Rejection: The Good the Bad the Ugly

Rejection is one word in the arts that strikes fear and trepidation for most. The thought of it can make even the strongest of us hesitate to move forward and even obsess about the potential pain that lurks every time we consider things we might want to do and attain. The ‘what ifs’ or ‘should haves’ that makes us feel like we have been left in the dust. Rejection…one thing is certain… the thought of it makes us feel bad even if it’s just inside of our imaginations.

The word ‘rejection’ comes from the Latin root which means ‘to throw back’. The implication is that we have something, we engage with it, decide we don’t want or like it then throw it back. We get rid of it. Rejection in a nutshell. If we take this idea out into the real world  we actually find that when we approach a gallery or some participatory event rejection is not the real act that is in motion. So what is it? In my view I would more appropriately call it ‘selection’ not rejection. It is the selection process that we actually have reservations about. You need to be accepted before you can be rejected. This might seem like semantics but there is an important point contained here that can help us to re-frame this fear of what we believe is rejection.

So let’s create a scenario to try to gain some objectivity. You the artist decide to make a move.You peruse your resources and arrive at 100 potential galleries to approach. But upon closer examination this artist learns that only 15 actually specialize in ‘their’ type of work. We eliminate 85 of these galleries and we focus our effort on the 15 that relate. We have investigated these galleries and even within these we find 7 really hit the mark on where we would like to be seen so we start there. We know details about each of these down to what their exhibits have been and what the future exhibits will be. We know the owners name, the gallery director’s name and the roster of artists that each shows. We know the geographical location or locations, the hours they are open and every detail possible to know about their operation.

We as artists have also engaged in the ‘selection’ process by doing this. We have eliminated or ‘rejected’ the majority of the list and focused it down to a small but high potential list. So we put our portfolio together and we begin to present ourselves to these to the best of our ability because we believe that we ‘FIT’ their sensibility and clientele and we WANT to be seen. Ultimately we want to show ourselves in the best environment to an existing clientele that gives us opportunity right out of the gate. We sent our info to gallery #1 and after some back and forth they decide to not go forward with your work for their own specific reasons which you may never know. You call this rejection. I call this selection. FIT. It was decided on some level something didn’t fit and now we have to move on. Next.

We now take the very same presentation and we present to gallery #2 and lo and behold pay dirt! They love your work and believe it will be worth their effort and investment in their gallery to give you visibility in their space . Acceptance some would call it but it really is ‘selection’. Looking for a fit amongst the masses of offerings that they will be presented with to potentially enhance their operation for both an aesthetic boost as well as a financial benefit for both of you. It all seems to fit so we all give it a try. Opportunity developing right in front of our eyes. So we show our initial group of work and WALA we sell a piece. Then another. Then another. We have now created a relationship and we are off and running. The selection process at its best for both of us.

We also had success in entering another gallery but after 6 months not a solitary bite. No interest. We get a call and we hear ‘well we have put your work out and our clientele hasn’t really responded to it in this environment so we are going to send your work back to you. We thank you for thinking of us but best we part ways so that we can both focus on what is productive. In other words we are throwing you back. We gave it a try and now we decided it isn’t working. REJECTION. This is real rejection not the other. The other is just the process of ‘Selection’. Finding the right fit. Doing the dance of finding where we each belong. Nothing to be afraid of just a natural process. Refrain from feeling bad until you actually experience rejection but then just move on.

This is a very real description of the process of putting your work out there. No big deal. Selection not Rejection. Then maybe rejection later on. But still no big deal. What doesn’t work in one place might flourish somewhere else. Just participate and make your work better and better by putting in the hours. Understanding this process should reduce your anxiety and who knows it might even be fun. For sure selling your work is exhilarating for everyone and if we engage ourselves intelligently in this dance opportunities WILL come.




  1. Its the ghosts of ‘Am I Good Enough’ that need satiation to get even to this point. As artists theres a level of self criticism that is a double-edged sword.


    1. When it becomes,’ I wonder IF I am good enough’, we then make a move to begin to find out for ourselves…the motivation behind the willingness to find out…I will say tho that for any and all decent work there is a market somewhere…it just has to be found and developed…there is interest and a market for all levels of participation so just by trying the scales tip in our favor…the art market as we now know it is massive and more than willing to acquire work they like…everyone is good enough for some market somewhere…its just finding at what level you get a great ‘fit’.


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