Friday, March 12, 2010

Showing Your Work: part 2 - rejection

It's going to happen sooner or later. The envelope or the Email that says, "sorry - out of luck" arrives in your mail box. You followed all of the directions in the prospectus to the letter. You dutifully researched the venue, past shows, the jurors. You have the best possible images of your artwork and yes, you did send in your best work. And still - you don't get in.

Malachi's Promise
rejected from half of the shows entered  (mostly abstract art gallery type shows)
received a "Best of Show" at a local quilt show

What does it mean? Why do you feel like a failure? I discussed the jury process and the many reasons work is rejected from shows in my last post on this topic in case you missed it. What being rejected does NOT mean is that you are a failure as an artist. If you go into a blue funk because you did not get into a show you need to examine why. Do you think everyone will reject your work if it did not get in to one show? Do you think that all of your work is unworthy?

Failure can be a friend if you are willing to learn from it. Easier said than done but if you can learn to see failure as one more step towards success your life will be easier - and happier. And you will be growing!

First off - are you entering venues appropriate for your work? I'll talk more about this next week. A cutting edge and provocative piece might not be appropriate for a traditional quilt show and a traditional Baltimore Album isn't going to make it in a Soho gallery.

never juried into a show quilt but shown in several art galleries

Also, the higher the quality of the show that you enter, the more likely it is that you will be rejected simply because of the higher number of applicants. Quilt National is what many of us Art Quilters call "our favorite charity." It has an overwhelming number of entries compared to the number of Artworks that it can accept. It is also one of the most respected showcases of the Quilt as Fine Art that there is. A hardcover catalog is published every year and the show travels to respected venues. It is still on my list of "hope to get in before I die" shows so I continue to send in work and take my chances.

Second - are you pinning all of your hopes on one piece? As a serious artist you want to be continually creating. You need to build up a body of work. (I'm preaching to myself here!) If you think this one piece is the best you will ever make than you have stopped progressing. Try to create enough work that you can have several pieces out there at the same time if entering shows is a path you wish to follow.

Third - take an objective look at both your photographs and your work. If you have someone whose opinion you trust, ask them for a critique. Use this as an opportunity to learn and to improve. The work just might be fantastic and the photography impeccable. It still never hurts to examine and to find areas for improvement.

Here is a lovely blog post about entering shows by Elizabeth Barton. It includes a conversation with a juror about why some pieces were accepted in a nationally juried show. Well worth reading.

Circle 3
juried in to only one show - where it sold

Tomorrow morning I'll give you a treat - Robbi Eklow's wonderfully witty answer to rejection letters.