Your daily rejection

In Control (Grace and her Unicorn), 24X30, $3,478, oil on canvas.

Eric Jacobsen sent me a cartoon. A little boy is drawing on the kitchen floor. “Thank you for your submission,” it reads. “We regret to inform you that your work was not selected for the fridge.”

The late great real estate columnist Edith Lank was eulogized in her hometown newspaper yesterday. “She understood that the way to get to 100 newspapers was to write to 500,” said her son, Avrum Lank. “She wrote letters and letters and letters. Her father told her to paper her the walls of her bedroom with her rejection letters.”

We hate rejection, but it’s a fact of life in the arts. The disappointment varies. I don’t have much emotional investment in most national shows (except that the entry fees chip away at my bottom line). But when I was rejected last year from a local event I’ve done many years running, my distress was brutal.

Michelle Reading, oil on linen, 24X30, $3478

Process your emotions

‘It happens to all of us’ or ‘jurying is subjective’ wasn’t that helpful at that moment. What I needed was my utterly loyal pal who said, “They must be total idiots.” We both know that isn’t true, but there was time later for self-analysis.

I once received an incredibly nasty newspaper review. In retrospect, I wish I’d saved it. It is so rare for an individual artist to be trashed in a group show that I must have hit a nerve somehow.

At the time, though, I was in a slough of despair. I called my friend Toby and cried on her shoulder. That’s the normal human reaction to rejection. What’s important is what we do after that.

Rejection is a part of life

Some artists reject the hurly-burly of the marketplace entirely. That may be less scary now, but ultimately it means no growth. We experience rejection when we push limits.

Best Buds, 11X14, oil on canvasboard, $1087 framed

Don’t get wrapped up in your disappointment

We’ve all heard the expression, “Get back on the horse that threw you.” The longer we dwell on a failure, the bigger that failure looms. There’s a national show I coveted. I was rejected the first year, when a friend was the juror. After that, I applied every year, knowing the odds were stacked against me. Imagine my surprise when I was accepted.

Healthy habits help us surf over bad times. After I was done crying at Toby, I took my daily walk, fed the kids and sent them off to school, and went back to my studio. The rhythm of my day had a soothing effect.

Pinkie, pastel, ~6X8, $435 framed.

Rejection doesn’t define you

The art market is huge. There are times I look at work and wonder, “who on earth would buy that?” And yet, almost every idea has a corresponding following. If that show or gallery doesn’t love you, someone else does.

Learn from the experience

I recently kvetched at Colin Page that the last time I painted something I liked was in 1990. This is the season where we’re applying to upcoming shows and suddenly nothing in our portfolio pleases us.

Later, sorting paintings in my studio, I realized this throwaway comment was a red flag to myself. In 1990, I was shooting pictures of my work with an SLR. Today I use my cell phone. What I don’t like now is the bad quality of my photos, not the work itself.

My 2024 workshops: