This post is by guest author, Richard Christian Nelson. This article has been edited and published with the author's permission. You should submit an article and share your views as a guest author by clicking here. This author's views are entirely his own and may not always reflect the views of BoldBrush, Inc.
As an artist, it is important to develop a thick skin. It is impossible to create work that everyone is going to like. Those that are indifferent to our work, or actively dislike it, can cause us great pain and can influence us more than perhaps they should. I had an experience recently that may help to parse out rejection.
One weekend, I was in Atlanta doing some adjustments to some recently delivered charcoal portraits and everything was going great...until my last appointment. The client brought out her daughter's drawing and said that it was unacceptable, it looked like she had a hair lip, we need to start over, etc. I was completely unprepared for this and it was a shock.
Now, generally I am very happy to make adjustments if I can see that they will help. And I'm even happy to start over if the drawing has gotten too far off track. It was the client's attitude that really disarmed me. I took the drawing and said I'd get back to her. Since then, I've have had some time to try to figure out how to handle this rejection.
Essentially the choice comes down to this in any rejection situation: is it worth the effort to try to salvage the situation or is it best to accept the disappointment and move on? We cannot please everyone and some will prove impossible to please, no matter how hard we try. I think the key is to not internalize a lasting sense of failure. The great majority of my clients are very happy with my work. But we can have 99 successes and 1 failure yet, somehow, we tend to internalize the bad experience.
This can be true of many aspects of being an artist; there is passive rejection in the form of poor sales, inability to get into a certain gallery, perceived lack of interest in our work (sometimes by galleries that do represent us!). And there is active rejection like paintings being returned, hearing disparaging things said about our work or what I experienced that weekend. These can drown out all the good things in our creative life if we're not careful!
Perhaps at these times it is good to consider the patron saint of rejection, Vincent Van Gogh. How ironic that this artist, who never had any success during his lifetime, is one of the most revered artists of all time! I also love the quote from Kipling's 'If':
"...If you can meet with triumph and disaster
And treat those two imposters just the same..."
It seems that it is a small percentage of people who are really going to love a particular artist's work. It is ultimately our mission to find those that love our work but that is a different topic. I've decided to do what I would normally do; offer to schedule another sitting and start over, hoping for better results.
However, what I am really trying to do differently is to not dwell too long on the issue. Ultimately, we are like waves pounding the beach. We just keep at it, knowing that we are doing what we were put on earth to do and always trying to advance down the endless road of learning and becoming better artists and people.