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Rejection Does Hurt

by Sandy Askey-Adams, PSA on 5/13/2011 9:29:12 AM

This post is by guest author, Sandy Askey-Adams, PSA.  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. We've promoted this post to feature status because it provides great value to the FineArtViews community.  If you want your blog posts listed in the FineArtViews newsletter with the possibility of being republished to our 14,000+ subscribers, consider blogging with FASO Artist Websites.  This author's views are entirely her own and may not always reflect the views of BoldBrush, Inc.


Even the sound of the word, or seeing it written, "Rejection" can have an emotional impact on our feelings, our moods. It can make us cry. It can bring us down, almost into an abyss.  It is not a kind word.  In anything in life, rejection is a hard thing to handle, accept and get through.  It can tear us in two. Make us feel unimportant, non-essential. Less than who we are.  At times, we need our friends or family to help cheer us back.


Many of us may have began to learn the meaning of this nasty word when we were children. I can remember way back in school as a little child feeling the sting of rejection when I wanted to be a part of a group of children playing a game.  "Go away, we don't want to play with you."  Ouch.  I don't even think I thought of the actual word, "Rejected", but I knew its pain.  Thankfully, it did not last long.  Soon, the other children and I were all together playing, laughing and having fun.


But, rejection is a word we well know the meaning of and how it can tear at us if we allow it to take hold of us... Like when your boyfriend or girlfriend breaks up with you.  That can feel like rejection at its worse.  Rejection breaks hearts. There is no doubt about that.


Do we learn from rejection? What is its purpose in this world?  Even the best of the best and the kindest of the kindest have suffered through rejection. It is a part of life.  Hmm, do you think we could simply just reject "rejection" from our life, from this world?


So why on earth did any of us as artists choose one of the most challenging and hardest professions?  Did we not realize the rejections we would be subjected to at one time or another...and few of us are lucky enough to have escaped those rejections in the field of art. Why didn't other artists tell us how many times their hearts were broken through rejection? At least some kind of a warning.  At times even in art class, we could feel rejected. 


We enter art shows knowing the possibility of that rejection, but then, if we don't enter, we will never know either -- being accepted or being rejected. So, we end up taking a chance on feeling that numbing pain should we happen to be rejected.   Can't we just go on about our life painting and not worry about entering art shows and being rejected or accepted?  Why do we need to subject ourselves to such misery?  Well, because it is supposed to help us learn, to aim that arrow higher, do better work next time.  But, we are already always trying to do better work without all that rejection, aren't we?


We eventually learn to pick ourselves up amidst the tears because it is expected and it is the best thing to do. We tell ourself next time it will be better. OR, we tell ourself, I will NEVER enter again. But, somehow we regain our confidence.  We are determined creatures.


How many reasons are there for an artist's works to be rejected? Obviously, something must be wrong with it. OR is it the personal taste of the judge or jury? Maybe you did a painting of cows and the judge doesn't like cows.  Hmmmm. Could that really be a good reason for rejection?  No.  But it can happen. Doesn't have to be cows. Could be another subject.  Is the work too average looking? Can it be rejected for that?  Is there nothing about it that moves the spirit? Where is the flaw in the work?  Were there too many similar subjects in the show? Was there room in the show for only a certain number of art works?  


The thing is, usually when art work is rejected, we are presented with a rejection slip without an explanation as to why it was rejected.  It sure would be helpful to know why.


Then, we have all had it happen in which one painting can be rejected in a show and win an award in the next show.  Whew, it seems rejection is not a hard and fast word that means what it means in all juried art shows or the art work would be rejected in every art show you entered the work in. Does that even make sense?  Guess different personalities are involved and different tastes or different criteria ideas of what makes a painting, great, very good, good or not so good or poorly executed.


The good thing is when the opposite happens.  That beautiful word "Accepted."  We know that feeling, too. Now there can be tears of joy. There has to be wins and some success among all the rejections.  We may fly even higher into the clouds because our work was accepted or won a major award.


We, as artists do have to risk all the rejections so that we can move ahead. To pay the dues.  Having felt the "Agony of Defeat"  makes the achievement and success even more desirable and special and we need the rejection to appreciate that when it happens, no matter how painful the sound of the word is. 


Eventually we can learn to take the rejection a bit easier when there are wins along with it.  If we don't enter art shows out of fear of rejection, then we will never know the "Pleasure of Success."   As artists, we do deserve that.   Besides, we can always use the rejection slips and letters as wallpaper.  Then, we'll have a place to hang all the awards and ribbons.

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Related Posts:

Handling Rejection

Thoughts On Rejection

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mimi torchia boothby watercolors
oh yes it does hurt, and most of us have an uphill battle to get "there". How many rejections do you have to get before you get an acceptance? Will some of us quit trying before that happens?

I for one decided to quit trying until I give up my straight job. It just felt like tossing money away. Of course without the job, i will have even less to throw around. But I'll keep painting.

Charlotte Herczfeld
Sandy, thank you for a gentle and thoughtful article. We should definitely let rejection get us down, as there is a fair amount of 'lottery', or 'chance' in selection of artwork for a show. One thing came to mind: Maybe it is wise to not let *accepted* get to our heads, either. Reason: The same amount of 'lottery/chance'...

As long as the paintings find new homes, with people who love and care for them, 'accepted' or 'rejected' doesn't matter.

jack white
Sandy, if you think there is rejection in art you should try writing. The guy that wrote Conan the Barbarian received 360 rejection ship before finding an agent. Juries shows are set up for 95 percent rejections. Only a select few win and all too often it's the same people walking away with the prize.

