loves the adventure of art making and meeting like minded individuals! I'm from Aberdeen, NC and the mother of two young men (no longer boys ) ages, 15 and 21


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