An artist who recently came to me for career advice was confident about his art but allowing his fear of rejection prevent him from performing art marketing activities. He was depressed about not achieving his desired creative, financial and career goals. He needed my help on how to handle rejection as an artist once before we could go further.
One thing you can be sure of: As you make strides to advance your professional status, rejection will tap on your door periodically as a test of your convictions. The higher you set the bar, the harder the fall. Rejection may cause you excruciating pain and remorse. It may even temporarily cause creative paralysis.
On a positive note, criticism and rejection can serve as powerful sources of growth and transformation.
Turn The Rejection Into A Learning Experience
After you experience a form of rejection or criticism, try to step back and review the events objectively, as though you were watching a movie about someone else, while you ask yourself some questions. Perceive this self examination purely as an instrument to learn something that will empower you.
Examine your reactions to rejection and you’ll find the tools to expand your education, personal growth and humility. If the causes for receiving a negative reaction to your work are clear, you can avoid repeating the experience. It has been said the only bad experience is one in which you didn’t learn anything.
Consider These Questions
* At what stage in the process did the situation go badly?
* Did you submit your best quality works of art for consideration?
* Were the decision-makers partial to a style or medium different than yours?
* Did your behavior during the interview jeopardize your chances of getting accepted?
* Did you make a sincere effort to prepare for this opportunity?
* Could you have sent out more proposals to increase your chances of getting positive results?
* Were you lacking the criteria that the other artists who were competing against you had?
* Did you rely on someone else to carry out your presentation instead of doing it yourself?
Use The Experience As A Source of Creative Energy
Rejection can serve as a powerful stimulus to creative productivity. Instead of letting rejection tear you apart transform the emotions into a work of art. It may be among the most satisfying works you have ever created. As an artist you have the ability to express your pain through a variety of modes and materials. The creative process can serve as a cathartic healing tonic in your life and career.
Don’t Allow Opinions To Diminish Your Self Worth
In many situations, you may never know the real reason why your work was rejected. If so, don’t waste your energy trying to analyze something you may never understand. There are many uncontrollable factors that have nothing to do with you or the quality of your work.
Rejection is frequently the result of an opinion of one or more individuals. History has proven that the judgments of “experts” are always in a state of flux. Robert Rauschenberg’s first show at Leo Castelli Gallery barely got off the ground. Jean Dubuffet didn’t have his first exhibition until he reached the ripe age of 43. Historically, the Whitney Biennials have become the show many critics love to hate. For several years people have claimed that painting is dead, yet we know that is far from true!
In the final analysis, the only evaluation that should be of real value to you should be your own. And, be kind and gentle with yourself. To shield yourself from emotional destruction build a fortress constructed with a positive attitude, confidence, passion and persistence.
Become More Positive, Proactive and Persistent
One of the best pieces of advice I can offer to increase your odds is to increase your activities. Aim for persistence and remember the positive words of Thomas A. Edison: “Results! I have gotten thousands of results. I know several thousand things that won’t work. ”
Try this fun exercise: Every time you receive a rejection notice, balance the scales by sending out more proposals and making more phone calls, and thereby increasing your chances of receiving positive feedback. For example, estimate the number of attempts you have to make before you finally sell a work of art or acquire a commission. Divide the selling price by that number. Every time you receive a rejection, say to yourself, “I am ‘X’ prospects closer to meeting the buyer.”
Don’t Burn Your Bridges
In the face of rejection, be as gracious as possible, safeguard your dignity and ego and don’t burn bridges. If one gallery rejects your work, it may not close the door permanently. If you think your work is appropriate for them, try again later.
Many events may affect their attitude in the future, such as the director may get fired, their finances may improve, or an artist may leave and create an opening for you. In addition, I have known artists to be rejected by the directors of the galleries only to be contacted by their assistants who opened their own galleries.
Consider Revising Your Goals and Strategies
If you’re not receiving as many acceptances as you would like, examine the methods you are currently using. Review your art business plan; it may need some changes. Does it still fit your needs? Does it support the changes in the economy? Do you need to search for new alternatives? What useful tactics of successful artists can you apply?
As a career advisor and mentor for artists, I offer the objectivity that is often necessary to help artists achieve desired goals. If you would like to receive career advice you may want to schedule a phone consultation.
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