Rejection is never fun, but it can be particularly rough for artists who bare their heart and soul in their work.
48 x 36 inches
Acrylic on canvas
When I first started submitting to juried art exhibits, contests and galleries several years ago, I didn’t expect my art to get selected. Just entering felt like a win. As I continued, I received both acceptances and rejections and overall felt content. But then came a time when hearing “no” really stung, making me pull back.
Rejection of our art can feel like we have been deemed not good enough. It can feel personal even when it isn’t. Rejection can shake an artist’s confidence and can lead to a creative rut.
When this happens, pause and recall why you create art in the first place. And if the sting of rejection lingers, consider one these strategies to help you cope.
2. Talk to Other Artists
The artist’s path can be solitary. Our family and friends don’t always understand the vulnerability that comes with submitting or sharing artwork knowing it may be rejected. Other artists who relate to your hopes, desires and worries can offer support and perspective.
You can form connections on your own through local art events or on social media, and/or join an established artist membership group, often founded and run by artists. Other creatives can provide encouragement and helpful information. There are always people ahead of you (and behind you) on the creative journey. If you are struggling with something, ask for help or express your challenge; chances are others have experienced something similar.
24 x 20
Acrylic and pencil on canvas
2. Channel Your Feelings into New Work
Use your feelings of frustration and disappointment to fuel a new piece of art. Create as if it the piece is for you alone. Akin to writing a letter you don’t plan to send, this exercise can help you work through and expel complicated negative feelings. You may never show the art to anyone, but it will be generated by authentic emotion and could lead to something great.
3. Submit Again
Applying to another art call as quickly as possible following rejection can feel empowering. This is a numbers game of sorts and the more opportunities you take, the greater the chance that one of them will be successful. Also, submitting again can make you feel proactive, hopeful and in control. We’ve all heard the mantra, “if at first you don’t succeed, try, try again.” There are many available opportunities for artists and having possibilities in the works can lead to optimism.
4. Take a Break
Alternatively, stepping away from your art for a time can be healthy. It can take time for hurt feelings or disappointment to dissipate. If you are feeling down, shed your focus on tangible achievement. Consider instead reconnecting with the joy of artmaking without focusing on outcome. Seek inspiration outside of your studio. Change your daily routine and visit a museum, a garden nursery, a bookshop or a natural place of beauty. When you return to create, play. Let your art flow without a prescribed path.
5. Take a Class or Join a Challenge
Taking an art class or joining a 30-day art challenge can help you refocus on what’s important. It gives structure to your art-making for a time, and the focus is on what you are doing in the present.
After my painful rejection, I took a 21-day online sketchbook course focused on the fun and joy of art-making. Ignoring external influences, I reassessed and explored what felt good in my art-making without pressure to produce finished work. It allowed me to relax and see what felt right – which was exactly what I needed at the time.
Stefanie Stark is an award-winning abstract painter who has exhibited in art shows and fairs across the United States. She lives in Bethesda, Maryland with her family.