Blog - 2nd Quarter 2022
Ugh. Have to say, it stings.
I was hoping to have two shows to share in my 2Q schedule update, but it turned out I had pieces accepted into only one show.
Not only was my work rejected, but my idea for what the future was going to look like also got shot down. As a result, I needed to pick myself up and reformulate my path forward.
If nothing else, it's been a great opportunity to look at my process for dealing with rejection.
So, the "picking myself up" part comes first. Here, I remind myself that rejection is universal. Everyone gets turned down at some point, some more than others.
One wise friend told me that if I wasn't getting rejected, I wasn't trying hard enough. I took that to mean that getting turned down comes with effort. It's part of the deal. The more work I produce and try to show, the more resistance I'll meet.
It's also important for me to remind myself that this kind of feedback isn't necessarily a reflection on the quality of my work. I always think of my favorite painter Vincent Van Gogh when I need inspiration regarding this topic. Van Gogh had little commercial success in his lifetime. As incredible as it is to believe today, Vincent got rejected for his paintings at every turn. Accounts vary, but it is said he only sold a single painting while he was alive. Mind boggling.
And I need to acknowledge that rejection can be the result of any number of things that are out of my control - the jury was looking for something in a particular style, a jurist favors water colors over acrylics, or a million other issues.
Next, I must admit the pain that comes with all forms of rejection. Because I put a lot of time and energy into painting, each piece comes with a level of attachment. I love my work and feel it has value. For someone to say something different strikes at my core and challenges my belief in myself. This is disappointing and a bit scary. This reaction is real though and while predictable, still difficult to manage.
Importantly, in all of this processing, I feel the single the most vital step in dealing with rejection is moving on. It's imperative that I not stop the creative process. Essentially, the effort of painting is so much more important than the rejection that can come from it.
A story can serve as an illustration here. I applied for a fellowship in Ireland a couple of years ago and was mentally buying airplane tickets because I was so sure that I would be awarded the grant. Yet I was not selected. It was a gut punch. And I stopped painting for several months. I was actually contemplating giving it up entirely.
Fortunately, I had prepaid for a painting workshop and decided to attend even though I was a bit broken. I asked the instructor for help in moving forward. The advice I was given simple - begin. Start something. Take the time that's needed to grieve the dream, but let yourself have other dreams. Begin again. Move on.
I decided to accept this advice and began again on my dream of being a painter because I know there is no greater calling in my life. Painting makes me happy, it gives me an opportunity to meet others, to make others happy, and to serve my community. These big life pluses overwhelmingly outweigh the inevitable disappointment that will come with being creative.
In all, I've come to see this as a cycle: produce work, get rejected in some way, grieve and process, and get reinvigorated to produce more work. Not easy to live out, certainly, but a clear path forward which is all I can hope for.