You're gonna need rhino skin to walk this world as an artist, but you'll need elephant balls to crawl on your knees...
Nothing frustrates artists more than criticism and rejection, and I say probably rejection more since criticism implies someone presumably is taking their art seriously whereas rejection means the opposite.
Rejection is something that every professional artist will face in their lifetime—most likely a multitude of times. Frankly, rejection hurts. I know, I have dealt with it myself many times. There is no way around it, but it is important not to crumble in the face of rejection, but instead, let it help you grow as a successful artist.
"Whether you succeed, or not is irrelevant, there is no such thing. Making your unknown known is the important thing.”
- Georgia O’Keeffe
Cold-shouldering of your work is something to be expected as you charge through your artistic journey, but how do you handle it? How do you not let it sink you like the Titanic?
Personally, I admit, I do get frustrated and depressed after I receive rejection letters from a gallery that I really liked, or a show that I really wanted to get into.
So, what do I do?
First, I have digested over the years that pretending that rejection does not hurt will only prolong the pain. It is best to accept the affliction but keep moving forward; search out new opportunities that best fit you by networking with fellow artists. Your mindset as an artist especially early in your career should be readily prepared for rejection. It is going to happen, and it will probably happen often in your first few years.
It is important to remember you are not the only artist coping with rejection. I know it may feel like you are, but I promise, we all face it so please do not take it too personally. Instead, lean into rejection with savvy vigor and use it as your creative motivation. The art business is highly competitive especially in the bigger cities with varying levels of opinions. Some you will agree with and some you will not. Try not to bog yourself down with most of this bullshit. Your job as an artist is not to be accepted by everyone. Your job is to create artwork.
7 Savvy Suggestions to Be a Happy Artist:
Do not Stress
Do not Settle. Your Art Retains Value
Do not Create Drama
Focus and Work Hard
Reward Yourself Often
Be Open Minded and Respectful
Produce High-quality Work.
You must ensure that the quality of your work is incredibly high. When you do, let it speak for you. I suggest having a professional website, or a glossy "look book" printed up with only your best work on display. You can divert the negative association with a positive spin by focusing on what you are genuinely good at.
Put forth the effort that will impress curators and intrigue them to want more. Boring, or drab work will get you a quick form rejection letter. You need to create for you first. Work that you are not interested in will show in its quality.
I am often asked why I paint so many celebrity portraits. I paint for me first and foremost. By working on subjects and in a style, I enjoy, I create better work overall and thus I put myself in a better position to submit material. I realize my style is not meant for everyone and that is okay.
I advise young and new artists on their creative journey to not let others no matter who they may be -- dictate what, or how they should work. At first you might get a slew of rejections, but over time if you stay true to yourself as an artist you will find that eventually those rejections will turn into letters of acceptance.
I paint in a contemporary abstract style known as Spontaneous Realism, but I am often told that I should paint different subjects in a more realistic style. When this happens, I typically smile and say maybe I will, but just so you know, this is like pouring fuel on an open flame.
Why am I so explosive about this subject? Simply because I have spent numerous hours focusing on my brand and marketing for my niche. I am not interested in shying too far away from that to please someone. Bluntly speaking, my art is for me first and if you like it great. If you do not, well there are lots of other artists out there who problem paint in a style that you prefer more.
Let Me Be Clear.
Facing rejection on more than one occasion can begin to feel like an overwhelming negative consensus on your abilities, your visions, or your passions, which seem to invalidate our efforts as artists before we can even get them out, but you must also remember that galleries are inundated with materials from artists seeking representation. Some of them do not have enough staff and time to cope with the mountain of submissions, or they may be full, not able to sell what you do, or simply be uninterested. If you are truly an artistic pioneer though you will put the power of persistence to work.
"Nothing in the world can take the place of persistence. Talent will not; nothing is more common than unsuccessful men with talent. Genius will not; unrewarded genius is almost a proverb. Education will not; the world is full of educated derelicts. Persistence and determination alone are omnipotent. The slogan 'Press On' has solved and always will solve the problems of the human race."
- Calvin Coolidge
Persistence is an essential ingredient to successful career in the creative arts, but what do you do after persistence?
Sometimes, taking a breather by taking a step back to remind yourself of your goals can be beneficial too. I suggest that over your morning coffee that you write down where you want to be in a year, three years and five years. Use this downtime to reflect and as motivation to keep going, even though your ego may currently be bruised.
After Overcoming Rejection, Learn to Share Your Story
Inspire others. I make it a point to help young and new artists as much as I can. This journal is defiantly one of those outlets that lets me communicate and try to provide some guidance to help those who may be struggling in the creative arts.
Be someone's inspiration and share your experiences as well as the different ways of overcoming the challenges you faced. Brighten another artist’s life by giving them artistic advice to make their life better and provide them with a reason to hold on to their dreams.
Show them how they can change their lives significantly through commitment, holding on and believing in themselves. It is all about helping each other out. That is the secret to thriving in the creative arts. When people come together, great things happen. Stay positive and be savvy in your creative endeavors.