Your assignment: Face rejection 10 times, for a start that is. You’re likely thinking that sounds rather unpleasant, but we’re serious. Acrylic Artist, the leading fine-art magazine that features working artists, has found a common thread running through most artists’ stories—they faced rejection, and overcame it, on the road to artistic success.
Remember when blogs first became the rage? People wondered what the point was of writing and posting our words if no one would ever see or read them. The same holds true for our art. Unless you’re truly only making art for your own enjoyment, then this advice is not for you. But you’re still reading so likely you want your art to be seen by others, to be appreciated and purchased. We’ve learned that the road to successfully selling art frequently travels through a lot of rejection. Fortunately, persistence and learning lessons from those experiences will serve you well on the journey.
Acrylic artist and author Konni Jensen, who’s featured in the spring 2017 issue of Acrylic Artist, shares that even after working in sales in her first career, selling herself to galleries is no simple task. “Selling yourself and your art is harder than selling for an established business because they already have a name,” she explains. Jensen confesses, “Also, I’m Danish and we are raised to not brag about ourselves, it’s considered rude. I have a hard time throwing myself in someone’s face to promote myself.”
Get Out There!
But getting in front of prospective customers is exactly what you have to do if you want to create income with your art. You must remember, not everyone will like your art—not every buyer, gallery, juried art show or publication. But more importantly, many will. It’s your job to put yourself and your art out there, face possible rejection and keep creating art you believe in.
Jensen doesn’t let her insecurity get in her way. Rather, she has found ways to put the focus on her art, not herself. “I’m far more comfortable making small talk and then organically steering the conversation into talking about what I have done and what I would like to do,” she says. Once the conversation has shifted to art, she pulls up her website to let her art speak for itself. She also recommends creating a look book or catalog for galleries that explains the pieces and shows the art in a living room setting so people can imagine the work in a home or gallery.
Embrace the Rejection
Randy Van Dyck, another acrylic painter also featured in the Spring 2017 issue of Acrylic Artist, embraces the idea of rejection. His inspiration: an artist friend who saves her rejection letters and treats them as something she has earned. “Rather than focus on the negative aspect of being rejected, I’ve adopted her attitude of seeing these rejections as accomplishments,” Van Dyck shares. “By setting a number of rejections to receive in a year, and reaching that quota, I’m assured that I’m putting my art out in the world and taking risks. It’s quite easy to achieve your set number of rejections, but infinitely harder to shed the emotional baggage they bring.”
An artist’s willingness to face rejection has a silver lining Van Dyck says. “Along with the rejections will inevitably be some acceptances. We’re all quite vulnerable as artists because what we create is a representation of who we are in many ways. Rejection is just part of the process and we all struggle with how to deal with it. This is just one way of putting a positive spin on it and taking pride in your own perseverance,” he says.
Think Like the Gallery Owner
As you prepare to pitch your art to a new gallery, Jensen says it’s imperative to see your art from the gallery’s point of view by asking yourself these questions:
- Do my pieces go together?
- Is the collection cohesive?
- Does the collection have a theme, and do the pieces tell a story?
- Is it an interesting story or have they seen it before?
- Do you have enough pieces?
- Why should they show you and not another artist?
Give your elevator speech when visiting a gallery (that succinct explanation of your art and what you can do for them). Be ready to share pictures of a proposed line you want them to display in the gallery. And of course, tell the exciting story about your artwork. Do your homework and research galleries to see if your art is a natural fit for them; don’t waste their time if your work clearly isn’t something they show. For example, galleries specializing in classical fine art are not going to accept modern abstract.
Taking risks has value. You’ll hone your presentation skills, discover what works when someone says yes and gain confidence. Get out into the art community, visit gallery openings, see what’s being shown, and make it a goal to meet new people. Introduce yourself and ask to book a follow-up meeting where you can more fully pitch yourself and your art.