How to Keep Track of Shows That You Want to Enter (and Not Miss the Deadlines)

In 1998 artist Howard Friedland and I were married. Right away we could see that keeping track of two artist’s deadlines could quickly get out of control. So I devised a simple system for both of us to keep track of our paperwork. Yes, we do use an art data computer program ( Working Artist ) but that is another story. As visual creatures, we needed to put all the paper work in a spot that was easy to find and not miss the deadlines. We have used this for 15 years now and are happy to pass this on to you. From now on, you won’t miss the deadlines!

Here is our system for keeping track of shows.

It uses just a few basic tools. You will need:

  • A ring binder notebook
  • Four tabbed dividers
  • Monthly tabbed dividers (January through December)
  • Plastic sleeves
  • Any Calendar that you use
1. One Ring Binder Notebook

Binder Closed

Binder Open

2. Four Dividers for the four sections


3. Monthly Dividers

Monthly Dividers

4. Plastic Sleeves

Plastic Sleeves

5. Your Calendar of choice

Calendar of your choice


Step One:

Fill out the following dividers

  • To Enter
  • To Be Accepted
  • To Be Shipped
  • To Be Returned

6-Step One


Step Two:

Inside of the Section To Enter – Put the monthly dividers

7-Step Two


Step Three: How to use the system

Now you are ready to start using the system. Make sure that you have printed information on each show that you would like to enter, including computer printouts from the on line shows.

Each time you get the printed information on a show that you want to enter or are invited to enter, put the information into a clear plastic sleeve and file it under the month that the entry or images are due.



Also, at this time, put the Entry Due Date on your calendar.

9-Tabs For example: The 2012 Oil Painters of America Western Regional Show Entry was due July 13. So I put the paperwork about the show into a plastic sleeve and filed it in July. Then I wrote that entry deadline date onto my calendar.

If the entry due date is close to the beginning of a month, I put the Information into the month before. That way I am not caught by surprise at the beginning of the month.


At this point, the paperwork on each show will start traveling through the notebook as each next stage is met.

10-To Be Accepted


After you enter the show, move that plastic sleeve, containing the paperwork about that show, to the next categorythe To Be Accepted section. This is the section for all entries and applications that you are waiting to find out the results (accepted or declined).

11-To Be Shipped


Once you find out that you are accepted in in the show, that plastic sleeve containing the paperwork about the show moves to the To Be Shipped section.

Mark your calendar for the date that you need to ship or deliver the painting.

If you knew from the beginning that you were invited to the show then skip the To Be Accepted section and put the plastic sleeve with the paperwork on the show immediately into To Be Shipped section.

12-To Be Returned

Once you ship your painting to a show, move the plastic sleeve containing the paperwork for the show into the Waiting to Be Returned section.

This is very important because we have had one or two shows that didn’t return the paintings for a long, long time!!

Once the painting is no longer at the show, you can clear out the plastic sleeve and file your info on the show, or throw it away.

That’s it!

This is a great and easy system. We only use one book for all of the paperwork that comes in on shows for both of us.

Use the comment section below to let me know if you have any questions and how it works for you!

Don’t miss those deadlines anymore!

“Always save your best work for the shows.”– Zhiwei Tu

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  • Carol Beckx

    An excellent system! I have been working through dates for exhibitions and competitions today so this couldn’t have arrived at a better time. Thank you.

  • Elizabeth Whelan

    Thanks so much for this! Although I love keeping info on my computer, it tends to be out of sight, out of mind in some cases. This system is wonderfully simple and visual!

  • dovermyer

    Thanks so much for this post!! And for providing the images for all of us who area also visual people! I have had a system that I use for deadlines, but it is after works are delivered that things have gotten a little muddy at times, this will help out a great deal!

  • Michael Baum

    One key thing to remember: Once you’ve put it together, use it. Put it in a prominent place and get in the habit of looking through often.

  • Jackie Blue

    Brilliant. Thanks for taking the time and effort to post this valuable system

  • Heather

    Thank you, very straightforward and direct. One thing that I have been doing is to keep track of which paintings were rejected & accepted at individual shows. It often helps me have better understanding of what works and what doesn’t, at certain venues, keeping in mind of course that every juror is different.

  • Michael Mao

    Or, you can use your calendar associated with your email system, such yahoo, gmail, or hotmail for reminding yourself. Let the calendar sent you an email 10 day or a week before the event.

  • Cydney Springer

    Thanks Susan! Great system and timely. I was just having this conversation with my husband about this last night.

  • Laurie Hendricks

    Thank you so much, Susan! I’m always looking for ways to be better organized and your visuals make this the perfect system for me!

  • Fantastic article. I have a book for competitions and events for the year, but do not have it organized the way you suggested. This is absolutely what needs to be done and now I can just adjust my binder to have the four sections as you suggested. Thank you for telling us what has worked so well for you. Sharing ideas is one of the many things I love about all the artists I know whether in real life, or just cyberspace!

  • Michelle Murray

    Thank you so much. What a awesome system. I went out and bought the binder etc the next da

  • Daniel Fishback

    I’m putting your system together and plan to put it into practice. What a great idea! Thanks a lot for sharing it with us. I’ve missed deadlines before because I lost track of deadlines. Hopefully I won’t be doing that in the future.

  • Jackie Blue

    Brilliant system AND it works. Thanks for sharing!