Petrified by rejection

Dear Artist, Yesterday, Kristen Dukat of Findlay, Ohio wrote, “I began my journey at the University of Toledo in Fine Art. Lacking confidence, I switched to Art Education. I felt I couldn’t take the rejection from galleries and shows and what it takes to be a real artist. I just wanted to paint beautiful things — I wasn’t looking for angst or meaning or whatever it is that the experts say makes art. I actually won a scholarship for ‘student with the most promising portfolio’ but, nevertheless, my work wasn’t accepted into the annual student show. I was defeated. I didn’t pick up a brush for seven years. This year I started again — one small painting a day. Suddenly people are showing interest and I’m invited into shows. I had almost given up in despair because I was petrified by rejection — maybe I still am. How does someone get past that?” Thanks, Kristen. A crisis of confidence happens more often in art school than when folks work on their own. The teaching environment, for many reasons, has the ability to destabilize and bring out fears like the fear of rejection. Not surprisingly, the lone worker is often better able to focus and build an image of self-worth. While the private studio can be a place of self-delusion and misguided progress, it is the freer environment. Artists need private ego-force to thrive. You can’t blame teachers, and you don’t want to blame yourself. There is someone you can blame — his name is Buggg. Buggg is an incredibly ugly humanoid monster with long spikey wattles hanging from his misshapen face. He’s been with you from when you were a kid. There’s a Buggg that hangs out with all of us. He lurks behind you, walks with you, sleeps with you. His sole aim is to see that you don’t realize your dreams. At art school your Buggg grew very big and strong. The seven years you mention was the time it took to knock him down to size. You did it by making those small paintings. Buggg doesn’t like to see those paintings because they put him in his place. Keep making art and your Buggg will grow small and inactive. When you have made a lot more paintings, your Buggg will be quite stiff and you will be no longer petrified. Best regards, Robert PS: “Evolution has programmed us to feel rejection in our guts. This is how the tribe enforced obedience, by wielding the threat of expulsion. Fear of rejection isn’t just psychological; it’s biological. It’s in our cells.” (Steven Pressfield) Esoterica: Buggg also wants us to procrastinate, use soporifics, be destructive and to sabotage ourselves. He wants us to fear rather than embrace. He wants us to criticize rather than encourage. He wants us to see evil where there is good and he wants us to demonize others. He wants us to be neurotic and paranoid rather than trusting. He wants us to hate rather than love. Buggg is more than an art problem, he is a menace to all mankind. By knowing about him we are better able to beat him.   Art and Fear by Nancy Yu, Tivoli, NY, USA   There is an apparently little known book dealing with the fear of producing you own art called Art and Fear. It is an easy read geared to the tender sproutings of new artists (notice I did not say young.) I found it very helpful in dealing with my own fears. I’m surprised it has not caught on more. A small invaluable book. Salve for the artist soul.   The War of Art by Lucy Bates, Fruitvale, BC, Canada  

“A Sun Break”
watercolour painting
by Lucy Bates

Steven Pressfield’s book The War of Art has strongly affected my life. I identify with many of the different attitudes he talks about that stop us from doing our work, and one being fear of rejection. Fear can be a good thing; it can be a measuring device. “The more scared we are of a work or calling, the more sure we can be that we have to do it.” He explains how to overcome the enemy. In this book he calls it “resistance.”   There are 2 comments for The War of Art by Lucy Bates
From: Loretta West — Aug 05, 2011

Well said, love the painting!

From: Anonymous — Aug 05, 2011

Beautiful Painting.