I wrote the book titled FEAR: The Malady of Art to help artists deal with rejection. All of us will encounter many rejections in our life, it's how we deal with them what counts. Someone said, "What doesn't break us will make us stronger." jack

Susie Cassens
Rejection can also be a learning experience and an opportunity to try something new which can open more doors if we choose see it in the right light. Don't put your eggs all in one basket.

Margi Lucena
It is very true, Sandy. Putting your heart into your work and not making it into a show is hard. But quitting is not an option for most of us, so we keep on doing this thing we love so much!
I was a bit surprised and disapointed when I got an email from an excellent artist (quite well known) who's lovely work had made it into a juried national show, and when he didn't place in this show, he wrote letters to the other artists in the show asking them to write and complain about the crappy judging and awful winners. (Irony here...I happened to have placed 3rd in this show, so what does that make me?) Pretty dissapointing to see one of my favorite artists behave this way.
It's understandable to feel sad when we create a work that we feel good enough about to enter in a show, but to fall to pieces and slam the artists who did, and the judges who chose other works, well...not so good...
Oh, say Hi to BJ.

dori Spector
Boy did this essay on Rejection (Sandy Askey Adams)just echo all my feeling and frustrations. Lately, I keep questioning even starting a new painting. Why, I say, when I know there will be tons of hours into it,models fees, framing costs and then will not sell or get rejected by a pretigious organization. Then I remember the words of one hardy craftsperson when a bunch of us were waiting to be seen by Henri Bendel. (They had a day in NYC where you can show them your wares.) "Don't take no for an answer." When I get really down , tears and all, I remember that, and it was more than 20 years ago.Sometimes, I think well maybe it was between my piece and another artist and I was that close!! However, there is still the politcs in shows that get right to my core. It seems that the same people get in to the prestigious shows. I can almost predict the results. And then there is Facebook, where if you pat my back, I will pat yours. I however keep going on because I have to. Dori Spector

Margi Lucena
Jack White..great comments!

Ellie Harold
As traumatic as it is to have my work rejected, I never realized how difficult it would be to have the authority to reject someone else's work until I had the (dubious) honor of judging a local art center show last year.

As a newcomer to the area, I was chosen as both jury and judge in part because it was thought I wouldn't be biased by previous knoweledge of the artists' work. So, I set about to hang a show of approximately half the 120 entries. You can imagine how popular I was with the creators of the 60 I didn't select!

Most people accepted the rejection well while other huffed and puffed and grumbled under their breath to whoever would listen. A few artists took me up on my offer to spend a few minutes with them to explain why I hadn't chosen their work. (Many of the same reasons you list in this article.)

This led to some really good conversation. In one case the artist realized she'd entered a piece that even she didn't like! We talked about what might improve it. She went on to edit the work to a point that she did like it, entered another show and won a cash prize.

She learned that feedback from the "judge" can be sometimes be really helpful. I know this isn't always practical, but when it is, the jurying process can become a lot more educational than it often is, and perhaps a bit less painful.

Carol Schmauder
Rejection is something we, as artists, experience and learn to accept. And, as you stated, there are also the accepted moments, and with those come the sweet feelings of acceptance and accomplishment.

Thanks for a great article, Sandy.

Sandy Askey-Adams, PSA
Mimi....."UpHill battles." So many artists can relate to those words I feel certain. Hopefully, no one will stop trying and will manage some how to get through the tears of rejection. We have to. I agree it can feel like tossing money away. How can I not agree with what you say. We really have to be selective in which shows we enter I guess.

Charlotte... Yep, sounds like "Lottery" or "Chance" to me too. Sometimes, it may seem like there is no rhyme or reason for what may be selected or turned down in an art show. long as a painting finds a new home with people who appreciate the art...I agree that is what counts most. If we can only remind ourself of that when we receive that rejection notice.

Jack...gosh that is so amazing that that guy who wrote "Conan the Barbarian" received 360 rejections. What made the difference though when he got himself an agent?
Sounds like a great book...and must have book that you wrote.

Susie..we have to learn to see it in the right light, but that is not so easy many of those times. We are all so human.

Thank you all so much for reading this blog and replying. I did not know if anyone would read ir or not or even reply.
Then I would have felt that sting of rejection had you not.
SO thank you for not allowing me to feel that pain of rejection.

The only way to get comfortable with rejection is to enter enough quality shows that getting dinged now and then doesn't ouch quite so much. As Susie said above, "don't put all your eggs in one basket."

In the past few months - I had two paintings, in particular, that weren't accepted into group shows that I thought they were well qualified for. The shows chose other of my pieces instead. I have since sold those "rejects" to happy collectors on my own. So sometimes even the cloud of rejection can have a silver lining. I am learning, slowly, not to fret so much. You can't see around life's corners.
The choice of accepting or rejecting a painting for a show may be about more than just the quality of the work. It's also about getting the right "mix" of work for an exhibition - size, subject matter, variety of style, etc.

At a recent show where I had a piece on exhibit, I saw another painting hanging that was a very similar scene to a painting I had not chosen to submit. If I *had* submitted that other painting, the jurying committee would have likely had to ding one of us - we had both, independently, painted the same place, same time of day.

Bottom line: don't sweat it. Just give it your best try and let it go.

Sandy Askey-Adams, PSA
Thank you for replying. One less rejection because you replied. LOL.

Surprising story for sure about the artist who had his work acccepted into a national juried gosh, and very disappointing about his reaction. Does not seem very professional. Certainly unfair to slam other artists and their work or the judging of the judges, but then again, it goes back to being human.

If would be such an honor just to be accepted.

