How to Overcome Rejection as You Seek Gallery Representation

Let’s just be frank – as an artist trying to get your art out to 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 over the last several months in this course, 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 let’s 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.

 

About the Author: Jason Horejs

Jason Horejs is the Owner of Xanadu Gallery, author of best selling books "Starving" to Successful & How to Sell Art , publisher of reddotblog.com, and founder of the Art Business Academy. Jason has helped thousands of artists prepare themselves to more effectively market their work, build relationships with galleries and collectors, and turn their artistic passion into a viable business.

107 Comments

    1. I am just preparing my portfolio and preparing to start looking for gallery representation .Knowing this will not be an easy path to take, your in-put was very valuable. Happy I had decided to approach the first gallery and the next as a learning tool for approaching the next and the next.

  1. Great advice, Jason! I’ll keep all these things in mind.

    I’ve visited 3 galleries so far and I’ve come to the realization that it’s not just about them accepting my work, but also me feeling comfortable with the gallery that will represent my work.

    I want to find a gallery that gives back, in some way, to the community or to the environment. I want to work with people who are passionate about art and artists in general, not just people who are trying to make a buck. I also want the gallery to be a warm and inviting place that treats customers kindly when they come in for a visit. Finally, I want to feel like I’m partnering with a gallery and that we can work together to sell my art. I’d love to be involved in the process, somehow. I haven’t found that special gallery yet, but I’m confident I will.

  2. I have recently been rejected by a series of juried shows recently. Like you said, considering the odds helps. One show had 1200 entries, and 85 were selected. The odds are indeed long!
    I have developed a way to keep on track with my plan to get my work out into the public eye. I submit my work to at least one show, apply for a grant, or to a gallery at least once per month. I can do more than one per month, but when I do, that doesn’t give me a pass on the next month. It keeps me focused on identifying opportunities for my work. I will not apply to shows, or submit to galleries, etc, unless I feel it is a good fit for my work. I have several sites that I check in with regularly for listings for shows, grants or residencies, and Art in America has an annual list of galleries issue.

    1. Excellent plan Judy – I love this approach. While it may not seem like a lot when you look at the monthly activity, that means you are applying to 36 exposure opportunities per year, greatly increasing your opportunities for success. Thanks for sharing!

    2. Judy that’s not only a great idea, but also very doable. A lot better than letting myself get overwhelmed by applying to multiple places all at one time. It gives some breathing room. Thanks for sharing!

  3. I wonder if Galleries focus on having a balance of subjects, media and techniques when accepting work for exhibition as much as jurors do in picking work for prestigious National and International exhibitions. Some exhibitions are strictly for certain media and have specific requirements for artists which must be followed for acceptance. Other exhibitions include a wider variety of mediums such as watercolors, acrylics, oils, pastels, sculpture, ceramics, etc. which would allow for a show of great variety, more like many art galleries. I find that excellence always is appealing to me and so that is what I strive to achieve in whatever I undertake. As far as rejection is concerned, over time any person in any pursuit must learn to deal with being turned down. It does not mean that what has been accomplished has no value, it just means that, right now, it is not the right time or place. Producing art is a bit like inventing something new, changes need to be made to make it work, then you need to find people who need what you have produced.

    1. I have been an artist, approaching and being represented (or rejected) by galleries for 25+ years. I am also a gallery director at an upscale contemporary gallery. It is a great education to be on both sides of the counter. At the gallery we do strive for a balance of subjects, media and techniques, as you say. Also, where is the artist in their career (though we do have emerging alongside artists in museum collections). But we also have a few subtler yardsticks, which may not be evident to the artist approaching us, though I hope it is if one does their homework (research the gallery and their artists ahead of time). That is, subjectively, how the work “fits” with the other art, and is the artist a great person to work with. When submitting work, that last consideration is hard to project, but you can certainly try. Usually our gallery owner seeks out artists, but once in a while a submission will be just what we are looking for. This all shows that one must keep trying and trying, and don’t take rejections personally. I sometimes have to keep my own advice in mind!

      1. Kay,
        This comment is very helpful. Making unique art can be a struggle in a small town, yet being true to yourself, and not taking rejection personally, is the best advice. And I love your and Jason’s advice to take each rejection as another step toward success.

      2. Hi Fellow Jacksonian,
        I am doing this course too.
        I am in CA spending hours and hours researching galleries. It has been a long slow process. I would be so curious to look at information that artists have sent you that was done artfully and in a way that really has captured your attention and interest.
        Good Luck with all.
        Valerie Seaberg

      3. Kay , when you as gallery director what method do you use? Is it the same process that Jason has been going over or do you have added tips for artists to look at? Even after 25 plus years there have still been times of rejection. It always amazes me but long term helps me focus my efforts!

  4. I’m amazed when I hear that an artist is stung when they get a rejection from a show, an exhibition, or a gallery because that is simply the nature of the beast, the other side of the coin, so to speak. When I was in publishing, it was understood that, for every 20 proposal/query rejections, there is one acceptance. When I was in sales, I was told basically the same thing, that each rejection brought you closer to the one response you needed – an acceptance. But you had to get 19 rejections first. It is certainly no different for an artist.
    Also, I always keep in mind (just as you said) that the rejection is only one person’s opinion. There are many more opinions out there, and some of them will undoubtedly be in keeping with your vision, as long as you feel that you have put out your best work, of course.
    Be strong, be steady, and stay the course. Most of all, believe in yourself!
    Thanks for the wonderful reminder!

    1. I used to sell photographic equipment, and I was never thrilled to lose a sale. But it was someone else’s product.
      Trying to sell your own “product” is much more difficult bec. it brings up all your insecurities about the work with it. Theoretically, it would be better to have someone else sell your product, if they really understood it and was enthusiastic about it. But that’s also rare, so it becomes a matter of somehow “toughening up” against all the rejection when you do it yourself.
      Good article, though…

  5. Rejection. Now that is a hard one. Something I’ve given thought to. I remember a friend once told me, she was at the point in her career, that she won juried shows so often, when she looked at the prospectus, she would only look to see what the awards were, then all of a sudden, the next 16 shows she entered, she was rejected. Rejection is always hard…but then you can look at it this way, when you allow someone to make judgements about your work you allow them to tell you what they do not know….I think one time, I was advised, don’t set your heart on just one show, or one gallery, give several a chance…you will find your fit. I would also say, concentrate more or your work, keep working….

  6. I understand rejection, I was a real estate broker for 20 years. Trust me selling homes and getting listings is a tough business to be in. Of course I made it in the business. After a lot of rejections, I made money and I made lots of friends in the process. After 20 years you know the ins and out of this business, but I have to tell you that being an artist is much tougher to me. It is so much more personal. And yes we should not take to heart or better yet, personal the rejections. Just this week I had a client in my studio looking to purchase a painting she has loved for months when she sees it, but something kept her from purchasing it. She finally told me what bothered her in the painting. I was wide eyed listening to her, she said Ana, I want this painting but there is something that bothers me about the composition.” “What” I said, as I personally loved the painting myself. She went on with her reasoning, and as I listened I realized that she was right in her impression of the composition of the painting. It is an abstract painting, there are several circles in it that bothered her, actually two little ones, no big deal I thought, she said change the color a bit and hide the circles a bit and I will come and get it. Can you believe it, one or two little circles bothered this woman. She also bought one of my clay sculptures. Amazing. So I think rejection can be constructive if you are willing to listen. However, I think the criticism should be precise or before you know you will be changing every painting you make. I am not willing to do that unless I understand exactly what is bothering the client. So what the heck, cover a couple of small circles a bit and a bit of color change and she went home happy with two pieces of my work. And I made some money. Rejection can’t get better then that.

    1. Yes, but don’t change a painting unless you agree. In 2002 or so I was in an art fair and a woman liked one of my larger works. She said she wanted to think about it, and left. I thought I would not see her again, so when another person liked it, I listened to him. He indicated that he thought it needed to have more personality in the frame, like pulling the bushes down into the rustic frame. He too left, and I thought maybe that was what the first woman thought too, so began to paint on the frame. Just as I started, the first woman returned running up to the booth and exclaiming, ”What in the world are you doing?” She did not really find anything wrong with the painting, she had really been thinking about it and was returning to buy. Fortunately, I wiped the paint off and it looked just as it had before. She bought it for the price I asked, which was more than any of the others I had left.

    2. I agree that rejection can be beneficial if it comes with constructive criticism (or a sale!), but most often it come with the simple “No. You have not been chosen to participate in this show.” or “No, we don’t want to represent you.” the typical form letters about how there were many submissions or blah, blah blah. Those are the times when an artist can feel defeated. So being willing to listen is fine, but you need something to listen to. And often, even when you ask for it, you don’t get it.

  7. Thanks, as always, for your tips, Jason.
    Rejection can be depressing. Applying to a gallery is like applying for a job — it should be mutually beneficial. If a gallery isn’t interested in my work, then it’s not the right place, and I know I have to keep looking. Better to know upfront than have the work “accepted” but put in a back room someplace where no one sees it.
    If the rejection is for a local show, it’s good to go and see what pieces were selected. Sometimes, it’s about picking just one or two artists of a certain medium, so the chances are small. I personally just keep plugging along — and encouraging my friends to do the same. It helps to have a good support system of other artists and friends who like your work.
    A friend (also an artist) and I went to a gallery today to view the small pictures invitational show. The owner is known to select for the letters (MFA, MFA, MFA) after an artist’s name. He came out and explained that it was invitational and so on. I asked, “How does one get an invitation?” He looked at me blankly, then asked, “As a customer?” I said as an artist. He then turned his back and mumbled that there are thousands of artists in town and left…. My friend and I went through the gallery and looked at the “invitational”, many pieces of which were on loan from other galleries. For all that, some of the pieces I liked a lot, a few I was surprised made it to any gallery. And he had empty wall space that could have accommodated 8-10 more small pieces….

  8. After reading your book, Jason, and spending much time in preparation, I recently approached 4 galleries in a large city a couple states away from mine. I felt confident and well-prepared as I followed your suggestions for introducing myself, but the owners pleasantly but firmly declined to look at my portfolio, saying that I needed to follow their guidelines for submissions as posted on their websites (which I had already checked on). I left a CD of images along with a bio & resume with each of them but have not heard from any of them. I feel that I have a large and strong body of work and I’m ready to try again in a couple of cities closer to home. Do you recommend that I continue to “show up” with portfolio in hand?

  9. I am not a “fine artist” but designer and jeweler selling my work at retail shows and to galleries. I have noticed that it is generally better to approach gallery owners or managers in the earlier part of the day when their mind and attitude is still fresh. It is also a good idea to catch them at a time when no customers are around or they have help in the store who can deal with clientele. I make sure my work is a “good fit” to the gallery as far as “type of work” gallery theme and feel. Since I do give an exclusive for an area it is important to find just the right place and that puts me in the position to “select” a gallery to represent me …

  10. Great article, Jason! You’re right, probably time to re-read Starving to Successful! (After the first read, I learned that I needed a larger body of work before I was ready to go gallery shopping)

    I find it important to celebrate the little “acceptances” too. For example, I recently struck up conversation with a gallery director in Santa Fe and he actually asked to see my work! I’m not represented there, but I was really happy about that small win, since it was my 6th or 7th time there. I also secured a good group space for an Open Studios event and got a piece accepted into an auction with a juror I respect who writes for an art magazine.

    While THE acceptance with the right gallery is ideal, when I can view the baby steps as the right direction to that success, it helps. 🙂

  11. These are great thoughts to remember. Another thing that seems to help me is that even if the rejection is delivered with an opinion, I like to keep an open mind. Consider the comments and opinions; some of them have turned out to be very sound and helpful advice.

    1. If you respect the giver of the advice, you are wise indeed to listen. My sister is an artist too, and one of my best critiquers. I love her advice. This is true too for my artist friends, and gallery owners, directors and even sales staff. It has to be hard from their side to have to pick one thing to tell a hopeful beginning artist, and most of them have not become so jaundiced that they want to crush us. We just have to keep trying.

  12. Having been selected for an Exhibition at Malvern Theatre,Worcestershire via Art Gallery.co.uk I was promised the earth, but treated like a second class citizen by these so called business people.
    I was supposed to exhibit for 7 weeks,travelled 180 miles only to be told on arrival that where my artwork should have been hung was given to someone else.
    My work was situated upstairs but every time my friends /family attempted to see my work,the area was closed off to the public permanently.
    So no footfall,no sales,no viewers!
    I had the work removed after 3 weeks,simply because I felt total rejection,work was just a stop gap to fill a “Void” and I was told that the “Gallery” could no longer accomodate me due to my swift removal of the works.
    I haven’t painted since,and my confidence has taken a battering.
    Artgallery.co.uk are the epitome of snobbish,upper class idiots.
    I couldn’t ever exhibit again!!

    1. Wow Cynthia that sounds so rude. It sounds to me like they were asking for more paintings than they needed so they could pick and choose. I’m so sorry for this. It doesn’t sound fair at all. I remember doing a really great drawing of our grandparents, and entered into a competition. It was done in pencil and there were no rules. I only got the lowest award, “honorable mention.” So I looked at the judge and asked, “Why did this happen?” She said that it wasn’t in color. There was someone on the jury who didn’t think pencil sketches required talent… It made me feel like not trying again. I had problems getting my photos into one of the stock sites too. Out of seven only one could be suitable. Right now there’s a lot influencing the arts- like the economy and copyright laws. If you paint someone else’s statue, it’s a copyright violation… My secret will make you laugh. If someone stares at me or makes fun, I smile and tell myself it’s because I’m so pretty (I’m not all that really). Keep your chin up and don’t devalue the work you’ve done and loved. Other people have a totally different view on life, paintings, photos, and creativity. If you love your work someone else will too.

    2. This is the kind of thing that should teach artists to take business in their own hands! I have never been under contract but I know very few galleries can really help your career and those are of course the galleries that have the best artists. The rest of the galleries treat artist like trash and can’t sell your work but they also have their own agenda. If we artists would be open to talk about who and where abuse happened we could stop supporting bad businesses. The most important thing is to know that while is a symbiotic relationship galleries need art and they will promisse anything to have art in disposable amounts. You create art then you have the power! Focus on your power not on the corrupted people trying to get merch for free.

  13. Rejection is definitely par for the course. Those who have entered a lot of juried shows know that. Any given juror on any given day could pick an entirely different show depending on a whole host of factors affecting him/her personally… what they had for breakfast, what traffic was like, how well they slept the night before, what kind of pictures they have been looking at or studying lately, whether they have a headache or stomach ache, what’s in the back of their mind (family problems, plans, in a rush to get home or go on vacation, etc.) So why should we expect gallery owners (‘jurors’ of your work) to be any different? I remember one experience vividly : the lady gallery owner had given me a set time to bring in my work. I appeared promptly on time and she said to line the work up along the wall outside her office, which I did. She finally came out, took one very quick look and dismissed it with an indifferent wave of her hand as she walked back into her office. Realizing that was a bit too abrupt, she came back out and made a pretense of looking again. Feeling the need to say something about my work, she pointed at a couple of the pieces and said, “This is very amateurish” and walked back into her office. Those two pieces had won numerous awards in national juried shows! I realized right then that approaching galleries was very similar to entering shows. To quote a rather famous local artist (who has won more top awards than anyone I know): “It’s a crap shoot.” Ha-ha! 🙂

    1. So helpful to read this. I was treated in a similar way by a gallery owner, except she took her time to let me know how bad my work is. She told me I cant draw, my choice of colours are wrong – you can only use earth tones if you are Aboriginal she informed me….She said my work looked like a child had done it. I won an academic medal at the end of my Fine Art degree and had glowing feedback from well known practising artist lecturers all the way through. My head knows she is entitled to her opinion and that not everyone agrees with her but my heart and body are doing a different dance. Feel listless and demotivated, but I will get back on the horse as soon as I can muster it.

  14. It sounds cliché, but it truly is a numbers game…the greater the number of appropriate galleries you approach the better your possibilities of being accepted.

    I tend to fall back on advice I read from a writing instructor when an aspiring author had received 4o rejections and asked how long they should continue to query; the instructor’s response was, “You’re halfway there.” And at 80 rejections the instructor’s response would not be that the person was finished and to give up, but…”You’re halfway there.” In other words, never quit until you get what you want.

    One of my worst (weirdest??) rejections: I made a phone call to a gallery that proclaimed that they LOVED Abstract Expressionism and who said, with much enthusiasm, that they couldn’t wait to see my work! I sent my resume package to them and waited for their response. I received my materials back with a terse handwritten note: “We don’t handle Abstract Expressionism.”

    One of my best rejections: a world famous dealer in NYC who implied that he would consider me for his gallery if he didn’t already have an Abstract Expressionist painter, and who told me that my work, in time, would find homes in more than one NYC gallery.

    Develop a thick skin and keep on truckin’!

  15. My difficulty has always been rejecting my own work once I think it might be finished. I expect rejection rather than allowing it to happen. So the doubts seem to express themselves. I pull the rejection toward me, rather than hope for acceptance.

  16. Gaining gallery representation is a challenge, but it quickly changes to getting into a gallery that SELLS. Getting dropped from a gallery when your work doesn’t sell well is a much harder type of rejection, even though I seem to be thicker-skinned than most. I agree with Jason not to take it personally, but do see it as a reminder to strive for excellence in your work, and keep moving forward.

    1. Thank you. I’m reading all of these comments, having been there, done that, and finally you hit the nail on the head! We must all remember that opinions change, sometimes people grow to love the art, after viewing it more than once, so go back to some of those rejections. But seriously fellow artists, do we want a lot of drama or sales?

  17. There is also regret from acceptance. I have enter juried shows and had work accepted that I wish I had never sent.
    The art didn’t represent me well and I couldn’t wait for the show to be over. If I had pulled the piece I would not be considered for future shows. Another show the quality of work was ( my opinion) so poor that I didn’t want to be part of the exhibit.

  18. When I was a younger artist I came to know two very well known artists as personal friends. Each had a national reputation. Each to me represented the very picture of being totally successful. Yet over time each of them confessed to me their private disappointment with their careers. The both said they felt they “had been overlooked” by the art world.
    I could feel the anger and the hurt in them. To my ears, this was nothing short of amazing.

    The lesson I took away from this is that everyone, even the most prominent of artists, sometimes feels the sting of rejection and disappointment. There is always the danger of becoming embittered. I belive the most important talent for all of us to cultivate is learning how to nurture and protect our sense of delight and genuine enthusiasm in making our art. It is guaranteed the world will sometimes shower us with cold rain, but we can protect the flame of our enthusiasm from getting snuffed out.

  19. I see a lot of gallery’s showing teachers and art professors. Where are their students? The mark of a good teacher is the success of their students. Probably the artists name recognition is being sought out here by the gallery but this creates a monopoly for a hand full of artists in an ocean of talent.

  20. I have suffered rejections often, but even when I get my work into a gallery, not much of it gets sold. Despite all your good advice, which I do appreciate, I am now thinking that the art market is just too competitive for me. I don’t have a personality for selling myself, and I don’t really need the money or the success. I had enough of that in my earlier career as an attorney. I would like a wider distribution for my work. I know that many people like it, and I also know that there are many other wonderful artists out there. If I could find a good agent interested in distributing my work, I would be glad to give her or him the bulk of the profit. As it is I am giving away lots of paintings to family and friends, which probably only adds to the problems other artists have in selling their work. I would be grateful for any suggestions on how to turn the marketing over to someone who is better at it. I do make a few sales from my website; so maybe the answer is to simply keep lowering the price. That does not really help the market much either.

    1. I give my work to family and friends, too. I find them somewhat competitive about that. One niece wanted a painting of a baby with my grandmother (her great-grandmother that she never met). She said, “Nobody will know the baby’s not me!” It was of her cousin, but he was dressed in yellow. So I did after getting it custom framed after it was photographed by a professional photographer. Later my sister who doesn’t have kids suggested I tell that cousin after I got the study for the other painting custom framed and planned to give it to him, said I should tell him the truth, because it would mean more to him. So I did.

    2. This could be my story, Sam. I’ve thought about that too… how I need an agent. Most of the artists I know who have agents do very abstract work. Decorative work that can hang over a couch if the colors are right. Commercial work. That doesn’t work for me. I, too, don’t have the personality for sales and experienced a previous professional career where I was paid handsomely for my time. It makes it harder to keep lowering the price, doesn’t it? Wish I had answers for you. I just paint for myself now. I put the pieces on my website, post them on Facebook, five them away, and submit to the occasional show if I think my work fits the theme. Sometimes it feels like defeat. Other times it feels like freedom.

  21. Thanks Jason. The part you wrote about getting twenty rejections is comforting. I’ve recently attempted to re-enter the gallery system with no positive movement. Even galleries that offered me a spot a decade ago are not interested. It’s getting tougher, at least for me. Then again, I’m being a little picky… Not wishing to work with gallerists who have a reputation of no or slow payment upon sales.

    I’ve got a ways to go before I hit the 20 mark. Thanks again!

  22. Another attitude that helps me is to walk into a gallery to ask them where they would recommend I go to. They might know the gallery scene better than I do. It changes the dialog because both of us know that it isn’t likely that they would say yes.

  23. I just spent the weekend in Door County WI checking out galleries and found that only two of the nine galleries I’d short listed met my criteria. So first thing Sunday morning as soon as my first choice gallery opened I showed up with portfolio in hand and my practiced introduction. ( I would have been too scared to do this before I took your online seminar Jason, so thank you for the coaching.) The owner of the gallery was summoned and he spent about 20 minutes with me looking through my portfolio and telling me he loved my work that my prices were fair and had room to grow once I’d developed a collector base. This gallery does have an application process which opens in September so the owner made it clear that he does not make on the spot decisions. He encouraged me to apply in September and told me that he wanted to see eight new images in my portfolio by then. He also said that he was uncertain that my subject mater would sell in his gallery although he loved it. He went on to tell me that my technique, composition and color were so different and highly skilled that he and his wife would have to give my work some serious consideration. I came out of there feeling like I was floating on air even though I did not get a yes. The second gallery I visited just stone walled me and told me to apply in September the woman would not even look at my portfolio and told me that not every artist was privileged enough to visit her gallery and thats why she has a jury process. So now I really want to get into my first choice gallery because they made me feel like an accomplished artist, the other gallery made me feel like a second hand car salesman. But I guess I need to get past the emotions here right?

    1. First Jane- way to get out there! I would say several things. First, you should definitely follow-up and submit to both of the galleries. Truthfully, the chances of having either of these galleries, even the one where you had the positive experience, are slim, due to the number of submissions they likely receive, so it’s important to keep up the momentum and get out an talk to more galleries. Second, be sure and send a thank you note to both of the galleries.

      1. Yes, the thank you note; once again, excellent advice. Like you have coached about the process of selling our work, keep ourselves visible, caring, and in the brain of the buyer, gallery, clients, and others. On any given day the choice to buy or show our work might be made, and I’m finding it very important to make the connections, as we never know where they might lead.

    2. Regarding the second gallery – I agree with Jason that one should follow up with the thank you note and the submission in Sept., but considering how this gallery owner made you feel, even if she accepted you would you really want to work with her? If she left you feeling bad when you inquired about representation in person – standing in her gallery – imagine what it would be like to have to work with her. She could have suggested that you to apply in September without making you feel bad, and without using the word “privileged.”

  24. The most useful advice I have ever been given is to enter many shows every year and regularly enter the best shows available. Then if you come close to getting accepted into 50% of these you can feel very pleased with yourself.

    Rejections are just that the jurors preferred the work of some other artists, not that your work is inferior… it took me a while to get my head clear on this. Sometimes if the odds are high with many more applicants than spaces then for sure if you are rejected you can think of yourself as among the many quality artists who did not make it in. Some of the best and well known shows are just that way and if you get occasional acceptance consider yourself fortunate.

    I think of getting accepted into galleries in a similar way. You need to do this often and consistently. You need to target those galleries that you think are just right for you, galleries that show quality work of quality artists, and keep after them on a regular basis as acceptance does not always happen immediately. Sometimes they also may take in some of your works which are kept in the back room for showing to their clients to gather reactions, to judge if they want to make a more formal commitment. Sometimes this works out, sometimes it doesn’t, for a variety of reasons.

    The bottom line as I see it is to believe in your work and have a good plan for seeking out exhibitions and approaching galleries, and keep at it regularly. From what I have seen those artists who are the most organized and persistent seem to have the most success and those who are more sporadic are more likely to get tripped up by rejection.

  25. Great advice! I particularly enjoy getting a piece rejected from a regional show, then have it receive an award at an online show, rejected from another show and then accepted to an international show. It reminds me to keep working, keep submitting to galleries and juried shows, and let none of it get under my skin. My ‘job’ as an artist is to keep moving ahead, making newer and better pieces, and looking for people / dealers / galleries with a better sense of marketing & sales [than I have]. Some gallery rejections have been brutal…”not even looking at any new art. We can’t properly handle the artists we have now” I usually ask “what is your preferred method of submitting work for your consideration?” and the most frequent answer has been variations of ‘we’re not considering any new work’, ‘submit a disk’…to which I hand them a DVD with jpgs, statement and resume… Sometimes they add “not in person” and refuse it, some take it and respond by e-mail, and some take it and the disk vanishes from the planet. Just have to keep going and making new and looking for connections, no matter what.

  26. I just got my Abstracts from Nature show rejected by the local college gallery on the basis of a lack of concept and that the work was more a medium approach. I asked what they wanted 2 years ago and they wanted a focused theme but now my abstract works were not meeting their expectations at all. So Im totally bumbed and have decided to stop the abstract work on go back to the safety of landscapes and perhaps some wildlife work. I will try to sell the abstracts piece by piece to women buyers who like color palettes that work. It’s hard to be really excellent and there are simply tons of artists
    out there. Being good enough to stand out is illusive. I think some plein aire work is my best approach to improvement. Loosing this show was truly sad as I felt like I put it all on the line. I worked outside my comfort zone, I experimented with analogous color, texture, and approaches. I’m in the healing process now I don’t know if Im good enough but I paint because I want to paint so onward.

  27. Two Years ago I submitted to a large number of galleries as per their submission guidelines. I submitted via E-mail to 65 galleries that I had deemed good fits from my website review of their gallery. I received only 27 responses 18 of which were nice rejection e-mails 9 of which were good (want to see my work and visit) responses. After visiting these 9 galleries I gained representation in 3 One of which has produced sales and continues to be a good fit, another one was nice but produced zero sales and the third decided to close their doors and shut down. It was a tremendous amount of work to research the 65 galleries online and it was expensive to travel to the 9 visited galleries as a follow up. It completely tanked my art production that year. I understand that no response is essentially a rejection so out of 65 I was rejected 56 times (not in so many words) I never got an abusive rejection….all were nice e-mails if they responded. I am about to resubmit to galleries again except using the Jason method. In reviewing the rejecting gallery list I found that a large number of the galleries are now out of business. My concern isn’t so much rejection as it is the incredible amount of time and expense it takes to be rejected so often. There has to be a better way

  28. Wow, what a wonderful topic. Like most people, I hate rejection and struggle not to take it personally. Reading this blog and all the comments has been tremendously helpful in changing my attitude towards rejection. I am now almost looking forward to collecting my first 19 rejections so I can feel I’m inching a little closer to an acceptance. Thanks everyone!

  29. Thank you Jason for writing this article, I will reread it often and the replies. I have had my share of rejection and do not take it personally. I find after I recover from the disappointment, the wheels start turning in my mind and I dig in with a fresh approach and ideas. My biggest problem is finances, I start thinking about the panel of millionaires on Shark Tank when they tell the entrenpreneurs to PLEASE GIVE UP THE DREAM AND SPEND NO MORE MONEY.

  30. Though I have not tried many Galleries yet, I have been in group shows and open studio tour events. For the past twenty plus years I have had a successful decorative painting business where I do murals, faux finishes and tromp l’oeil. Every time I work on a mural (usually landscape) or tromp l’oeil I think of the painting instructor I had as an undergraduate who actually swore at me for switching to realism. That was his opinion but he really shook my confidence for quite a while..to the point I dreaded taking painting in grad school. I am very glad I persisted. I love my work but know that it is not for everybody. viva la diference

  31. I also want to thank Jason for his valuable comments, and the artists for entering their experiences.
    Recently I had an artist friend come to my studio/apartment and look at my work. She edited my portfolio book for consistency, then looked at my work and said it looked much better than the portfolio pictures, so I hope to sharpen up on those!
    Her visit evaporated several years of hurt and disappointment that affected my output, and from it I recommend some peer evaluation, if you know the peers to be honest and well-intentioned!
    My critique group is another valuable source of feedback, we have been together for 10 years, and have honed our work in that time.

  32. Jason,

    I hear you loud and clear, but it seems I need to hear it again and again. I have been procrastinating about pulling my art from a gallery that seems to be in neutral when it comes to marketing and selling art. How much lead time should I give them for removing my art? They are nice folks, just don’t have the drive or ambition to bother to sell.

    Also, the show thing gets me most. I must be too frugal. I hate the $50 fees that go along with entering a show. It seems to add up so quickly. I can buy two tubes of paint for that. Also, it seems the same folks always get into the same local shows. I really hate feeding them as much as I hate feeding a parking meter. Should I maybe move on to online and out of town shows?

    Thanks for all you do for artists. I truly appreciate it.

    Linda

    1. Saying goodbye can be difficult, especially when you get along well with the owners. I would try to give at least a couple of week’s notice. Just let them know that you have appreciated working with them, but that with sales as slow as they have been, it would probably be better for you to find a new venue, and to free up their wall space.

      Thanks Linda!

  33. I have joined in a lot of group art shows but I have not tried approaching any gallery and suffer a rejection. However, I always put myself on the other side of the picture, meaning, if a juror or a gallery owner rejected my work, I would put myself as the person rejecting it to find out why it is being rejected because there must be a reason why it is being rejected and try to learn from that experience until hopefully, it won’t be rejected the next time around.

    1. Sometimes it has nothing to do with whether they like your work. It may be timing. Try not to overthink it too much. Just keep knocking on doors until you get in with someone who likes your work at the right time.

  34. I agree, and after you have successes you know which places most likely will welcome your work and which ones not to bother with, and you move more quickly. Universal principle – identify HPPs. I learned to seek galleries that specialize in the same medium and theme as what I do, which is glass art, ideally garden themes.

    I have eliminated these:

    garden supply shops (just somehow never works)
    interior decorating stores (ditto)
    galleries that sell a lot of blown glass (though it is glass, it attracts a totally different clientele)
    any galleries with too incompatible themes (wine country landscapes, Southwestern art, new age art, country crafty art, etc…)

    I always check to see how long a gallery has been in business too. Since most do consignment I want to be sure they are reputable before I send them inventory that might do better somewhere else.

  35. I always look at a gallery rejecting me as them doing both of us a favor. You want the gallery who is repesenting you to believe in your work and stand behind you. This is their livelihood and will take work that they think they can sell.

  36. I am gearing up to approach galleries, I still have six months worth of painting left to do to build my portfolio. My problem is that I am having a hard time finding comparable artists, and by extension, galleries that may be interested in my work. I have been told my paintings are quite unique — is it possible to be too unique, sort of like that quirky house on the corner that is one of a kind, but no one really wants to buy?

  37. I have approached quite a number of galleries and only met rejection. I doubted my work. Yet continuous improvement is – I think – important anyway. I have acquired a “wet dog” mentality, shake it off, learn what is important, and keep working. With FASO I found Xanadu, and working diligently through Jason’s program, will help me – I have found a lot of mistakes in my procedures…. Though, eye opening for me was that the gallery also owes a debt to who ever they are involved with. If the gallery representative ignores someone coming in, or their behavior (thinking I am a customer) is icier than 10 pounds of frozen beef, then I better leave and do not even want to “hang” there.

    1. Thanks John, being at the beginning of the process, it is encouraging to hear that you think it is marketable. I am submitting my first piece to a juried exhibit this month. The first of many. I appreciate the insight from everyone here, knowing that rejection is going to happen. Foreknowledge will make it easier to accept when it happens. In theory, anyway!!

  38. This book is great. About this blog, I will keep this for certain… Dr. Seusse’s Cat In The Hat 27 times rejected! Thanks for writing your book Jason!

  39. Hi I live in Switzerland, and I have tried lots of Galleries, had a lot of rejections with the reason that they aready have
    enough Artist. And a few said that my work was not suitable for there Gallery,but I did get invitations to exibit in a few Galleries around the Lake Zürich, and in St. Moritz and managed to sell quite a few works. Now With the help of Jason I`m getting more confidence and making a new Portfilo, and doing open days in my Studio, have lerned not to give up!
    Nächst year will be getting a new Website too.
    thanks Jason.
    Janet

  40. I gathered my courage and approached our local art centre which has a gallery. They requested that I submit photos (jpg) of my work, which I happily did, and then I heard nothing. I did follow up and was told that the person responsible had been too busy, and that they would be reviewing all submissions in a future month. The month came, and still no feedback, so I assumed it was a “no”. I would very much have appreciated feedback of any kind… it can help you grow!

  41. I think that when you enter juried shows, winning everything you enter or looking for gallery representation, if you are accepted to more than you are rejected from, you are probably not stretching and pushing hard enough to be outside your comfort zone…..just a thought……

  42. Jason, I want to thank you for all your advice and help. I put a lot of effort into my work in the last ten years. I’m finally ready to start going to galleries with my portfolio. My story is similar to everyone who has commented. I’ve been in several group shows and next Feb.2015 my work will be featured in a good local gallery, but I’m not represented by any galleries on a regular basis. I have several styles of work plus some controversial work. it is difficult editing my portfolio and that is my next project. I’m familiar with rejection and I’m just now learning to deal it. Your advice and the other comments on this blog are invaluable. Thanks

  43. Jason, Your ideas have been so valuable. I feel like I’ve learned a lot already and can’t wait for the auditing of the mentorship to start in September.

  44. Always good advice!
    Remember if you enter exhibits & art shows you will also get some rejections. And the next time you enter you win a placement or honorable mention. It can depend on the art judge or the time of day.LOL Rejection is only momentary! We, however, need to do what we feel is our best and even at that some we are not sure of also can be winners. Is like the eye of the beholder. Some major galleries are difficult to get into as they may focus on a certain style, established artist or even the pricing. So pays to research the ones you hope to get into before contacting and then getting that rejection. Thanks for the input!

  45. Just starting on this path to gallery/exhibits/one-woman shows, I learned that the harder the criticism, the better my work becomes. When a gallery owner or a judge critiques any work, I go back and improve it, or take it in a new direction altogether. After painting for more than 40 years, I’m not afraid to try new materials and techniques, and discovered that by settling on a theme — It’s Elemental — all kinds of ideas became art on the canvas, panel or paper. Jason, your advice is wonderful, and feels as if you care about your artists. Nurturing is so important.

  46. Art and tastes are so varied that we can’t let rejection settle into us like it’s absolute truth. If we are sure of our foundation of quality and we’re paying attention to the integrity of a painting as its own reality, then we have to see beyond rejection. I always think of Van Gogh, his lack of sales and the millions his paintings now bring at auction. Acceptance or rejection is mostly subjective. We have an internal gauge that’s always accessible and have to respect that wisdom.

    I keep a rejection letter I once got from a national exhibition. It reveals that the Best of Show the previous year had been juried out the year before that. Different judge, different preference.