  Be your own judge by Elizabeth Concannon, St. Louis, MO, USA  

“Melted Sun”
acrylic painting, 22 x 22 inches
by Elizabeth Concannon

Early on, I began to evaluate the overall decisions of judges, etc. and two things occurred: 1. A judge told me that he would look at a selection of submitted art and make the choices instinctively. “And,” he said, “If I were to judge it this afternoon instead of this morning, it would likely be an entirely different exhibit.” Allowing for the fact this is not a universal standard, I concluded, “A Judge is a Judge” and that’s all. 2. I became proactive, and I used all of the reject notices (which I had religiously saved) to wallpaper my basement bathroom. And I had to laugh at that silly move every time I used the bathroom, but laughing is good. Don’t let others stop you from being the best judge of your own work; but be sure to keep your own standards high and informed.   Gone to the dogs by Deon Matzen, Clinton, WA, USA  

“Diamond T Tanker II”
oil painting
by Deon Matzen

I am experiencing a different kind of rejection. I win awards, am published in national magazines, in lots of shows around the U.S. with a long impressive resume. I get great kudos in newspaper reviews and from people attending shows. I am a representational oil painter with a large body of work which focuses on vanishing rural America with rural landscapes and old trucks. The crux of the problem is I don’t sell anything. I teach part time to provide some income. My students grow to be great painters and I often wonder if my calling is more teaching than painting. I paint small dog portraits to make a few dollars, but I can’t seem to make any sales of the work that comes from my heart. Pet portrait commissions and the teaching tide me over, but I would really like to sell the works to which I have a real emotional connection, the works that give me great personal satisfaction. There are 4 comments for Gone to the dogs by Deon Matzen
From: Mishcka — Aug 04, 2011

I can see that you’re a wonderful painter. Yours is a niche subject and like Star Trek, if you focus on that particular audience you can be successful. It’s a matter of finding it. There must be Americana galleries – look at Norman Rockwell. His collectors might be interested in your work. But how do you find these guys? That is the question. Whose got the answer?

From: Lauren Foster-MacLeod — Aug 05, 2011

I know that around where I live (eastern Ontario, Canada), there are lots of get-togethers by Classic car enthusiasts. Just this past weekend I saw a lot of beautiful old cars on a rural highway, on their way to one such event in Killaloe. Due to such popularity, I’m sure there are websites, newsletters, etc. Find them and publicize your work; I’m sure you will find your audience, as your work is lovely.

From: Anonymous — Aug 05, 2011

Beautiful painting.

From: Anonymous — Aug 09, 2011

Don’t bother chasing car collectors – they collect cars, not paintings. Make a simple portfolio, take a couple of paintings (nicely framed) and fly to Santa Fe. Then walk the galleries and ask for representation – simple and straight forward. With your quality of work and experience to support your cv, you are bound to succeed. Then let the gallery sell your work and you just keep painting what you love.

  A mean system by Sari Grove, Toronto, ON, Canada  

“Portrait of a salesgirl”
oil painting, 36 x 24 inches
by Sari Grove

Art schools are populated by artists who teach, not the much rarer breed of teachers who love to teach. You enter an environment where everybody, including most of your mentors, is the competition and the competition doesn’t like fresh young things with art scholarships for most promising portfolio. So they decide to cut you down to size and they do. I went through a “normal” university education, avoiding the segregation that an art school can create. I have been able to maintain my sense of self by avoiding that pack. You can get an education nowadays without subjecting yourself to that kind of submissiveness, by reading and informing yourself through online research. You are and were probably better than they were, staff included, and they knew it. Being rejected by people who are beneath you is usually a good thing – it sets you free from a world of smallness. Here is a quote I wear on my sleeve: Proverbs 22:29 New International Version “Do you see a man skilled in his work? He will serve before kings; he will not serve before obscure men.”   The rise of an art fair by Kath Hankel, Jefferson, IA, USA   I suffer from much the same thing as Kristen. I procrastinate with the best of them, but I also feel there has been a giant shift in the art world. I feel that Richard Florida’s book and speaking tour The Rise of the Creative Class has done a lot to advance the average person’s perception of purchasing original art. He pointed out that communities thrive when there is a high concentration of creative people. People like the visual assortment. Florida came to Des Moines, Iowa many years ago and spoke to a large audience about this concept. Des Moines listened and put on a huge and very successful art fair. That was ten plus years ago. Mo Dana was the driving force and she did everything well. She passed away several years ago. They recruited quality artists from across the country as well as from Iowa. It was held in downtown Des Moines, Friday to Sunday on the third weekend each June. First rate advertising, food venders and performers. People came in droves. They bought original art for their newly built homes. After a few years there were so many artists who wanted to take part they started an alternate show in a large building at the fairgrounds. It, too, became very successful. After a few years, the Des Moines’ art fair was chosen as best in the country. Voted there by the artists that participated. They sold well and were treated well. There’s a lot of very good quality art being produced by a lot of people. And people like owning it and living with it. I ought to know. I have a nice collection. The down side of this is that I see so much good art I get a complex about producing anything as good as what’s already out there and I pull back and don’t work on it as much as I should or could. There is 1 comment for The rise of an art fair by Kath Hankel
From: Mary M Hart — Aug 06, 2011