Elisabeth A. Seeger
About rejection - I used to show horses and I learned after awhile not to take rejection personally. A lot of times its just luck or its not that you are rejected, but that someone else is chosen. Sometimes you get chosen when you maybe don't deserve it and sometimes you get chosen when you really do a great job. Sometimes even the judges couldn't tell you why you were not chosen. Most of the time, its just what that particular judge or judges thinks is best among that particular group on that particular day.

Gary Huber
Rejection and acceptance are relative things. You can't expect to get into every show you enter unless you're entering shows that you're overqualified for. Conversely if you get nothing but rejections you're reaching too high for the time being. Maybe it's time for some professional critiquing.

To be sure, either way, it isn't personal. It's not about you, it's about the work you submit.

One show doesn't tell you much. It takes a lot of entries and the opinions of a lot of jurors to amount to anything important. When you have a lot of opinions, think about what they are telling you. Rejection is hard but through it you can learn.

Don't be a sore loser if you get rejected and don't gloat if you're accepted. I've been guilty of both at one time or another but experience pays off in better behavior as well as better knowing what shows and what paintings to enter.

The "what shows and what paintings" is important. I want to keep reaching a higher level with my work and one way to know if I'm doing that is to try shows that have only the artists I really admire in them. I know my chances are not as good because the competition is so high but when I get in it's telling me what I'm doing is working. When I don't get in it could be telling me I'm not doing as good work as I might think. It isn't personal. It's about the work, not me.

Thanks for the thought-provoking article, Sandy.

Yes, rejection hurts, but we shouldn't take it personally. If you put up 5 works at a show and none of them sells, it just means the people who saw your work were looking for something else. It doesn't mean nobody will ever like those 5 paintings...

mimi torchia boothby watercolors
@Elisabeth even with horses there are politics (I showed horses a bit too) but with horses there are guidelines, points, standards, so you could actually see where you went wrong or where your horse was lacking. In the art world, it's so much less tangible..

Donald Fox
Rejection may never be easy or comfortable, but it certainly can also be reinvigorating. We don't necessarily have to take an I'll show them attitude. What may be more helpful is to ask, what can I learn from this?

Charlotte Herczfeld
Oh, dear, I found a typo in my post above... we should *not* let rejections get us down, of course... mislaying that 'not' made the sentence weird, I'm sorry for that. (Where is that edit button!)

Oh yes it is a lottery. I've judged on a smaller scale, and it is very hard. The perfectly executed painting may catch my eye and mind less than the painting where an artist takes a risk and nearly succeeds. As art is also about capturing the heart, technique isn't all I weigh in.

One thing has become crystal clear, it is the *artwork* that is judged, not the artist. When one of my works is rejected, it is not I who am rejected. And vice versa, when accepted, it is the work, not I as a person. That separation is important, as we do pour our hearts into our work.

Sandy Askey-Adams, PSA

I have felt where you are coming from at can be on and off feelings when entering the art shows and having my work judged. As artists we all have to face it.. . and it is not easy. That is for sure.

When we are accepted several times over and over again, we might forget that sting of rejection and not have the empathy for others who are being rejected. Like Charlotte said, we cannot let the acceptace go to our head either. There has to be a balance.
AND true, how do we know how close we came to winning that prize? We don't. SO why not think on the positive side.
AND I agree. yes, there are still the politics in art shows, but there really is nothing we can do about it. There will always be politics in art and other things in this world.
All we can do is trust and believe in ourselves and our work...and continue onward and forward.

Sandy Askey-Adams, PSA
Karen like what you wrote...and your bottom line..."Don't sweat it, just give it your best try and let go."

Kay Hale
Sandy, this is always a timely subject. I have had plenty of rejections. The acceptance letters have been sweet. I think some of us wear those rejections like a red badge of honor! It shows we tried and tried again.
I take those rejections as a time to really look at my work/presentation. Believe me, if I am not living in denial then I see the issues that may have kept me from being accepted.
I am developing a thicker skin. The rejections still feel like a kick in the gut but now I give myself a time period to rant, rail against and cry and then I am "over it" and ready to move on. It used to take me three a few hours and I am pretty good to go.
I learned from years of showing German Shepherds..that if you aren't in the ring, you can't win. Obviously this applies to art shows and life!
Yes, I feel like crawling into bed and never getting out. But as I said, a few hours of that bemoaning my fate and I am done with it.
I suggest just from my own not quit showing. To be truthful to yourself about what you are putting out there and really evaluate it. Can you go deeper? Could the mat have been neater? Could you step it up for the next time? Is the composition boring? What can you do to make it appealing to a larger crowd?
Be true to yourself and tell yourself the truth always.
Also pick and choose your venues carefully. It is too costly to enter everything, and it won't help your chances of getting accepted.
Set a limit to your grief and then get over it and keep doing art.

Carol McIntyre
Early in my art career it took a few rejections before I realized that it is all a roll of the dice. In one situation, I asked a juror to comment on my painting and she just said, "I don't like the subject." That gave me some backbone.

A teacher also suggested that we keep a hanging file of all of our rejection and acceptance letters. BTW, the author of Harry Potter also received hundreds of rejections.

I really don't like it when people say, "Don't take it personally." To me, that is like telling me to deny that it happened. It is personal because it is my work. Take the time you need to process the rejection, learn from it and then take on the next challenge. Denial only makes you become more emotionally stuck. The more often you process the rejection, the easier it gets - at least for me - and amount of emotional energy it sucks up becomes less.

Sandy Askey-Adams, PSA
Thank you Carol...and ahhhhh yes, those sweet moments of acceptance are precious.

