Dealing with Rejection as an Artist

January is famous for being the longest month of them all. With what feels like 97 cold and dark days it is a nightmare for everyone. I can’t think of anyone who does well out of January, certainly not artists. Sales plummet as everyone feels the pinch after Christmas, and if you’re thinking of creating daylight hours are a rare luxury this time of year.

One thing that January is good for it admin and applications. It’s the perfect time to research new opportunities, new stockists and new markets. With the great stock clear out that is Christmas shopping, stockists will most likely have some spare shelf space going. Markets and Fairs are buzzing off their pre-Christmas rushes and getting their new year dates and applications in early. There seems to be a range of artist call out opening this year too. Whether it’s because everyone is taking the quiet time to get organised, budgets are renewed with the new year or perhaps this is the perfect time to prep busy artistic summer ventures.

The R Word

However, with more artist call outs comes more chances for dreaded rejection. I don’t believe that there are any artists out there who haven’t had to face it. None worth their salt anyway. If you aren’t willing to step outside your comfort zone then I can’t imagine you are even really trying. Pairing up those rejections with this dark, cold, fluey, broke time of year and you’ve got the real potential for some pretty down feeling artists.

I started to become one of those at the beginning of the year. Tired from all of those Christmas markets and missing daylight. I became a manic whirlwind of applications. Funny thing is that it wasn’t even receiving rejections that was making me anxious, but more like the waiting period where I was hopeful of success but mindful of receiving a slew of them in a short space of time. The absolute chasm between those two emotions was the stressful part. The idea that I could be taking part in some incredible opportunities, or that I could get shut down repeatedly in the space of just a few days was an absolute rollercoaster.

Art always feels so personal to us and we are so passionate about it that I know that there are lots of people in my shoes. However, it is precisely that thought that unlocks the route to handling rejections as they come in

The are a lot of people in my shoes

Arts opportunities are finite. There are tonnes of talented artists and there are only so many jobs going. Some might have a tonne more experience than you too. In my case, with only a year into my business, that’s most.

Whenever I am not successful it just means that someone out there, someone just like me, has been. It just means that it wasn’t my time that time. Perhaps it sounds like the cheesiest thing ever but when I started viewing unsuccessful opportunities as ‘try agains’ instead of ‘nos’ it made a huge difference to me. It helped me to keep a level of confidence, optimism and high self esteem that guided me through even more applications.  

Of all the applications that I made that had decision dates in January and early February I didn’t succeed in securing six of them. That’s six whole applications that I spent time, energy and hope on that didn’t come through. I filled out forms, created proposals, mocked up artworks and it didn’t pay off. Not even any feedback. The thing is though, seven applications were successful. Plus, I have seven more I am still waiting to hear back from. If I let the unsuccessful ones put me off then where would I be now?

One rejection doesn’t guarantee any more rejections

I hope that anyone facing rejection can find it comforting that everyone gets it. If you find yourself getting it almost exclusively then maybe take some time off from applications. Focus on your work, or ask someone to cast a critical eye over one of your applications. Are you following the brief? Are you applying to the right sort of things? Perhaps there are other opportunities out there that might suit you better? We all have our audiences and there is no such thing as a ‘one size fits all’ artist.

I am really looking forward to sharing with you the new stockists, markets, exhibitions and commissions that I am going to be creating this year. Especially more so because I know what it’s like to not be able to take part. After all, the bitter always makes the sweet taste sweeter.


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