Kath, I so know what you mean in your last paragraph. These past 8 years I have made a point to research thousands of internet people and businesses that offered something in my field of self-improvement and self transformation. After awhile, I saw that instead of it inspiring me to put out my own work, I felt there was no need because there were so many others offering positive services to people. The internet can be a place for diminishing substance and quality of what’s offered, virtually by the quantity of what’s available. We all have special qualities. There is no one else like us. We each have our own biography, opportunities, choices made, consequences derived from those choices, and the Wisdom gained from the process. No one else is like us. As human artists of many levels, we have the opportunity to birth, to create, to color something in the world as no one else can do. That is our destiny mark in time. As hard as it is for some of us, we must never forget how special we are or get lost thinking we are just crumbs of the collective. You’ve already seen that just by realizing how you “pull back” and stop your own unique Self expression. Perhaps now it’s about believing you can go beyond that Wisdom into your Will-Producing fingers that will spill out more of your amazing art.

  Face to face with Buggg by Kristin Newton, Tokyo, Japan  

“A new world”
leaded glass
by Kristin Newton

When I was in art school, I was doing rather radical photography. I’ve still never seen anything like it. My photography teacher was constantly irritated with my eager questions and the next semester we had a new teacher. When we were showing our portfolios to the new teacher, he said to me, “Oh, you’re the reason the last guy quit.” I lost all enthusiasm for photography at that point and went into glass, another way of playing with light. At that time the world of glass wasn’t ruled by politics and I could do what I wanted. Sometimes rejection shows us what direction we really need to take. Years later, that teacher showed up at one of my exhibitions and was saying how wonderful my work was. He didn’t remember me at all, and I didn’t have the courage to tell him that because of him I went in a better direction. Probably about the same time as that major rejection occurred, I had a dream one night that I’ll never forget. I was in an art gallery with some wonderful artwork that I was surprised to learn was mine. Suddenly a tree appeared in the middle of the gallery and began glowing with green light, a tree of life. I was in awe! Then a horrible face appeared, trying to strangle me. I woke up with shock and found my own hands around my neck! You gave him a name — Buggg! I thought it was just me! You are certainly right that Buggg is more than an art problem; he is a menace to all mankind. If we know about him, we are better able to beat him. Whenever he has popped up, it’s a real struggle to defeat him. Recently my brother came up with a great idea. He imagines Bruce Lee, the Kung Fu star, attacking Buggg so he’ll stop “bugging” us. That actually works pretty well. I live in Japan and there are great Buddhist statues of fierce warriors guarding the temples. I also use those images sometimes when Buggg is pestering me. That must be our challenge in life, to conquer Buggg and find out whom we really are — a real Harry Potter adventure! There is 1 comment for Face to face with Buggg by Kristin Newton
From: Kay Christopher — Aug 04, 2011

Your stained glass piece, A New World, is stunningly beautiful. Would love to see it in person. How wonderful that you found this medium.