Gary....Well written what you wrote about rejection and being accepted. true...that "I'll show them attitude." is not such a good way to get over or through rejections. It certainly doesn't help us because it does not help us get over and thru the rejection. It keeps us in the same place of feeling resentful. That does us no good. Good point to bring up.

Sandy Askey-Adams, PSA
Kay...Just to say...I love German Shepherds. I use have one. She was my shadow. Loved it. are so right about what we can learn from the rejections also if we don't put ouselves in the denial stage of really taking a second look at the work we entered. (long sentence.) There are those very good reasons that our work ha sbeen rejected too. Thoe are the times we should recognize and learn.

Barb Stachow
Rejection is a tool for fighting for what you believe in. At my art club critique last night I was up to the challenge as the critique(r)attacked my painting (which I was so proud of) and I attatcked him right back!After all it's just one man's opinion right.

Sandy Askey-Adams, PSA
Did I say loved it in my reply to you?...My brain must have taken a vacation .... I would not call my German Shepherd an IT, but wrote it that way. I loved her.. is what I meant to say.

mimi torchia boothby watercolors
I was fascinated by the hundreds of rejections given to JK Rowling and then Robert E Howard too (Conan the Barbarian) turns out those numbers aren't really accurate:

J K Rowling's first Harry Potter novel was taken on by the prestigious Christopher Little agency but still rejected by a dozen publishers, including Penguin, Transworld and HarperCollins.

Robert E Howard
In a letter dated March 10, 1932, Farnsworth Wright rejected "The Frost-Giant's Daughter" but noted that "The Phoenix on the Sword" had "points of real excellence" and suggested changes. "The God in the Bowl" would also be rejected and so a potential fourth Conan story concerning Conan as a thief was abandoned at the synopsis stage.[101] Instead of abandoning the entire Conan concept, as had happened with previous failed characters, Howard rewrote "The Phoenix on the Sword" based on Wright's feedback and including material from his essay. Both this revision and the next Conan story, "The Tower of the Elephant", sold with no problems. Howard had written nine Conan stories before the first saw print.[102]

Sandy Askey-Adams, PSA
Carol M...
I agree with the "Don't take it personally." It is hard not to do so. After all, that is what our art is all about. How we feel. We are baring our soul and emotions when we do a painting.

Interesting story about being a judge in a new area. How to lose friends before you have them and win enemies.
That was really great that you offered to spend a few minutes with those whose work was rejected. If only that could happen more often.

"Feedback" from a judge or a jury is worthwhile in more ways than art shows realize. Too bad there is not time to have that feedback along with the show.

I was in a juried show a long time ago that while the judges walked along selecting and rejecting works, someone else walked along side them carrying a notebook. They wrote the names of those rejected along with a kind and gentle evaluation of why the work did not get into the show. Then, of course, they gave that slip of paper to the artists when they picked up their rejected work.

Oh, and the ones that were accepted, received notes on why their work got into the show.

I think the "I'll show them ..." feisty attitude can be beneficial if the rest of the sentence is "... I'll work harder, I won't give up and I'll apply again next time ..."

Resentment is a useless waste of energy when it sputters in all directions, unchanneled. But if the energy of indignation can be harnessed to fuel improvement, I think that's a positive thing. Don't sports coaches use defeats to challenge their teams to "show them" at the next game? Sure they do.

Sandy Askey-Adams, PSA

You are so right. Unchanneled resentment does us no good. It can make us work harder with that feisty attitude.
So glad you brought that up. Thank you. :)

These replies have been so interesting. Can learn something from each one.
...As well as knowing that we are certainly not alone out there in the rejection world.

Sandy, I love that idea that they gave feedback to the artists on why or why not a painting was accepted/rejected. I wish more shows would do that. It would provide some insight into the judge's thinking, which could either help identify a recurring problem in our work (color? composition? value?) or whether it was idiosyncratic to the judge's like or dislike of the subject matter, or some other more personal reason.

Gary Huber
I've had times when I got into shows and the judges told me what they liked but also told me what they thought could make the piece stronger. Those were the best comments because I didn't have any of the rejection baggage to climb over before accepting the constructive criticism.

A sensitive judge with people skills is a wonderful thing. There ought to be classes in how to judge and critique a show.

Donna Robillard
Telling why submissions are not accepted is a really good idea - at least we would know why the judge did not care for that particular painting. I entered a competition in which I had been accepted 3-4 times previously, but the last time I entered I was not. It gave me a chance to enter another in which I had been wanting to submit images. That was the positive that came from it, since I don't enter many because of the cost.

Sandy Askey-Adams, PSA

That show was a very good show in more ways than one. Artists were content on both sides. There were not any gripes from those who were rejected.

The judge gave kind and thoughful constructive criticism which is what anyone of us would want when our work is rejected.
AND Gary, the judge was a sensitive judge with people skills like You had mentioned about how a judge should be.

ALSO, I think it helped artists feel that the judging was fair because when doing the judging of a show like that (I think anyway) that it leaves no room for the judge or judges to show any bias. As they are judging the work, they are commenting about the painting so their opinion of the work can be written down. The judge knows it will reach the artist whose work he or she is judging.

LOL, might take a brave judge too. But certainly one who knows what he/she is doing.

Do all artists think shows should be judged in that way?

Gary Huber
Sandy, I think most judges and jurors take their responsibilities very seriously but some are definitely more articulate than others. It probably helps if the judge also does some teaching because they're more used to expressing concepts in words and know the danger of the misspoken word.

I've come away from show critiques with the full gamut of reactions: "Wow, that guy's a jerk," to, "Wow, I've got to take a class from him." Bottom line is I'd rather have a show judged if the judge can be someone whose opinion I'd value and that's one of the criteria I use in deciding which shows to enter. If I don't like the judge's work then chances are I won't care what he or she thinks of mine.

