Friday, November 8, 2013

Rejection and Discouragement: An Artist's Life

If you are an artist, you have probably experienced the sting of having your artwork not make it into a juried show or maybe you have been within earshot to hear critics verbally dissect your piece. This is disheartening for sure!

But that doesn't mean that you have to swallow a "despair grenade!"

Sinking into the downward spiral of "questioning your skills," losing the motivation to paint, and vowing to never paint again is a common pitfall for artists. I'm not saying that you should never experience these feelings as an artist, but once you recognize that you are in the middle of a downward spiral, acknowledge it and take steps to move on!

Last month I found myself driving to Logan, Utah to enter two paintings into a juried show. I had just spent a boatload of money on frames, I over-structured my day to include dropping two paintings off to a Salt Lake City gallery, stopping by an Ogden gallery to pick up several pieces from a previous show, and then beat it back to my studio to meet a prospective gallery owner.


I ended up pulling off to the side of the freeway to sit and cry. I found myself saying things like, "I'm nothing, I haven't had a sale in months, I should have been a secretary, I should just do a U-turn and go burn my studio down."

It was so bizarre that five minutes into my cry, I stopped and whispered, "wait a minute, I need to stop this self-talk."

I quickly eliminated two of my errands, stopped by a 7-11 to purchase an apple and some nuts, wiped my face and drove on to Logan. As I drove, I processed my emotions and tried to analyze what had happened. And for what it's worth, here's my advice to you my fellow artists:
  • Always schedule time for meals and snacks! Think of this as the power behind the brush.
  • Schedule time to paint! We are beings of expression. Painting time = sanity. 
  • Have a business plan. Stick to it.
  • Keep yourself balanced professionally, emotionally and financially.
Understand and accept that there is an ebb and flow to art sales. It's always inconsistent. Face it, you have to allow time for the right patron to be paired with one of your paintings. So, pick up your brush and paint while you anticipate your next sale.

Society doesn't treat artists as the professionals that they are.  Often our work goes unnoticed and is frequently under valued. We are the only people that we can count on to reaffirm to ourselves that we are valuable. Change your self-talk to be productive.


One month after my "car meltdown," I won a Best in Show, two First Places and had managed to sell enough work to pay for all of my framing. Geez...If I had just held on a little longer during the dry spell, I could have avoided my glorious meltdown.

Who knew?


This painting of mine received First Place. "October Harvest," 24 x 24 oil on canvas.