  Eye opening experience by Brenda Swenson, South Pasadena, CA, USA  

“Nuestra Senora Soledad”
watercolour painting
by Brenda Swenson

Rejection from shows is a touchy thing for most artists. In the beginning when I received a rejection notice, I would mope around for days. And, trust me, I received a lot of rejections! I felt personally rejected, hurt, unrecognized, unappreciated… My husband began to dread me entering competitions. I can see why! About 10 years ago my education and understanding of how a show was judged was increased when I became the Exhibition Director of the National Watercolor Society. The society is one of the highest rated associations in the watercolor community. The annual international exhibition is selected with the greatest of integrity. The first year I was the Exhibition Director I had an eye opening experience. I sat in the room while the 3 judges selected the show. The judges view paintings projected on a screen. No talking is allowed and the judges vote yes or no with a device. No one knows how the other is voting until the end of the day. On this day the judges had to select 100 paintings from over 1300 entries. It is a very long day. In the first round of viewing all the paintings, more than half were rejected. How long do you think the judges view each painting? — 2 minutes, 5 minutes…? How about an average of 20 seconds! My painting was rejected in the first round, and my heart sank to the deepest lows. That evening I cried and I poured my heart out to my husband. Through Mike’s great wisdom, understanding and love, I came to realize I was giving ultimate power to someone who didn’t personally know me. From that day forward I decided I wouldn’t give that kind of power to anyone except those who I have a trusted and loving relationship with. I still haven’t gotten into that show but I have gone on to write two books, achieved signature membership in two international watercolor societies, and I teach internationally and abroad. I would say life is good!   The birth of Buggg by Norma Hopkins, Manchester, UK  

“Angels and deamons”
mixed media
by Norma Hopkins

It’s so comforting to know Buggg actually exists! From the courage of this artist Kristen Dukat, actually voicing the fear, you have made me visualize silly Buggg and put a dunce cap on him. I made him look ridiculous by tying a pink ribbon on the wattles on his silly face. He is the one blushing with embarrassment now. My mother wouldn’t allow me to realize my dream to go to Art School when I was fifteen years old, school-leaving age in Britain then. I was born in 1944 just as WW2 was finishing. She said that wasn’t for me; she said I must go to work. She made my eldest sister take me to get a sewing job in a sweat shop. But that was when Buggg was born. He was already forming, though I didn’t know it, but that was the moment when he grew so fat and ugly he sat on me and squashed me flat. Years later, after a period of marriage and motherhood, I trod on his toes, pulled my tattered self-confidence together, returned to classes, studied hard, got all the necessary qualifications to go to University and subsequently achieved a BA (Hons) in Embroidery in 1984. I was 40 years old. Yes, it is textiles. Later I achieved a Post Grad study in Education. I sort of copped-out a bit and side-stepped into textiles. I am a bit sad that I didn’t take Fine Art but I couldn’t allow anyone else to say, “That’s not for you.” However, I approach my work as one approaches a painting. I am now 67 years old–I did teach for 18 years, 7 of them in Prison Education and 11 years in Adult Ed. My students asked me to continue so I still teach a little. After my husband died, almost 3 years ago now, I lost all of my colour. I have no idea where Buggg went during this time. It wasn’t him who stole it. I am still in recovery from my bereavement. I met my husband just before I left School when I was 15. It would have been my Golden Wedding this August. I felt like my life had been wiped out in a single moment! I got all my work out to look at, pictures that I had collected over time, everything. The curve was prevalent in all! I was really surprised! Buggg never actually destroyed me!! He has shrunk to the size of a thimble. I am Triumphant. There are 2 comments for The birth of Buggg by Norma Hopkins
From: Debra LePage — Aug 05, 2011

Norma, your last few sentences gave me goosebumps. To see the “curve” and realize how we evolve and grow is a cause for celebration.

From: Anonymous — Aug 30, 2011

Your words have moved me to tears. I’m so happy that your Buggg is now the size of a thimble. Your art is beautiful and the colors full of life!