If it were my call to make, I'd always hire judges that are willing to do walk-arounds with the artists but it's not fair to insist they comment on each rejected piece individually. Some shows just have way too many entries.

Generalized comments about rejected work can be more mystifying than illuminating. You never know if they apply to you or if something else bothered the juror. For instance one time, in a national show the juror remarked that he liked to see the individuality of the artist show in the work. That's way too vague and non-specific and I have no idea how it applied to my rejected piece. I was a lot younger then and all it did was give me reason to question everything I'd done up to that point as possibly not being individual enough. Yikes!

jack white
Conan was published in 1932, later became a Marvel Comic best seller and a top money maker movie with Arnold as Conan. After that Robert Howard cranked best seller after best seller. Had he given up he would never have seen all the stuff he wrote published.
As an author I've enjoyed my share of rejection slips. I finally self-published all of my books.
With the 6 marketing books I have 8 on Amazon. A publisher wouldn't do much better. My goal was to make the marketing books available for my fellow artists. I've sold about 2,000 copies of my first marketing book. Not bad for an old broken down Texas cowboy.

Sandy Askey-Adams, PSA
Very interesting Jack.

That is a lot of copies!! Congratulations.
Yep, not bad for an old broken down Texas cowboy.
BTW, I like cowboys. :)

Katarzyna Lappin
I guess we'll always take personally the rejection even if our mind says not to. Being an artist means we are sensitive people and nothing is going to change it.
And what is interesting that more acceptance and prizes we get more we suffer when rejection comes. Art business seems to be a very emotional roller coaster.
I learned that the same work can be rejected in one show and win a prize in another. This happened to me quite a few times. Also some works I was working for months got rejected while others done in few hours won juror's choices. This is such an unpredictable area, with no logic and consistency of events. Judging is such a hard work and I wouldn't like to be in the position of the juror. Somebody always have to be rejected. So the good thing I guess is to remember what our buyers think and feel about the works they purchase. If they come back to buy another painting then it is a reason for joy and satisfaction. If they say "I love your artwork", or "your paintings are so special" - this is something to be happy about. The buyers are those who matter the most.

Laurie Finkelstein
Rejection always hurts. The key for me is keeping things in perspective and reminding myself of all the reasons a piece of work might be rejected. Honestly, if I did not sell anything, or get praise for my work, rejection would be intolerable. And that intolerance would lead to action rather than giving up.

George De Chiara
What a wonderful surprise to see this article from you Sandy! I remember just a few months ago when you started talking about getting your blog going and now you look at you, published here. Great job!

Like everyone else here, my work has been rejected. I wish I knew why other then what the standard rejection letter says..."All the work so so wonderful the jury had a hard time...blah, blah blah..." I've learned to not stress too much over the rejections and try to celebrate the acceptance letters. Still, there are times when I'm just sure I'll get in and don't. Those are the ones' that sting.

Sandy Askey-Adams, PSA
Thank you George. LOL
I did not even know how to start a blog and for a year put it off.
Can't believe I am finally doing one...and most of all that they felt that is blog on rejection was worthy to be published here. Amazing to me..I am grateful.
Although I was worried that this blog on rejection would be rejected and no one would comment on it. LOL

Sandy Askey-Adams, PSA
Rejection can be intolerable at times..and it hurts for days or even longer.
We can think even that we are over it and suddenly something pops up to remind us of those feelings again. UGH. We do have to keep things in the right perspective. Not easy to do. true what you say. Sometimes, I feel like it was just a throw of the dice. LOL

Katarzyna...The art business is an emotinal rolla coaster. Funny, I have said that myself often .......AND I too feel there are so many different ways in the art world of feeling that rejection. Not just in juried art shows.

Thanks so much everyone for your input on this blog article.
I am still wondering if judges should let it be known why the rejected work of the artist was not accepted.
Like Gary says though, the shows can just be too large.
We could always start with the smaller shows.

If artists do not like the way the shows are juried, it is up to the artists to change it.

Tatiana Myers
I feel that in fact rejections are partially good for me as an artist, because they do keep me motivated. I want to learn from it and do it better next time. If I want it bad enough, I will try again and again till finally I'll get it right... HOWEVER... it is only true, when rejection had some common sense.. And we all know that often they don't. When that happened I only shaking my head with not much to say... But even that lesson is a lesson to learn - not to make drama out of every rejection. It is an only game, played by people. What one likes another one doesn't. And if somebody doesn't like what you did when you know for sure your work IS good, well... forget it, try another time and something good will come out of it after all. Do not take "no" for an answer. After all - tomorrow is another day!

John Smith
Well done Sandy.
A really intersting topic!
Criticism and rejection are likje the fear of death. They keep us alert and on our toes. Judges opinions are just that - their own personal bias - nothing more and nothing less. It has some valuse if they call a report-back meeting to inform the participants and especially those that were rejected, why and on what basis they were considered not up to it. Becasue they 'did not like the subect' is an idiotic statement/reason and they are not fit to judge. Learn what you can, and reject rest and move on

Gina t.
Thanks for sharing ur thoughts on rejection. U mentioned that most shows don't share why u weren't accepted. I found it really helpful when visual overture ( shared the juror score with me last winter when I was rejected. This let me see my weknesses in my presentation and art skill. It wasn't cuz the juror didn't like cows or whatever, I could see where I really needed to improve to catch their attention , originality and overall cohesiveness were my low scores. I wish more shows shared this info. It kindof hurt to find out, but I was really able to learn after seeing the score.

Jo Allebach
I too have felt the pain of rejection. But jurors are not always who you want to please. I have entered an annual show for the last 3 years and received the rejection notice on every single one. The first time I was really sad. However when I went to pick up my paintings I found out that one had been sold. Wow! The next year - rejection- sold a painting, this year - rejection - sold both paintings. So, you never know what can happen. I keep a positive attitude despite rejection.

George De Chiara
John, your comment reminded me that the important thing to keep in mind with rejection is it's often just the opinion of one person (the juror). I've heard stories of jurors having to go through the hundreds of entries in a day and make their selections. Whew! I wouldn't want to do that. I've gone to a few slide parties where you get to see all of the entries and by the end I couldn't care what slide they showed. I just wanted to stand up and stretch and take a break.

John Smith
Most of the exhibitions where I've been invited to adjudicate George had three or more judges, and by the time final judging takes place the work has been thinned out to a degree. Judges would then take a sample of what was on show and have an idea of how to vote. It doesn't take that long if properly managed. I have found almost without fail that there is one judge who will push her preferences or bias. In most cases the other two will level things out, but sadly not always.

I believe that judges should always make themselves available to answer questions and explain their decisions. If they don't it can be a destructive rather than constructive experience for the entrsnts.

Brian Sherwin
Allow me to share a quote: ”?"The strong manly ones in life are those who understand the meaning of the word patience. Patience means restraining one's inclinations. There are seven emotions: joy, anger, anxiety, adoration, grief, fear, and hate, and if a man does not give way to these he can be called patient." -- Tokugawa leyasu, first shogun of the Tokugawa shogunate of Japan.

Sometimes being patient is the best way to be. Rejection only hurts if you allow it to hurt. I realize that is a difficult trait to master. Sometimes it is better to observe the outcomes and learn from them rather than allow them to eat you up inside.

As for art-- do consider that some of the most praised art of today was not accepted in the past. The generic example of this are paintings by Vincent van Gogh. However, many others faced forms of rejection-- including Picasso, Warhol, Goya, Wyeth, Sleigh-- the list goes on. Rejection can, and does, happen to artists no matter their level of fame.

Every work of art placed on public view for the first time is a battle. It is a battle of opinions-- the artist merely offers the battleground for the debate, if you will. That war, if you will, continues throughout the 'life' of the painting. Think of how paintings from 500 years ago or longer-- many considered priceless treasures-- are still placed under the critical scope today. Believe it or not-- not everyone feels that the Mona Lisa is a 'great' work of art.

Marta Brysha
Thank you for your article. It is very pertinent to me having been rejected just a few days ago. You write of many of the reasons you might be rejected such as work not saying anything or not being up to par. You fail, however, to list other very real and even more painful reasons.

My work has been received with enthusiasm by several gallery directors. Comments included: "you are clearly a master" and "of it's kind it is extraordinary". The gallery directors have then gone on to say that they don't think their collectors will buy it and therefore they have to decline to show my work. I have asked these directors for their advice re selling my work and they usually come up blank. I have come to realise that this is not because my work is unsaleable, but rather that they operate in a very narrow field that caters to their own select group of collectors.

As a result I have decided to promote, show and sell my own work. I get so many genuine enthusiastic comments both from artists and non artists that I am confident that I will be able to find a market for my work.

Brian Sherwin
Marta, art dealers do often cater to their established roster of collectors, if you will. In fact, those 'regulars' are just as important to the dealer as the list of artists that he or she represents.

The choice to cater to a specific set of regular buyers is a purely business one-- and a smart choice at that. 1.) if the gallery has a specific direction it is easier for the dealer to find a niche, so to speak. 2.) if the gallery involves itself with art fairs and other promotional ventures it is easier to do so if a specific theme or 'style' dominates the gallery.

It is kind of like how people suggest that artists focus on one medium or stay within a few common themes. In most cases the artist will have an easier time marketing his or her art if he or she does that. The same goes for art dealers-- most are better off focusing on a specific kind of artwork instead of going in all direction with what is represented.

Brian Sherwin
I want to offer this-- high acceptance can be difficult for some artists as well. Just as there are some artists who have a hard time dealing with rejection there are also artists who have a difficult time dealing with acceptance. Acceptance can be a prison-- just as rejection can be-- depending on the individual.

Jean-Michel Basquiat comes to mind. High acceptance-- and the bewilderment that followed-- was difficult for him to grasp as an individual. High success that occurs fast is not always a good thing depending on the individual.

I suppose my point is this-- if artists had success all the time would they, as individuals, be able to handle it-- both on the inside, emotionally, and on the outside... how others look to them. Success, in some forms, can become a prison.

Sandy Askey-Adams, PSA
Thank you for your comment.,, Powerful comment.

It makes such a good point and is so true.
WOW...well stated.
For some reason, some of us as artists feel that me also may not be deserving of all that attention.

Handling success is a whole other side of the coin, especially if it is a lot of success.
This could open up a good discussion making a good blog.

Maybe even some of us sabatoge ourselves thus avoiding success or try to limit as much success as what we could have.

Sandy Askey-Adams, PSA
Whoops Brian.......I meant to write..
"For some reason, some of us artists feel that WE may not be deserving of all that attention."

