Let’s just be frank – as an artist trying to get your art out into the world and into galleries, you are going to run into some rejection. Few artists have found success in the art world without first enduring failure. Not every gallery is going to see the merit of your work, and some of them are going to be pretty forthright in telling you what’s wrong with it. You’re going to have to face some “no’s” to get to that much anticipated “yes.”
As an artist, you would be well served to begin developing a thick skin. Don’t let criticism or rejection stop you from pursuing your passion. Remember, any opinion given by a gallery owner or director is just that, an opinion.
I’ve met too many artists who, after facing two or three harsh rejections, have retreated to their studios where they will hide in their work for months or even years before venturing out into the world again. “I just need to create more work and get a little better before I’m ready to go back out there,” they might say.
If you are creating the best work you can, and if you’ve prepared yourself following the principles I’ve been laying out, you are ready for gallery representation. Don’t be afraid to pursue it.
There are many ways to increase your odds for success and reduce the likelihood of rejection (may I humbly suggest reading or rereading “Starving” to Successful), but some level of rejection is inevitable. I would like to spend just a minute sharing some quick tips on how to prepare for and overcome the inevitable rejection you will face as you share your art with the world. These are tips that have helped me when I face rejection with clients, but they will also help you overcome rejection as you attempt to show your work to galleries.
Tips for Overcoming Rejection
1. Know the odds. It sounds counter intuitive, but knowing that most attempts to find gallery representation are going to fail can help you feel less dejected when a gallery says “no thanks!” The number of rejections you are going to face before being accepted can vary depending on your style of work, your personality, your preparation,and any number of other factors, but if you tell yourself to expect 20 rejections before you have success, each rejection will feel like a step down the road to success, instead of a stinging defeat.
2. Force yourself to keep going. As you prepare to approach galleries, make a list of galleries that are possibilities and commit to approach all of them, no matter what happens. It’s unlikely the first gallery you approach will accept your work, so make sure you have a plan b, a plan c and so on. As soon as one gallery lets you know they’re not interested, roll on to the next one.
3. Don’t take rejection personally. Even though some gallery owners may feel a need to reject you in a very personal way, criticizing you and your work, there’s no need to take the rejection to heart.
4. Talk to other artists and learn how they’ve overcome rejection. It’s very easy to feel like you’re the only artist who’s ever been rejected so resoundingly. Talking to other artists about their experience can help you realize you are far from alone. Start by reading the comments below!
We all fear rejection, but as you gain experience and wisdom in the art business, you’ll come to see that rejection is just another part of the process of building a successful art career.
Help an Artist – Share Your Experiences!
Have you encountered a particularly harsh rejection from a gallery? How did you overcome it? What have you done to develop a thicker skin in the face of rejection? Share your experience and thoughts in the comments below.