  Rejection breeds determination by Robert Wade, Australia  

watercolour painting
by Robert Wade

Have you missed out on gaining selection for that big show which you so desperately wanted to make? If you have, then welcome to the club! Personally, I have probably been rejected from more major shows than any artist I know. Nobody wants to receive that dreadful rejected slip in the mail, rather like a parking ticket on your car, to feel that you have just been kicked right in the teeth, and that the “masterpiece” which you have sweated over, fretted and worried about, and then finally considered to be good enough to submit, has been passed over by the Jurors. What a great blow to your pride, what a feeling of resentment, what a bitter pill to swallow this can be! Do I like being knocked back? No way… who would? However, there are quite a few guidelines in jurying a show, and it is just as well to consider some before blowing your top. The judge, or panel of Jurors, will have a number of requirements in making their choice of paintings, not the least of which will be to present a well balanced exhibition from the work submitted. Now, if you happen to have painted a large vase of daisies, and so have ten others, then someone must miss out and bad luck if you are one of them! We never get to know why we didn’t make it, so we are left to wonder why. However, having been in the role of Judge so many times myself, I know that the Judge is trying so hard to be fair and honest. All paintings must be selected in an anonymous way, with total disregard for the name of the artist. This is not all that easy, as, like one’s handwriting, the artist’s style is so personal that the signature is almost unnecessary, but it must be absolutely ignored when making decisions. As it is usually a panel making the selection of works in all the major exhibitions, it means that a majority decision is necessary, so that if two Jurors really love your work, but three are only so-so, then sorry old chum, you are out. The American Watercolor Society’s Annual Exhibition in New York is perhaps the most prestigious in the world, certainly one of the most difficult in which to achieve selection, so everyone wants to be hung in an AWS show. Submission is by 35mm slide, one only per artist, and usually there are 2000 or more applications, and, from these, the Jurors have the monumental task of choosing about 100 works for the show. This means that about one in twenty gets in, and that sure is tough competition. I have submitted annually since 1981, have been accepted just four times, so 1981 through 2010, that’s a long time between drinks! The Royal Institute of Painters in Watercolours, London, works on a different system, and the only submissions possible are actual framed works. It makes for a very expensive freight bill, especially as each artist may submit up to six framed pieces. When freight from Australia to London is adding up to some hundreds of dollars, then rejection hurts even more, right in the hip pocket! I submitted to the RI annually for ten years, and each year some were accepted, but one year not a single one got into the show. Well, do I feel embarrassed to disclose my rejections to you? Not at all! Every painting which I have submitted to all of these distinguished Societies has been my best possible work at the time, and if that were not good enough then I must try harder. Remember this… Constant acceptance breeds complacency and mediocrity, rejection breeds determination and ultimate success. Don’t hold grudges against the Judges. Determine to paint something better to submit next year. So, if at first you don’t succeed, then you can count yourself as pretty normal! Rejection helps to keep us humble, (and so does watercolour) and it’s extremely good for the soul. Talking about that, I was recently Guest of Honour of one of Melbourne’s larger Art Societies. After the official proceedings were through, we all gathered for a cup of coffee and cake. One of the Society’s longest serving members came over to me and said “They seemed to be making a bit of a fuss over you, but I didn’t catch your name?” “Wade,” I said, “Robert Wade.” “Oh,” he said, “What sort of a role do you play in the art game?” Like I said, humility is good for you. There are 3 comments for Rejection breeds determination by Robert Wade
From: Dottie Dracos — Aug 05, 2011

Well, I for one absolutely love your attached painting. I wish I had your positive attitude, too. It probably even helps you be a better painter than many of us.

From: Jan Ross — Aug 05, 2011

Robert Wade is truly a watercolor master whose work I’ve long enjoyed and studied. To read his humble words, particularly after receiving several rejection letter this week, I am reminded that no artist, no matter how creative/talented, travels this journey called ‘art’ without some pain and frustration. While reading his letter, I was also reminded, “He is one of us”. Thanks, Robert!