John Smith
Wisely put Brian on both counts. However there is no 'one size fits all' and in my case I have succeeded as a profesional artist for over 40 years becasue I am able to work comfortably in more than one medium and my intersts vary widely insofar as subject matter is concerned. I do agree though that the gallerists have the last say in accepting only what they feel they can/will sell. They own their galleries and not the artists
It is not a bad idea for an artist to have a good look at what they are doing if rejected. There is a tendency to blame the gallery and often that is a cop-out.

jack white
Marta, the world of art galleries is a different animal. Galleries located in art markets get on average 30 to 45 artists a month seeking space to sell their work. Unless the gallery has had experience with your style, chances are with the economy so slow they will not want to take a risk. Most have a form letter they hand out. All will compliment your work. They know how to give a brush off and make us feel good. Our gallery in Carmel paid $18,000 a month and our gallery in Vail pays $32,000. Even small galleries pay between $5,000 and $10,000 a month. No matter how well your work in made, if the director or owner has no seen success with your voice they will say no. This has zero to do with you or your art and everything them. It's about galleries hanging what they feel comfortable with. You see a lot of weak art in galleries, because not many gallery owners and directors know good from bad. I have found them to be the poor judges of art. The person for you to please is the folks with money who want to own what you make. I never consigned any art, I sold my stuff to galleries. I wanted my money up front. I didn't want to depend on galleries selling. With Mikki we do consign her stuff. Keep the faith. Many make it without a gallery blessing.

Carol, Keeping rejection letters is not a good thing. Each time you look at the file you are reminded of rejection. It's difficult enough to stay positive, without a stack of reminders telling us we are failures. Tack up the winners and get rid of the negative.

I was helping an artists from MS. He had a tendency to just slap out paintings that had no prayer of selling. He also did some exceptional work. Mikki and I was in his studio and sat stunned as he drug out one dog after another. I asked what was he doing with those bad things. I wanted to say junk.
He didn't know. I told him to build a bon-fire and rid himself of the negative reminders. Then I asked what do women love in your town.
He answered, their flower gardens. Duh!!!
I said, "Then ask some of the leading women in town if you can paint their flower garden, then have a show featuring their gardens. He painted twelve gardens and guess what. He sold 12 and got commissions for 8 more. He couldn't fill the demand for his flower gardens. You would be surprised if I told you his name.
He also burned the stack tobacco juice paintings. I still have the photos of the art on fire. I think he burned about 60. It's hard to be positive when you look around and your studio is filled with pieces you cant sell.
Clear out the negative...fill your life with winning. Negative reminders will kill a career.
A positive attitude draws folks to us. jack

Marian Fortunati
Hurt? Absolutely... But the successes are wonderful.
I used to wish for some consistency in jurors... but then we'd all paint the same way and that would be awful, wouldn't it?? I do think they take their jobs seriously, but they are blessedly human and while all look for quality... the elements they treasure vary just as they do.
..... so I guess what doesn't kill us, makes us stronger eh???

When I read this, I thought of a wonderful book I read a while back by Stephen King. It is both a memoir and a guide to the craft of writing and it is an absolutely FANTASTIC book. It's called "On Writing". But in it he talks about the hundreds upon hundreds of rejection notices he received before ever getting one of those treasured acceptance notices. Guess the rejections made HIM stronger.

Keep painting!! And get your work out there!!!

Joanne Benson
Sandy, You seem to have gotten the juices flowing with this post! Lots of good comments here. I wish jurors would explain why a piece was rejected but that rarely happens. I agree with those who comment on the human-ness of the judges in picking what is accepted. We all have likes and dislikes and biases. So, as you and others have stated, don't take it is only one judge or one committee!

you have to risk rejection in order to succeed. In art and just about everything else.

Margi Lucena
Samthor...simply stated and absolutely true.

Liron Sissman
In my ART of profiting from your ART workshops I remind artists that these rejections won't define their career. Only their successes will!

Liron Sissman

Delilah Smith
I know the fear of rejection keeps me from approaching more galleries. It seems like so much work just to feel bad afterwards.

Sandy Askey-Adams,PSA

Know you are not alone.

It does seem like a lot of work to be rejected and to be disappointed. True, it can make one feel pretty bad. I think every artist in every medium goes through the rejection from writers, dancers, musician's, etc... We just have to tell ourselves that we will never know unless we try...and try again and again. If we don't try, we can miss that golden opportunity when it does appear.

I cannot tell you how many times I have not bothered because of that fear of rejection. I know how much it can hurt. It hurts so much that at times there have been tears and it made me question why I tried or even did my art....BUT, then also there were the good times and those times of acceptance that kept me going. Where there is a "NO", there will also be a "Yes"..perhaps just around the corner.

Those rejections help us work harder and re-examine what we are doing with our work. We, as artists, are always trying to do our best work and improve upon it, so a rejection can only make us try harder after we dry our tears.

AS for the galleries, some galleries will take only certain mediums. Some are partial to oils only...or do not want anything behind glass because they don't want to be bothered with the glass. Some only want to represent certain subject matter also.
I think too it depends upon what they know is selling in their area.
It is a bit scary to approach an art gallery only to be told "thanks, but no thanks" or hear the words, "Sorry, we are not acceptiong any new artists at this time," or, "We have enough of that medium," or whatever the reason.

Sometimes it might help to have another artist who is already in a particular gallery recommend your work.

Marta Brysha
I first read this article a long time ago and just recently got a couple of emails of more recent comments.

A lot has happened to me since then. After a number of rejections I was offered representation at a commercial gallery and have only recently had my first solo show. I learned a lot between those rejections and finally getting an acceptance. I learned how to sell my work better to the gallery directors, how to engage them in my medium and subject matter. The gallery director that accepted my work said: you do know that I had decided no before you walked in the door (because I work in textiles and the gallery typically represents painters and sculptors) . I said that I knew, but that I also knew that he had a reputation for having an open mind and that if he saw the work I did he would be excited by it. Since then I have also established a web site, write a blog (approximately 2 entries per week), have a facebook page and will shortly have a pinterest page.

