There’s nothing quite like the devastating feeling that comes with facing rejection after rejection. So many artists feel as if their art is an extension of themselves, making each rejection sting in a profoundly personal way. So what do you do if you keep getting rejected? How do you handle that rejection?
It’s easy to say, “Brush it off and move on!” But that doesn’t really help, does it? Luckily, there are some steps you can take to feel better and get noticed. While even the best of artists will experience rejection at some point (and they have!), there’s more you can do than simply hope for the best next time.
Rebound from Art Rejection and Plan for the Next Time
Okay, so you got rejected. You keep getting rejected. It feels terrible. The last thing you should do is give up. Rejection is common, and not only for artists. Not only is someone else going through the same thing as you, but you probably wouldn’t beat that person up too much for getting rejected either, so don’t beat yourself up!
Instead of taking the time to wallow, take the time to strategize. It’s okay to let it sting, but don’t let it consume you. Don’t live in denial. Don’t tell yourself you didn’t want the job or the recognition anyway. Denial won’t help you learn to live with rejection. As an artist, rejection is something you’ll have to learn to bear.
Sometimes, rejection is due to the art industry’s highly selective nature, but that doesn’t mean you shouldn’t always be looking to improve yourself and grow. Every single artist has somewhere they can improve. Nobody gets anywhere by staying the same, so make the next round of applications different.
Regain Confidence After Your Art Gets Rejected
Try and go into the next round with confidence. After a rejection, this can be easier said than done, but there are many ways to build confidence. Try setting small and achievable goals while working with your submissions and applications. Keep doing art.
Try and learn more about a subject or technique you don’t know much about. Build your knowledge base. Gaining knowledge is a super useful way to build confidence. It’ll help you in your applications and help you feel more qualified.
Take Your Time to Reduce the Risk of Your Art Being Rejected
While it’s tempting just to send out 1,000 generic portfolio emails, and you may feel it’s the only way to eventually get noticed, make sure you’re putting in time and dedication each time you send out your portfolio. In fact, generic emails often get deleted. You don’t want to end up overlooked before someone even takes a look at your art.
Taking more time for each application will make it more likely that you’ll get a response. Think about it! If you put thought into your application and adjust your portfolio to cater to the job you’re applying for, the person on the receiving end will likely put more thought into it as well.
You should know the company or gallery you’re emailing. Take some time to research who they are and what their values are. Fine-tune your portfolio to fit what that gallery or business is looking for and what they want. Tailor your letter to them in a way that’s personalized.
Submit to the Right Places
Don’t waste your time on places that aren’t right for your work. It should seem obvious, but it’s a common mistake when you’re sending your artwork out without much research. Some places may only select particular styles, and it doesn’t look professional to send your work there if it doesn’t fit.
When it comes to galleries, make sure the gallery you’re submitting to showcases art from people at the point you are in your career. Your work should also have similar aesthetics and prices as the galleries you’re reaching out to.
Use Email Etiquette to Avoid Having Your Artwork Rejected
Make sure when you’re sending out emails that the emails are professional. Keep your message concise and cordial. Make sure you check it for errors. Make sure your portfolio is well laid out and that your images are appropriately titled.
Don’t email places that clearly state they don’t want emails or unsolicited submissions. That’ll just annoy the wrong people. Instead, carefully curtail a list of places you may have a chance with.
You shouldn’t copy and paste emails or even use the same exact portfolio for every place you submit to. Make sure you aren’t just showing random places your work. Clearly and respectfully lay out what you want from them and why you’re submitting to them.
When submitting files via email, you may be tempted to submit very large files. Don’t do it over email. Submit large files over a cloud service or offer larger files if they’re interested. Many galleries don’t like large files directly over email.
Remember, not all galleries and companies will respond to you. Don’t be too discouraged by that. Try and make a note of places you’ve submitted to so you don’t wind up double-submitting too early down the line.
Take a Look at Your Portfolio After Repeated Art Rejections
Remember all the elements that make a portfolio unique. How can you change them up? Make sure your labels are kept short and sweet. Are your samples organized in a way that makes sense? Lots of artists neglect the organization of their portfolios.
It’s also important to remember that, unless it’s stated otherwise, you shouldn’t worry about how many pieces you put in your portfolio. Think of the quality of your work above everything else. You should also make sure your portfolio properly showcases your technical abilities and has recent work.
Another important question to ask yourself about your portfolio is, does this stand out? Try not to include too many cliché pieces that you’ll find in any other portfolio. Drawings of an apple may show off your shading skills, but do they accurately show off who you are as an artist? The kind of work you’re hoping to get should be reflected in the pieces you put in your portfolio.
Constantly Improve Yourself Despite Multiple Artwork Rejections
One of the worst things you can do in the face of multiple rejections is to decide not to change anything at all. Look over your emails, and most importantly, look over your portfolio. How is your art laid out? How are your emails written? What could you improve?
Think about the advice above regarding your emails and your portfolio. Try and change at least one thing about your strategy when submitting places. Know that you’re headed in the right direction.
If you don’t know what to change, get feedback! Reach out to expert artists for advice. If it’s appropriate, take the time to respond to rejection emails and ask for clarification. If you’re continually improving, learning, and growing, and if you’re constantly working on making your submissions better, you’ll be more sure to find success somewhere!
Rethink what “Failure” Means to You
When it comes to coping, try reframing what failure means to you. Should failure mean rejection, which we all face? Or should “failure” just mean not giving it your all? Know that you are more than whether or not someone wants your work.
When it comes to rejection, we often dwell too much on what we could have done differently instead of what we’ll do in the future. Each rejection is one step closer to an opportunity that’s right for you.
There’s no actual failure or shame in putting yourself out there, even if it didn’t go how you wanted it to go. There’s only shame in not trying. Remind yourself that you had the confidence to put your work out there. You have a beautiful portfolio and a passion for art. You are not a failure.
Remind Yourself that Rejection of Your Art is Not Personal
Telling yourself it’s not personal is way easier said than done. Most artists feel intrinsically linked to their art. Many artists are sensitive. But just because someone didn’t accept your work, that doesn’t mean you’re unacceptable. The artworld is saturated. You’re facing incredible competition.
Rejection doesn’t even mean someone saw your work as bad, it could just mean you weren’t the right fit. While these things can be easy to think about logically, it can still be hard to cope emotionally. You aren’t alone. Use your rejections as motivation and nothing else. Leave the past behind and embrace the future with optimism.
Keep Pushing Through Artwork Rejection
The art world can sometimes feel ruthless, but you are not worthless. There is someone out there who will take a liking to your work if you put the effort in. Remember why you’re an artist in the first place. Rejection is a natural part of most artists’ paths.
Remember that both you and your work have value. Talk to people in your life if you’re struggling. There’s reassurance out there! Hopefully, if you feel like you’re drowning in a sea of rejection, this helps. Remember to take actionable steps in response to rejection. Good luck out there, and most importantly, keep going!