November 27, 2010

Artists and Rejection

I recently read a post – Thoughts on Rejection by Richard Christian Nelson. Within the posts, Richard states:

“As an artist, it is important to develop a thick skin. It is impossible to create work that everyone is going to like. Those that are indifferent to our work, or actively dislike it, can cause us great pain and can influence us more than perhaps they should…”

“Essentially the choice comes down to this in any rejection situation:  is it worth the effort to try to salvage the situation or is it best to accept the disappointment and move on? We cannot please everyone and some will prove impossible to please, no matter how hard we try. I think the key is to not internalize a lasting sense of failure. The great majority of my clients are very happy with my work. But we can have 99 successes and 1 failure yet, somehow, we tend to internalize the bad experience…”

“Ultimately, we are like waves pounding the beach. We just keep at it, knowing that we are doing what we were put on earth to do and always trying to advance down the endless road of learning and becoming better artists and people…”

Source: Thoughts on Rejection by Richard Christian Nelson

I’m so glad I came across Richard’s blog and this article in particular! Truly, everyone can relate this concept to some extent as it applies to numerous situations outside of art and in everyone’s lives.

As someone who is trying to shy away from perfectionism and be more open/relaxed this concept is very dear to me. I have spent a great deal of time and energy basing my success and value upon other’s opinions and happiness versus my own. It’s a cycle which I am slowly working to break.

This is especially important to me because as an artist with another source of income, the purpose of my art is to explore and share my creative self. If this so happens to be financially rewording, than that is a plus, but that is not the sole or main purpose and that is more reason to not dwell on what Richard terms the “1 failure”.

At the end of the day things can only affect us to the degree that we let them and Richard’s article really puts it all into perspective.

Can’t please the entire world, so what, life’s too short, move on and seize the next opportunity. I love it!



  • Carlynne August 8, 2011

    Oh I can relate. When you’ve worked as an artist for literally decades you could probably paper your studio walls with the rejection letters. For the most part I haven’t relied on my art to make a living since there was another income. I could pursue my passion without the stress of depending on it for food. Now, however, I am a full time artist and the scenario is different. Therein lies the balancing act – making yourself happy and making the customers happy.

    Over the years I’ve had rejections and acceptances. I’ve won awards, some major, and still gotten the rejection letter the next go-round. It’s just part of the game. You can’t make everyone happy. Art is subjective. One judge will love what you do and the next will hate it. So what! Do what makes you happy. If it makes you happy it will show in the work – maybe not to everyone but someone, somewhere will connect with it.

    The way I see it, it’s impossible to second guess the consumer market. I think the best we can do as artists is to produce the best art we possibly can and show it to as many people as possible. When we get rejected we just let it go and move on and hope we connect with the next person.

    Paint what you love. After that the art takes on a life of it’s own so don’t be too attached to the outcome of it’s exposure to the outside world.

    • Vanessa August 31, 2011

      Hi Carlynne! Thanks for sharing your experience in relation to this. It hasn’t been an easy thin to figure put so I’m always glad to hear other artist weigh in.

      Like you not having to depend on my art for income certainly makes it more enjoyable I think because I don’t have an established market or client base yet. But hopefully like you it’s something I can work towards in future.

  • Reply

    This goes for any profession which is dealing with rejection. I’m a perfectionist to my own detriment but it’s helped me deal with all the rejection and accomplishments I have received in my life. I continue to push myself and stretch my mind so that I can grow as an individual with anything that I do. I am a writer by hobby so I don’t rely on it as income but with any rejection that I receive, it helps me refine what I am trying to convey. Thanks for sharing!

    • Vanessa September 17, 2011

      That’s a positive way of viewing it! I think a big part of it is simply learning to let things go and not take everything personal too.

  • Amelia Critchlow September 11, 2011

    What about if ‘failure/rejection’ was a state of mind because who decides it’s a failure and rejects it? Where is that person coming from with what life experiences to deem it a failure?

    What if you succeeded in what you were trying to achieve artistically? Then to me it wouldn’t be a failure, it would be a success. Yet, if a customer/gallery came along and ‘didn’t like that piece’ because it didn’t resonate with them, or it wasn’t what they were looking to put on their wall, then is it a failure?

    If you are trying to get perspective correct and you don’t manage it, then that might be a type of perceived failure, yet one would probably carry on until they ‘got there’, not stop.

    I feel the best art comes from the heart like you say, exploring meaningful subject-matter for the artist. This passion and creativity speaks to people on levels we can’t always explain. To be in a position whereby you aren’t reliant on selling your art is a good place to be, we can continue on our journey to artistic (and self?) discovery.

    This is such a key thing and fascinating subject to explore hence the fact you got such a long rambling reply from me 🙂

    I think now is the time for artists to put themselves on the map themselves and not give up, putting on their own shows and sharing with others who do like and resonate with what we do in our art.

    Thanks for a thought-provoking post 🙂


    • Vanessa September 26, 2011

      Failure/rejection can definitely be a state of mind because what determines its intensity or importance is what and how much we take from it. As the saying goes, “Take it with a grain of salt”. The hard part is knowing what to take in and what to brush off and then when you do take it in, don’t be offended, welcome it with open arms. So much easier said than done huh?
      I love what you said about artists taking more control. It is definitely time for them to put themselves on the map and not rely on the older methods. New times call for new measures right?

      Here’s to painting from the heart and here’s to it bringing a return because you can’t lose when what you offer is sincere and valuable even if the person who deems it valuable hasn’t found it yet. They will!

      Thanks so much your comments Amelia!

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