I guess my message is: you have to treat the whole business as a bit of a lottery. Not everyone will love your work and even many who do may not be able to accommodate you for whatever reason. You just have to keep trying. You also have to be actively promoting your work via whatever platforms you think appropriate. Be confident in the quality of your work and don't be scared to promote yourself. Yes there will be plenty of rejections, but good things will happen too. Never be afraid to take a risk, whether with galleries or shows or with your artwork itself. It's all part of the fun!

Charlotte Herczfeld
Marta, that is really encouraging, thank you for telling your story!

And I'm currently reading a book (first in a series of at least 5) where the now celebrated author got rejections from 46 publishers, before one saw the appeal of the book. Now that's perseverance, and success.


That is so wonderful. I hope to hear more on your success'

Thanks Sandy, Some days you just need a kick in the pants.

jack white

Email me your address and I'll send you a free copy of my book The Malady of Art: FEAR.

This book will help you deal with rejection. I find most artist fail out of fear of rejection.


Sandy Askey-Adams,PSA

You are welcome Delilah.

Congratulations on your success Marta. Thank you for sharing your encouraging story. It is so helpful to other artists in one way or another when we share with one another.

Thank you Jack so much. You are always a ray of subshine with your sharing.

Delilah....I hope these last few comments have been helpful and encouraging to you. I don't know if you have read any of my other blogs, but, you might be interested in reading some of them because they relate to getting ourselves moving...and confidence or lack of it, etc...etc.... You would have to scroll back to some of the past blogs I had entered.

You'll find that journey we are each on is filled with bumps, lows and highs. As you know, It is not easy to stay positive.
Thank goodness, we do have the support of other artists.

Charlotte...that is so amazing and interesting about that author. Talk about Not giving up and believing in oneself. What an inspiration!

Marian Fortunati
Love your positive encouraging attitude. We all need to embrace that attitude!!

Tatiana Myers
I'm not addressing this personally to anyone... but...

I believe that biggest problem with taking of rejection well is inside of ourself... and partially it is a cultural thing too.

Here, in America, we preaching our children two dogmas: "You can do it!" and "It is not your fault!"... Sounds good... but when you starting religiously trust those two, sometimes it will work against you. I will leave "you can do it" part out for now and just will deal with "not your fault" part.

Let say you are great watercolor (colored pencil, oil pastel, graphite etc) artist and you trying really hard to get at that one show (gallery).
You know your works are good. You try year after year... Nothing works... OK. Now what? Naturally, it is easy to go with 'this is not my fault" part and make it "their fault". Or... just feel like total looser and give up. And we all do it... sometimes. More or less.
But of course, if forget this "not my fault" thing and start thinking "what I'm doing wrong here?" perhaps you will come up with a gorgeous plane how to achieve your goal.

Truth of life is - we can not make everything around work on a way how we want it to be. You can not get in the show what obviously favoring oils with Your gorgeous watercolor... But You can look for another show what does accept it, OR if you want to be in this one and only in this one... change the medium. paint for once in oil, do it good and get into the show you want to be in. This is just that simple. you know they do not take good watercolor (pastel, pencil) and you want to be in.. OK - easy solution - it HAS to be done in oil. Period.Or ... be ready to try for long long time and perhaps one day it will work, but more likely it will not. Just a law of probability. Can you handle that?..

Quit knocking in th closed door, what you know by experience will not open for you this way. It should be another door. Or it should be a bell somewhere. Or it should be another way to get where you want, more then ONE way what is not working...

We just need to look for that way. OR... just leave that door along and move on without pity to ourself and looking for the guilty side... If we are staying here in front of this closed door shaking that handle what doesn't open it... we never will get there. Perhaps it just a good time to take a step back, think a little bit and look for the key. More likely it is in your packet. Or... perhaps it is a time to look for another door.

Anyway... this is only My personal approach to things. It safes me from a lot of grief wile dealing with rejection and bunch of other unpleasant things.
What works for one, may or may not be solution for another. But most of the time solution could be found... if You didn't get stubborn and do not wont to look for solution and just want to continue repeating the same old thing what evidentially not working.

If you want "IT" bad... learn from those who have done it. Look for own mistakes. learn from those mistakes. Change things on a way things WILL work for you when You try it next time. And by doing so will get there.
Most importantly - do not get disappointment to slow you down for long. We can not afford that kind of luxury.


Marta Brysha
Charlotte and Delilah: I'm so glad that my little story helped!

I'll just add a bit more. Here's what I did with those rejections. There were a couple galleries where they loved my work, but sadly it didn't fit with what their collectors were likely to buy. They both gave me encouraging feed back and were very supportive. I thanked them and went on my way seeking the gallery that would show my work.

When I got my solo show I sent them both an invitation to the opening. Fully expecting that they would not come (after all they are unlikely to come to an opening of a competitor) I affixed a note thanking them for their encouragement. I invited them to my show, and added that if they couldn't make it they might like to look at my web site and blog. I also affixed my business card that contains all my details. I'm pretty sure they would have gone and had a look, out of curiosity, if nothing else and to remind themselves of just who the hell I am! One thing I know is that now they know my name. They may never choose to show my work, but they will notice my name as my career develops. I also sent invites to the curators of the Tasmanian Museum and Art Gallery and to the curators of MONA, the fabulous new museum of contemporary art in Tasmania. Neither of them came to my show either, but they now know my name and you never know when my work might peak their interest in the future.

My message for this post is: THINK LONG TERM. Build on what you have. Never stop looking for ways to expose your art or promote what you do. It's a long slog, but I believe this approach will pay dividends. Good luck in all your artistic ventures.

Delilah Smith
WOW, that is the cherry on the top


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