Since I celebrated the success of my solo exhibition Anonymous Woman, I’ve applied to many new opportunities here in my new home of Houston: grants, exhibitions, peer based communities, you name it I’ve applied.
And since that exhibition, I’ve been rejected by every single thing I’ve applied to.
Hi my name is Carrie and here on Artist Strong I help artists like you build your skill and develop your unique artist voice. Today I want to talk about the inevitable and regular part of our artist life called rejection.
It has made me realize how easy it is in moments of success to forget how hard it feels when every time you apply to something it’s a no. And even with recent accomplishments, it’s easy to forget how far we’ve come as creatives.
Should I kickstart my next project within the community? Should I apply for an MFA so I can have the “proper” credentials to teach college level art? Should I scrap my art and become a welder or computer programmer?
The word rejection for so long has had terrible connotation. It’s aligned with the word failure, which suggests we aren’t good enough, we don’t measure up, or that we aren’t accepted in some manner.
But is that really what it means?
In most of my courses I include the following video. It’s a clip from an interview with Sarah Blakely, founder of Spanx underwear. And while she isn’t an artist, she has an amazing perspective on the notion of failure. Take a watch on the blog then come back to me here.
In it, she talks about the wonderful attitude her father helped her cultivate around failure. Rather than a failure being a stopping block, mistakes or rejections were information to help buoy her forward. He actively encouraged her to celebrate mistakes, and well, if you know the brand Spanx, you know it’s more than paid off.
In our perfectionist world really hearing this message is hard. Really digesting what she said there is hard. Ultimately, the long and short of it is failure is something to celebrate.
This isn’t an easy mental shift to make. And even with my practice and encouraging other students to do this, I also struggle. But I sincerely believe this shift in attitude could do wonders for everyone I know, inside and outside of art.
This applies to skill building, business building, baking… you name it, it’s relevant.
Risk taking and making mistakes is how we learn. We better retain information when we actually make a mistake and get corrected. And of course, being bad at something, making mistakes and learning from them, is the only path I know of to making better art.
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A special thank you to current patrons, I couldn’t do this work without your support.
Now it’s your turn: let’s turn around one of your art mistakes into something actionable. In the comments below tell me about a mistake or something you don’t like about a recent artwork. THEN, here is the important part: I want you to tell us how this can help you be a better, stronger artist. It’s not an easy mindset shift to make, but we can practice together.
Thanks so much for watching and I’ll see you here next time on Artist Strong.