  47. Talking about the odds of getting into a gallery. I’ve found that when I visit a gallery to see if my work would be a fit I find that only two out of eleven galleries will work for me. Which means I would have to canvas the country looking for galleries if the odds were 20 to 1 of getting accepted. Its a conundrum and expensive looking for galleries. I wonder if my state arts council offers grants to artists to cover travel expenses? How many galleries does an artist need anyway?

  48. I am a silver jewelry artist and still basically a ‘newbie’ at this gallery stuff. I have been in 4 galleries so far, 2 in Virginia, and 2 here in Denver. I am gearing up for the ‘gallery hunt’. I don’t know which is worse…my fear of failure or my fear of success! Right now, I am doing shows and festivals in the area to make money to support my creativity, and am looking at prospective jewelry stores as an alternative to galleries. It is good to know that there are others struggling with the issues of selling themselves and their art. Thanks for this site, where I can at least find commiseration with other artists!

  49. Someone once told me “the road to success is paved with rejections.” With that in mind, I have always kept a folder for shows applied to, shows accepted, and shows rejected. I learned early on that a painting rejected in one show might actually win an award in the next show. Also I learned early on, the very painting you might hesitate to include in a show might be the first to sell. That’s the unique thing about selling art.

  50. A few years back, I got a call from a new gallery opening in NC.
    The curator had hand picked about 8 pieces from my website.

    Before sending my work, I checked with the Better Business Bureau,The Chamber of Commerce in the city.
    The family are well know philanthropists and even have an art center named after them at a university.
    I thought I had done a good search and sent my work off for the opening.

    No sales were made the first season for me or ever. After 3 years, they closed the gallery without letting anyone know
    and kept my work. 3 of the pieces were part of a series and another had been published in an art magazine.

    This was my worst experience with a gallery. The gallery owner is a multi millionaire developer – I was never able to recover any of this work.

  51. My first Galley experience was wonderful. I was in a local art show and at the opening reception I was approached by a local business owner who was impressed with my work. He wanted to open a gallery that summer, and asked me to be their first solo artist. Initially I was to be there one month but was later asked to stay for the season as my work was selling. I sold well but since I had to frame over 50 large to small, and sold only small and medium sized pieces my profit wasn’t huge. The exposure was great though and brought new students to my classes. I was then asked by the co-op next door to be a guest artist, the down side of this was I had to rent the wall space and although they said they advertise the shows, they did not include quests in their advertising only the co-op members. I declined to renew when asked, I sold nothing there. I also tried a “vanity gallery” where you pay to rent the wall space but sold nothing there either. I then went to another local, traditional gallery and again sold well until the owner had to close the gallery to move with her husbands job. When I was in the “traditional” galleries I paid 50% commission but the owners worked to sell my art. In the galleries where I had to pay to show they did have receptions and they advertised but they didn’t “sell” and they had a different clientele. In my opinion it may be harder to get into a quality gallery, but if it is run well, it is well worth it.
    As for rejection, sometimes it is just being in the right place at the right time. I have submitted to shows and been refused then submitted the same piece to a much more prestigious show and won an award.
    As I reread this, am I seeing a common thread here?
    Better show…Better gallery…Better chance of sales or awards…Better rewards?

  52. In early 2013 I presented to a gallery that I had decided was the “best” gallery in the area to present at. It took a few trips into the gallery to even get the opportunity to present. The first time I approached on a whim with no work and asked very basic questions about membership that likely made me come off as a beginner. I was told I would be put on the waiting list. I’ve heard that a few times from various galleries and it seems to be a statement that actually means “we are not interested”. A few weeks later I displayed at a farmers market not far from the gallery and after a great day that built my confidence, decided as I was taking work back to my car that I should stop by the gallery again. This time a different person was working the gallery who was more receptive to my approach. I showed him some work, which went well, and left a business card with my website, which was shared with the other members. They decided to give me a chance to present at their next monthly meeting. At the time I hadn’t had a chance to print much of my newer work (photography) and my presentation included fewer pieces than I’d wished and not my best work. Needless to say I was not accepted. When the gallery director called to inform me of this, we talked a while and he said the work on my website seemed worthy of gallery representation, but my printed body of work did not reflect that. He was very kind and encouraged me to present again in a year if I still felt a desire to be represented by the gallery. I worked very hard at increasing my inventory of new work, and after only 4 months felt confident in my presentation and went in to ask if I could present again the following meeting. The person working that day kept steering me to other galleries when I’d ask to present again, so I left feeling stone-walled. Being that a different person was in the gallery every visit so far, I went in a couple days later and asked a different person if I could present again, being that I’m very interested and have already met my goals for an improved presentation. I was given another chance after that visit, and accepted as a member to the gallery! In my 9 months of membership, I’ve led the gallery in sales 3 months and it is providing enough income to expand into a second gallery. I went from making virtually no income from photography to about two-thirds in the 8 months and everything is changing. It’s one of the best decisions I’ve made and still feels kind of unreal.

  53. Rejection is something I know well, I apply to about 20 galleries a month and have cold called on most galleries in Santa Fe near where I live, most won’t even look at the work, though the ones that have liked my work a lot, just had no room. I have been working on a new and much improved body of work, so I have stopped submitting for a while, once I have enough of the new work I will try again and again. I NEVER give up. I do have much better luck getting juried into shows, so for now that is what I do to get my work out there. I know there is a gallery out there for my work, it is not cookie cutter and it deserves a gallery that sees it’s merit and wants to sell it.
    Keep going, keep painting and never stop growing.

  54. Great Article! This journey has become a routine for me. I just try and send inquiries to galleries I think may be a good fit every week. Keeping track of the inquiry as well as the responses, if any, are very important. I try and join their blogs if I can and just keep plugging away. It IS very discouraging but hopefully worth it in the end. Kudos to all you artists out there looking, it’s a rough haul.

  55. Hi. There is no sense in approaching a gallery or exhibition unless you are well acquainted with the way they do business. Visit; to see your competition, to examine the way the art is arranged and find out if they are proactive in selling. Have they taken any updated classes lately?

