Spring has officially
sprung, and today is the first day of a season full of new life and
inspiration. Granted, March is the snowiest month of the year here in Colorado, but for the
last couple days, mother nature has shown us her benevolent side; the skies
have been blue, and the temperatures warm. Plants are even beginning to
bloom. I find spring to be one of the most inspiring times of the
year. It starts a whole new event season of outdoor activities, and I
look forward to a summer full of exhibitions, parties, concerts, or just time
with family and friends.
Where do you find your
inspiration? Click on the "comment" button below to share with
Sometimes the universe tests us with rejection; life asks us if we are confident enough in ourselves and our creations to keep going in the face of obstacles. …While we must be open to feedback, we must also hold a faith that supersedes the opinions of those who do not agree with us. If you believe in something enough, you will not be put off by obstacles or setbacks. - Alan Cohen
The invitation arrives in the mail and your heart skips a beat. You’ve been asked to submit a piece for jury consideration for the biggest museum show in your area. You’ve just finished a work that you know is perfect. It’s a shoe-in. You fill out the application, enclose the slides and send them off, confident you’ll be accepted. You envision your piece in glossy splendor on the pages of the show catalog; you imagine yourself stepping forward to receive the Best in Show award. Fame and glory follow. Your career is made.
Several weeks later the letter comes in the mail. “Dear Artist,” it begins. “We regret to inform you…” You’re crushed. You berate yourself. I’m so stupid, How did I think I could possibly get in a show like that? Then you get angry. The jurors are idiots. They obviously don’t understand good work. You vow to get even. I’ll show them. I’ll never create another piece of sculpture again. And I’ll never set foot in that museum again either. You rationalize. I’m sure they had to play the political game and accept work from people that give them money or have better contacts. They didn’t have room for me.
Once the initial emotions have finished racing through your heart and head, what’s your next step? Do you dash off an angry letter to the director of the museum, thus ensuring you’ll never be invited to show there? Do you moan and complain to everyone you know, convincing your family, friends and colleagues that you’re a spoiled diva? Do you give up, believing your work will never be good enough? If you stay stuck in those unproductive emotions, you’ll never achieve the level of success you desire, a level many of your less talented colleagues may surpass.
Professional artists know rejection is part of the game -- it happens to everybody. The difference between satisfying success and bitter failure is how you handle it. Rejection always hurts, but accepting the pain and moving on is critical to building your career. How do you do that?
1. Turn loose of your work. As with a child that you bring into the world and raise, at some point you have to let go. Your children move into other relationships in life, and so must your art. You can still love the pieces you create, but allow others to love them, or not, as well.
2. Realize your work is not You. Your work may be the deepest expression of your soul, but it’s not your soul. Rejection has little to do with you, and everything to do with the viewer. Jurors and others who examine your work do so through their own lenses of life experience. Sometimes they relate, sometimes they don’t. It doesn’t mean they don’t like, admire, respect, or even know You.
3. Rejection is not necessarily criticism. Galleries, jurors, collectors, and others who make choices about work make those decisions based on criteria about which you may not know. They may not accept your work not because it’s poor quality, but because they have enough bronze figures or abstract stone or wood miniatures. Maybe it’s simply not a fit for the gallery or show. Much of the time it has nothing to do with your talent, your statement, or your creative expression.
4. With criticism, accept what makes sense to you and ignore the rest. Everybody has an opinion, and most people don’t hesitate to express theirs. Consider the source of the criticism. If an art professional tells you your piece lacks proportion and gives you some ideas about fixing it, pay closer attention than you would to a collector who lives in a house full of ceramic frogs who tells you your abstract female figure doesn’t have any personality. It’s important to listen with an open mind and then take an objective look at your work. If you can see how it would improve by incorporating someone’s suggestions, do it. If not, let the comments go.
5. As my best friend says, honor the process. Continue to improve your skills, stay true to your vision, create your art, and send it out into the world. Let go of your attachment to the results. Sometimes you’ll feel the sting of rejection; other times you’ll feel the joy of success. It’s all part of the journey. As in life, the journey is just as important as the destination.
6. When all else fails, comfort yourself with the thought that every "no" leads one step closer to "yes." You’ll learn to relish the rejection because you know acceptance is imminent. A writing friend of mine plays something he calls the Rejection Game. His aim is to collect one hundred rejection slips all while writing the best he can. He’s never reached a hundred because he gets so many acceptances along with the rejections that he doesn’t have time to keep playing the game.
Tell us how you handle rejection. Do you do a ceremonial burning of your rejection letters? Paper your studio walls with them? Use them as gift-wrapping? Share your creative ideas.
Originally published in Creative Wisdom, November 2006.
This past weekend we visited the latest show at the Denver Art Museum. Inspiring Impressionism is a collection of more than 100 paintings and works on paper from seventy museums and private collections, some of which have never before traveled to the United States. While the subject matter led me to expect masterpieces by Monet, Manet, Renoir, and Van Gogh, I was surprised to see a large collection of Old Masters exhibited side-by-side with the later works. The show explored the influence of Titian, El Greco, and others on the Impressionists and inspired interesting dinner conversations later.
This is more of a thinking person's show than the usual Impressionist blockbusters we're used to experiencing. You won't see all of your favorite postcard images here, but you will gain an understanding of how the painters of the late nineteenth century learned and developed a style based on the compositions and techniques of those who came centuries before.
The show runs until May 25 and timed tickets are available at the museum web site or by phone at 1-866-942-2787 (1-866-942-ARTS) from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. MST daily. A service fee will be added to online and phone orders. Ticket prices (which include a self-guided audio tour with adult and children's versions) are $20 for adults, $17 for seniors and college students, $12 for youth. Members receive free admission and can pay four dollars for the audio tour.
Tickets also include admission to the museum, and if you haven't visited the new Hamilton wing designed by Daniel Libeskind, you're in for an experience.