As artists we all hear the need to have thick skin, that we will experience many rejections as we attempt to get our work out into the world, as we build a business and create a means of making a living. We've all heard stories such as how many times J.K. Rowling needed to submit her manuscript before she finally found someone who would publish Harry Potter, or that Vincent Van Gogh only sold one painting while still alive (to his brother, who bought it so he could give Vincent some money to afford food). But it really takes experiencing the rejections first hand to develop that so called thick skin.
While I've had some smaller rejections over the years, I recently experienced the two biggest rejections I've had in this artistic career of mine. And in the same week no less (ouch). Here's why they were hard pills to swallow, and why I'm handling them pretty darn well if I do say so myself.
The first was receiving news that I did not get a large grant I applied for (back in September) in order to have expenses, time and mentorships paid for my upcoming exhibit in 2021. I spent 2 months on that grant proposal and had so many people draft letters of support. I had high hopes, however I was warned by many that it was a long shot to get federal funding. I felt a bit mopey the first day I got that rejection email, but when I thought about it I did not regret having gone through the process. First of all, putting together the grant application allowed me to get crystal clear on all aspects of my project, and gave me the confidence to approach a gallery to host my first solo show. I still have the solo show (the gallery agreed to host me regardless), but may now be out of pocket for supplies and time (unless I find other funding). The other piece I'm grateful for is that I found some amazing mentors and collaborative partners for my exhibit. The mentors are still willing to do a smaller amount of work with me (not full blown mentorships, nor should they if they are not being paid for their time), and when I was really honest with myself, doing 3 full mentorships and creating a body of work for the exhibit while still maintaining my business and raising my young kids was likely taking on too much (understatement of the year right?). So, not getting this grant allowed me to put the expectations of myself in check. And the collaborations for the exhibit are still going strong.
Secondly, the Calgary Stampede jury rejected my art submission for their gallery show. For those not aware, there are many art shows that have a panel of judges associated with them. In order to have your art considered for the show, you submit photos of your work and the judges choose which art will be in the show.
I had created a specific piece with cows in it to submit, in order to be a little more country western than my usual pieces, so getting rejected was hard. However, the Calgary Stampede may not even proceed this year due to the current pandemic, so I won't be as disappointed if it doesn't go ahead, and I learned that I can actually paint cows and have since branched out into the Highland variety. And that piece can now go into my available inventory or submitted for other shows.
It would have been pretty standard for me to get highly discouraged by these rejections (after all my art is an extension of my heart) and forgo the effort to participate in future submissions, but along with having already braced for the rejection due to solid advice of artists who have been doing this a lot longer than I, I am also heeding their advice that this is a numbers game, as an artist you need to put yourself out there a lot! So I can proudly say, despite these rejections having happened in the past few weeks, I have dusted myself off and applied for two more significant things.
And I'm happy to say, I got a congratulatory email this morning. More news on that to come...