    Also I know there is a great deal more that my portfolio can do for me AFTER I have accumulated a grander amount of excellent work. I find it difficult having “X” amount of work set aside for exhibitions, “X” number for website purposes and then “X” amount for portfolio sharing. They are separate entities in my art studio, because I want to avoid confusion as to what is available to whom and when. There is a “collection” under my maiden name that I sign again with my married name. I hate losing the small following that knew me by my maiden name. No on told me that it could be such a problem. YEA, they are mine. I just hate to ruin what I consider a finished painting by taking the matting and frame off of the piece once more. It isn’t laziness. Matching the precise paint color is the issue in most cases. I have learned to sign my work in only two colors. One for darker areas and one for the lighter areas. This has caused a few rejections from my buyers. It is a shame, so I generally keep them to myself as a Not-for-Sale item. I do not know if this is going to be practical for much longer.

    Notifying the followers of the name change has not had any response.

  56. I was just thinking that rejection may be part of the networking process. When a gallery is not interested in my material, I think it would be appropriate to ask for a referral to one they feel may be better suited for my work. Maybe a rejection can be an opportunity to learn more about how mine and theirs compare.

    Perhaps it is not the art that is being rejected. Perhaps it is the way the biography was written, or maybe there is not enough quality pieces or maybe the work is too much like another artist’s in their space, or just maybe the art that is brought in the portfolio is far more superior than what is on display. This would hurt the established artists. It can happen. I do feel that most art representatives are being upfront with artists, but many could not pass a customer service test that includes consideration. I have had only one terrible experience, therefore I am still optimistic.

    Thank you Jason, because this subject is truly thought provoking material.

  57. I commented in May about the small gallery I was in. The owner was inexperienced and had very few art sales. I was considering removing my work. I decided that I would wait until I had another cohesive body of work before I moved on. While dedicating the majority of my effort to the newer work, I was sure to nurture the small gallery and swap out work regularly. Surprise, surprise, the gallery owner began selling my work. Patience is a word that I am not intimately familiar with. I’m working on that relationship. In the meantime, I am still working on myself to approach more galleries. Courage AND patience? It’s a tough combination. Thanks, Jason. I like some of the suggestions I’ve read in these remarks. I plan to incorporate them into my plans and goals for 2015. It’s almost that time.

  58. A few months back I submitted a sculpture for a recycled art show. I was rejected. Out of curiosity I went to the show to see what I was up against. It was help at a gallery in an artist loft building. As I walked around I happened upon a studio with the door open. He invited me in to take a look and asked if I was exhibiting in the show. I told him I had submitted but wasn’t chosen and showed him some photos. Tomorrow night is the opening of his 6 week exhibition in which I have 5 pieces!
    Keep trying and don’t be afraid of no!!!

  59. What a great topic. The more I try to get out there, the more rejections I get . I’ve had lots of successes – getting into juried show, best visual artist of 2014 (Sacramento), invitational shows, but its the rejection that linger. I have to remind myself that is part of being on a professional artist tract, but it still stings each time. Your article as all of them and the comments from other artist in this series is very on point and helpful. Thank you.

  60. Nothing is harder than to works for months on an art piece and have someone who could purchase the item begin belittling your art, your skill, your personality and your moral code of ethics. Then I realized I struct a deep cord into that person’s psyche. Not all artwork needs to be hung on someones wall, some art is for the sake of art itself.

  61. It’s about fit. It’s about knowing what the curator or artistic director is looking for when they put out a call for art. It’s about understanding what is selling at a particular venue. It’s about having a tight and concise message about who you are and why you do what you do. It’s business (sales). Like it or not.

  62. Knowing that most galleries will receive at least 100 applications a year and will only take a handful of new artists is the best informed tool that helps me understand rejection. Internet provides such an amazing platform to create our own fan base and clientele that today I do not find galleries essential to lead an art career. Developing our own following is also great for building up our confidence. Once we know that our work is good and that we have found our specific “family” in the world, it is only time until we will find the right gallery that will really connect with our work. The galleries that “reject” my work are not a problem for me as I realize that it is simply that their venue is not the right fit for what I do.

  63. I have two areas of interest in my painting. Traditional impressionistic -landscapes, seascapes, animals, and abstracts where I focus on color and impact. (wow factor). Should I develop two different portfolios or put both in one, but in different sections?

  64. rejection with some constructive criticism can actually be a good thing. One must keep an open mind and not take it personally – listen to what they have to say and put some thought into it. They could have a valid point – or they could just prefer a different style. The worst gallery owner experience I had was a gentleman who totally tore every piece I showed him apart – and then would grudgingly offer to buy them for a dirt cheap price. LOL! After he finished trashing half a dozen of my pieces, I told him no thanks – but if I ever started to get a swelled head he would be the first person I would come to

  65. Rejection does hurt no matter how many times it happens. I don’t think that one ever gets used to it nor do I think that they should.
    I was recently rejected by a local gallery. I followed up on the rejection letter to ask if there was anything that I could have done to make a difference in their choice not to accept my art. Was it that they didn’t have a market for oriental brush paintings, was it the price, the quality of my art??? Their answer was that they already have too many artist that they can’t take on additional ones. They were nice enough to respond to my questions and I very much appreciated it.
    I don’t take the rejections as personal but as a business decision. So this rejection goes into my file with the others. Onward and upward with the gallery search!!.
    One thing that stands out in my mind is a quote from my teacher (Mr. Henry Wo) “you must be able to defend your art.”
    I think each rejection letter (and there have been many) makes me really work harder to improve. Artist are very strong minded. I don’t paint for the market or for a judge. I paint for myself putting my heart and sole into my art and I absolutely love it even if I never sale a painting again or get into a gallery.

  66. After I left college I remember applying for some entry level position, probably in graphics design, in New York City. Rather than just tossing the application, they sent a letter back stating that, “We will not be requiring your services, not now or anytime in the future”. In the past I’ve had some work accepted into juried shows, mostly out of my local area. Probably I’ll start looking at that again. Probably not New York, though.

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