Meet Amy. Amy partnered with a non-profit, conducted education outreach and support with her art, not to mention raised money for the institution. Recently, however, she created a new body of work and is afraid to price them and announce they are for sale.
Meet Diana. Diana sought out and built a relationship with a local art gallery. Not only did they host a solo exhibition of Diana’s work, they asked to represent her. After the show, however, Diana stopped making art.
Meet Nancy. Nancy applied for and won a local grant, which helps her create and exhibit a collection of her art. At the same time, Nancy also promoted her art on Etsy and at art fairs, but she’s not getting the sales she hopes for her art.
My name is Carrie and here on Artist Strong I help artists like you refine your skill and develop your unique artist voice. Today I want to dig deeper into the lives and art of these women and talk about something we all need more of: rejection.
I don’t know what has educated us to think this way, but so many people seem to have a very intense and rigid notion of what constitutes success for art. “Sell your work.” And, if we don’t immediately meet that measure of selling our art, not only is our art bad, we should quit making altogether.
If you want to sell your art, this is awesome. Go for it! I don’t think selling our art is bad, or selling out. In fact, I want to empower more of you to take the risk to try it. Seriously, what is the worst thing that can happen? It doesn’t sell.
You certainly shouldn’t quit making art because you don’t sell, or don’t sell a lot of your art when you try promoting it.
I think these pesky cultural definitions around art and success are what have people like Amy nervous to put their art out there, despite her success with a larger project with an institution.
Something else we don’t talk about but is important to acknowledge: after every win there is a period of mourning. It sounds weird, but it’s been my personal experience, as well as the experience of many like Diana too.
Something big and wonderful happens for our art, we feel like we’ve finally “made it” and then it’s all done and everything seems the same, but feels like it should be different. And then in this quiet lull we start to wonder: what’s next? If nothing has really “happened” because of this latest win, why am I doing this at all? Sometimes, we self-sabotage too.
I read this book called The Big Leap by Gay Hendricks and in it he talks about how our lives have an equilibrium and that for the most part we all make decisions to try to maintain that equilibrium. It doesn’t matter if you have moments of success or failure, it’s all about returning to equilibrium. So, when we have a big win that takes us outside of our comfort zone, sometimes we make conscious or unconscious decisions that bring us back down again.
He calls it an Upper Limit problem.
Consider for yourself: have you behaved or made choices that could self-sabotage your own success because you feel like you don’t deserve to upgrade your equilibrium? I worry about that for Diana. She deserves her success, and so do you.
Elizabeth Gilbert also talks about this. She acknowledges that her biggest book success has already happened. And rather than turning in her laptop she continues to write, knowing she still has value to give because she still feels the call to create. I hope all of you, and Diana, see that there is always art to create, no matter what level of success or failure you feel.
Now let’s talk about Nancy. She won a grant for her art. Not many people can say that! And yet, after an experience of low sales at a market she was questioning her success and validity as an artist.
If you were thinking about selling something other than your art: would it be a failure to sell only a few items, or nothing on the first or second try?
Or, instead, would you be looking at this experience to understand what lessons you can takeaway to apply to your next attempt?
Perhaps the packaging was right. Perhaps the copy (the language you use) on your website, or the stories you used to share the work could be addressed. Also, of course, there is the question of the product. Do people want this? Will they find it useful? Is the product to the quality and standard I would buy this item myself?
I see a lot of artists get no sales on a group of artworks and instead of trying to repackage, tell new stories or create new offers around their art, they make a new group of artworks to sell.
Did you have a lemonade stand as a kid?
When someone told you they didn’t want a lemonade, was your heart broken? Did you feel like giving up on selling those lemonades? Did you go make a different kind of lemonade? Maybe you did. I bet not. I bet you smiled and thought about how to create a bigger or better sign, or to place your stand near a local soccer field on a hot summer day.
When we take risks on our art, and try new things, sometimes they work out really well, sometimes they don’t work out at all.
It really has no bearing on your art, but what you do with it does reflect on your character. What do you do when you feel like you’ve lost? Do you give up? Did you look at others around you to blame? Or do you look at your choices, the actions you’ve taken, and ask yourself: what can I learn from this?
It doesn’t matter what level you are at with your art: you will face rejection.
I’m saying that one more time: It doesn’t matter what level you are at with your art: you will face rejection. In fact, if you want to be an artist, you are signing up for rejection! Because rejection and failures are a natural part of this journey.
You can use these events as information to inform your next adventure, or give up. The only way you will not receive rejections for your art is if you choose not to make it at all. And let’s be real: if you are here, that’s not a viable choice for you. You are called to create.
I know all too well how much feelings of rejection sting. Just because rejection is a part of being an artist doesn’t mean it feels good, either.
But imagine: how different would your artist life be if you celebrated every failure?
Each failure you have means you’ve tried something new. And you’ve learned. In fact, every notch on your failure measuring stick means you are one step closer to your goals for your art!
It’s time to change the way we see failure in art and stop pretending that failures tell us we are bad at art and should stop creating. It’s time to be honest and accept failure as part of living an artist life!
If you want feedback on your art, artist website, or to continue today’s conversation I’m answering all kinds of questions art related every Friday at 12:30 EST for the rest of November on our Facebook page Becoming Artist Strong.
Feel free to ask your question in the comments below and I’ll be sure to answer them in our latest Becoming Artist Strong. There is replay access to the video for those of you who can’t make it live, or catch today’s post at a later date, so go check it out and see what going on with your peers and how you might apply their questions and answers to your own artist life!
Now, it’s time to Be Creatively Courageous: What is one thing you can do each time you face rejection with your art to help you feel rewarded for taking that risk? The first thing that came to mind for me is to bake and embroider. Tell me about yours in the comments below.
All this month doors are open for my mastermind program called The Circle. If you want or miss the community experience of being part of an artist collaborative group, The Circle is 6 months of community and accountability. We work on building your voice, your portfolio as well as building promotional strategies for your art.
My free challenge in October, called Be Creatively Courageous, offered a small taste of the program. If you enjoyed the accountability and community you experienced from working all month long in the FB group image Be Creatively Courageous magnified.
The Circle includes video workshops on everything from finding your voice, organizing your art in an inventory, to understanding how to write about your art.I also offer monthly Q&As where you get feedback on your work, much like my November free Q&As on the Facebook page, and a whole lot more.
If you want to take advantage of the early bird pricing available this month visit www.artiststrong.com/the-circle. I’ll be sure it’s linked below this video as well. Watching this video after The Circle has closed? Be sure to use that link to sign up for the waiting list, and you’ll be the first notified when it opens again.
Thank you for watching and see you next week!
*Special note: links I include in this article are affiliate links. This means should you choose to buy with these links I earn a small commission. It’s one way you can help me continue to offer free content to this community. Thank you for your support.*
There is a formula to improve your drawing skills...but are you using it?
Join Drawing Drills: a FREE 7 day art challenge
uncover the research based strategies that experts in every field use to improve their skill.
Draw better, draw faster, draw from your imagination!
Enjoy this free bonus when you sign up for Artist Strong's weekly newsletter.
We honor your privacy - read more here.