I have a really great interview coming up on the Rejection Chronicles but before I post it (I promise it is worth the wait!) I wanted to get a few thoughts on rejection out there. I am loving this series and have enjoyed sharing artists that I think are pretty awesome! Just thought I would say that. Anyway, in talking with so many great artists I have seen some connections develop that, I think, deep down we all know but have a hard time remembering when rejection is fresh.
One is that it really is all about ‘them’. We’ve all been told that art-whether it is writing, painting, sculpting, composing, collaging-whatever it is-is subjective. This is a difficult truth to be handed when what you are doing is meaningful, beautiful and (often) personal. And that truth is that it is meaningful, beautiful and personal-meaning that it is all these and more-but only to you. Now, before you get your knickers in a knot, I am not saying that it won’t appeal to anyone-just not everyone. This is not a bad thing! In fact, it is a great thing!
When a curator, juror, critic, patron or just someone who wants to buy art for above their sofa (don’t cringe) or read themselves into a great book come to the experience they enter it with an entire back story and a vision for what it is they-and they alone-want to accomplish. Unless you possess a crystal ball that can predict or anticipate what they want (if you do I want one too…) you are more than likely to be rejected on some level. Someone elses book may have a prettier cover or the painting they pick has the exact color of puce they need to make their room complete and that’s all there is too it.
Rejection in any form stings. We feel like it is a reflection on our ability, our personality, our ideas and simply ourselves; that somehow we don’t measure up. Sometimes there are even some hurtful words attached to that rejection. This or that critic didn’t like our work-our blood, sweat and tears work. Or, you see another’s success and don’t understand how your work doesn’t get the award or accolades. I hate to say it but sometimes it falls to a simple choice based on someones good or bad day or it just isn’t their cup of tea. Fair? No. But then we were never told it would be ‘fair’. Keep trying. Keep moving forward. And, above all, keep improving.
Rejection can provide an incredible opportunity for growth and change. I am not saying to change your work to try to find that ‘it’ thing that will make you a success-this would be an incredible disservice to your work and to yourself. What I am saying is that continuing to refine, to move forward, to seek out that one ‘yes’ will make both your work and you stronger. Rejection sucks. And, yes, it has a lot to do with ‘them’ but the space that comes between the no’s and the yes is fertile and if you continue to point to ‘them’ being the issue or stumbling block in your success you are wasting precious time.
This might sound like I am back tracking I’m not. Pointing the finger at ‘them’ can become a defense mechanism that places the responsibility on all the ‘them’s’ out there instead of focusing on what you need to be doing to improve. I remember-quite distinctly-an event that happened following the jury portion of an exhibition I was responsible for. A gentlemen showed up to claim his meticulously rendered painting of copper pots (see, I even remember the piece and this was 15 years ago!) and roughly grabbed his piece while pronouncing that we did not know what real art was. He pointed at all the other pieces and said-point blank-“that is not art, THIS is” and shook his painting in my face. And, yes, he stormed out. I was stunned. I believe he took his no as a full rejection of him and could only stand there at point at ‘them’-in this case me. There was nothing wrong with his piece-it was good. But what it boiled down to was that it didn’t ‘fit’ the vision of the exhibition. If I am going to be totally honest with you, I found it an act of arrogance but I think it was his hurting pride that was speaking. My guess is that he didn’t learn much and he certainly didn’t take it in his stride. If he had simply asked he may have had an opportunity to understand and take what he learned into his next experience. It is often easier just to point.
Accepting rejection as a part of the process is a big step in the right direction. It is true that some artists have an easier path than others and this can be from a combination of factors but I can guarantee those factors are out of your control and should not be used as a gauge for your journey. OK, I will get off my soapbox for today but I will leave you with this thought-as long as you are getting the rejections you are still trying, you are still working and you are still growing! It can be no fun but don’t give up!! So, you have 40 rejections-keep going and figure it out, learn from it and keep painting, writing, drawing, composing, creating. Your unique vision is essential-moving forward will help bring it into focus!
Thanks for stopping by today and look for the next interview to be posted soon! It’s going to be awesome!!