When talking with an artist who’s on the brink of marketing her work, the fear of rejection often plays a significant role in her approach. This can be as obvious as, “What if no one likes it?!?” or as insidious as,”I’m not good enough. My work isn’t ready yet.” These sentiments may be muttered to a trusted friend or simply held in the heart of the artist who’s longing to share her work with the world.
Rejection is one of the not-so-thrilling-parts of being an artist. It’s become a routine part of my career, and I expect that it will remain my companion through all stages of artistic development. Rejection proves that I’m still stretching and taking risks with my work. That’s a good thing. And while I don’t look forward to it, I have learned to deal with it. As artists, it’s not something that we talk about often, and perhaps that does a disservice to those who are following similar paths.
This week I received a rejection phone call from a gallery whose board chose not to represent my work. Their reason? My collection is too edgy for the conservative population who shops there. What process did I go through when I heard this news?
In the moment, I absorbed all that the caller was telling me. While I don’t take every word to heart, I do try to listen for constructive criticism that can guide my approach toward galleries in the future.
I resist the urge to defend my work. This one can be overwhelming for me! For whatever reason, they’ve made their decision. Nothing I say is going to change it, and ultimately I wouldn’t want it to do so. I try to remember that they’re not rejecting me personally. They just don’t think that my work would be a good fit for their gallery. My work deserves better than that.
I thank the gallery for the opportunity. Yes. It’s a little like saying “It’s an honor to be nominated.” The art community is a small one, and I want to keep the door open in the future.
I take a good hard look at my work and my presentation. Did I put my best foot forward artistically? Was my work presented professionally? Were my marketing materials of high quality? Did I follow the gallery’s specific submission instructions? If I see room for improvement in any of these areas, I work on it. If the answer to all of these is affirmative, I let it go and move forward.
I accentuate the positive. Other opportunities are waiting! I now have a full set of inventory that’s ready for a show, my online stores, or submission to another gallery.
In the interest of full disclosure, this type of rejection still stings. It can cause you to question your abilities. And it might even cause you to consider the validity of your dreams. Don’t give in to it! This is a growing pain. You’re not alone in what you’re feeling, and I promise that it diminishes with time. The sweet success of your next acceptance will be cause for celebration and proof that all of your efforts have been well placed.