Monday, June 29

When Your Art Is Rejected from a Juried Art Show- How to Live with It

Today’s Image
Zia No. 2
Acrylic on Canvas

Today’s a Monday, which seems like a good day of the week for today’s blog, which is about rejection. I’m not talking about all the kinds of rejection there are in life, such as not getting hired or losing a job or the break-up of a relationship, all of which can be unpleasant experiences. Today’s Image is a painting of mine that was rejected recently from a local contemporary art show.

I’m talking about the rejection that artists regularly endure and that comes about after their artwork has been turned down or not deemed good enough for a show or exhibit at a gallery or similar venue. Artists being artists, this can be a bitter pill to swallow.

Why is this so? Well, the general consensus is that artists are known for being right-brained with traits such as being intuitive, good with images and color, spatial perception, feelings and emotions, and seeing the whole, etc. For some reason, people often say things like, “he/she in one of his/her moods, you know, he’s/ she’s an artist.” Like we should be immune or something.

I don’t like stereotypes, and I think it’s natural to feel down after a rejection occurs no matter what label, including “artist,” you put on people. The key is how down you let yourself feel on a scale from deeply depressed to slightly miffed or somewhere in between.

What most people don’t realize (or even think about) is that the vocation of an artist is probably more prone to rejection than just about any other career with the possible exception of acting. This is because creating art results in artwork, which is visual, and whose only reason for existence is to be viewed. Of course, if you’re an artist who has never, ever shown your art to anyone, and you never plan to, then you have not experienced the kind of rejection we’re talking about.

I once read a biography of the mid-20th century actor, Rosalind Russell, who described acting as, “standing up naked and turning around very slowly.” What she meant is that as an actor, you put yourself “out there” for everyone to see and comment on. I make the case that this goes for artists, too.

There’s vulnerability in what artists do, and it hurts when you/your work is rejected. As the current saying goes, what doesn’t kill you makes you stronger. That’s a little too glib for me, and –ouch—it still hurts.

At those times, I like to remember Henri Matisse’s quote, “creativity takes courage.”

It most assuredly does. When my own art is rejected, I like to think positive thoughts, such as your art will never be acknowledged (or shown) if you never enter it in a juried exhibit or the more simplistic, nothing-ventured-nothing-gained.

I like to think most jurors of art are experienced and open minded, well intentioned, with nothing but the highest scruples and best interests of all the artists at heart.

But, darn it, they’re only human, so I know there must have been some mistake...



  1. I keep all my rejection letters just for fun! Usually they are police thanks but no thanks ones, but once I got a rejection letter that was quite nasty!

    I've accepted rejection as a necessary evil in this industry, and usually I'm able to shrug it off. But there are times when I'm particularly excited about a certain opportunity, and it's a lot tougher then when it doesn't work out.

  2. You have a lot of patience, as I usually hit the delete key as fast as I can; that is, if they even let you know via email. The last show told me if you didn't get a call by 8:00 p.m., then assume you weren't selected. I appreciate your comments, keep them coming.

  3. Hi;
    I have been an artist all my life,I have sold to collectors from new york at 50 times the "going rate" for the kind of piece I provided,and for the kind of peace I provided.
    My Mother and Father were artists(as is everyone not wasted by this crazy "society") My Father used to say "I would not let them jury my droppings" Monetary success in the arts does not equate to knowledge ,skill or wisdom in creating imagery,nor does it make a person capable of Judging others work.Actually due to the detrimental effects of the so called "Modern art movement" much of what is accepted as sincere art these days is still a show of drivel to me("lookee here I can make a big mud-pie mess and people will stand around and try to seem wise by talking about how ""deep "" it is") I'm sorry but bletch I would pay $60.00 for about three of Jackson Polluck's paintings ,and use the rest to decorate laundry mats in east L A where wiser graffiti artists would work them over good. To get one of these promoters talking nonsense about my classical art would be an insult in the simplest sense.And a devastation of culture.
    The average children's class at third grade level produces superior art to 80% of what I see in Galleries.. So have fun down there opening night with the chatting people and gleaming lights,I'll be out somewhere listening to the frogs,I still prefer them to Opera.

  4. I have just received a rejection from a prominent auctioneer. I find it hard to cope with when I see the drivel they are selling, many that are nowhere as good as mine. I have a BA Degree in Art and have been an art lecturer teaching in the colleges here in Ireland yet I am not good enough for them, yet they have lots of unqualified people sending in amateur art. It's so frustrating more than anything. Thanks for reading this.

    1. Hang in there. I hoped the blog helped put things in perspective.

  5. Entered my first online competition and had three out of five recognized in some way. Just entered my first local gallery competition and was flat out rejected. Art is in the eye of the beholder and, while I am wholeheartedly disappointed, I am not going to let the opinion of one juror get me down. I plan on attending the reception anyway to meet people and see what did make it, have a great time and MOVE ON! Thank you for your post, it was decidedly helpful, especially the last sentence... :)