From: Marsha Hamby Savage — Aug 06, 2011

These words of wisdom from you are pure gold! Every time a rejection notice is received, the plan should be to see what might have been a better painting, or how could that painting have been done better, etc. And this is the only way to continue in my mind. You said it so well. And, the chances … well, knowing there are so many submitted, and the time each one is viewed, tells us the chance is small that a painting makes it into the show. And, it is only the opinion of that judge, or that panel. Thanks for your words.

  Buggg defeated! by Kristen Dukat, Findlay, Ohio, USA  

oil painting
by Kristen Dukat

Side note to this story: Sunday, I completed my first show for my paintings at the University of Toledo. As I set up my display on the campus that I had not returned to since 2005, I felt the old anxiety cropping up, and even saved the front part of the booth for last, so the other artists there would not see my “attempts.” However, by the end of the day, I had sold 10 paintings and made many new friends and conversations about my art. I am so glad I kept with it. What a great feeling to overcome the Buggg! There are 2 comments for Buggg defeated! by Kristen Dukat
From: Bev Searle-Freeman — Aug 05, 2011

well done!! :)

From: Wanda Coffey — Aug 08, 2011

I am so happy for you. It sure does help the old soul to sell something somewhere. Keep your head up. Your work looks wonderful. And congratulations…..


Archived Comments

Enjoy the past comments below for Petrified by rejection

From: Rick Rotante — Aug 01, 2011

Rejection will always be part of the game. Truly, get over it quickly. Some ways to get over this is by painting in public at every opportunity. Nothing gets you over rejection faster than having others peering over your shoulder while you work. Seriously, try it. Rejection from shows doesn’t amount to a hill of beans. You won’t be able to satisfy everyone. You only have to satisfy yourself. And to be honest, your work may be better than those giving the show, so expect to be rejected, it’s called jealousy! Look at it this way, if everything you did was accepted with open arms, you would begin to doubt yourself anyway. It isn’t possible to make a work every time that is spot on with a viewer. So, seriously, get over it. You are the only paying that much attention anyway. Everyone else is scared sh–less more than you over their own work. It’s like swimming, jump in; you will survive and not drown. Now, if you can’t take rejection after all of this, give it up and become a homemaker.

From: Susan Holland — Aug 01, 2011

Robert, you have given us a name for our Studio Daemon! Reminds me of C.S. Lewis’ Screwtape Letters! (devil’s advocate story.) Something I tell myself about rejections is that you have to get rid of that one to get to the next acceptance…. and think about those writers I know who put their “unable to use your submission” slips up on the wall, knowing that for each x number of rejections slips an acceptance will come. You have to consider the odds/ the percentages. I got skunked the week after I sold out! Who can make sense of it? Never mind…just keep chugging along. It all evens out properly eventually. (wish Van Gogh knew before he died what an impact his art would make, poor guy.)

From: Nina Allen Freeman — Aug 02, 2011

Whenever you submit your work to a show just remember the judge is only one person or if a committee, just a few people out of the many in the world with an opinion. They do not have that much power over your career. Many times I have submitted a piece to a show, have it get in, and win an award. When the same painting was submitted to another show, it would be rejected. Who can tell what forces are at work? Develop a thick skin when it comes to rejection and let it roll right off, going on to the next thing. Keep on painting, submitting only your very best work. Listen only to the friends you have who are helpful and positive and have your best interest in mind. Reject those Who tell you to get a real job or paint something that would sell or some other ridiculous nonsense. Paint what is in your heart to paint, the very best you can and the world will love it too.

From: Dwight — Aug 02, 2011

Why not take a workshop with a friendly, helpful instructor instead of an academic snob for a teacher. Most art clubs and societies are really friendly groups who would help anybody, new or in trouble. I’m a member of the Idaho Watercolor Society, having both taken and instructed our workshops and I know this is true not only here but most places. Working artists are almost always looking to help others if the need arises. Robert himself is an example of this.

From: Jackie Knott — Aug 02, 2011

At some point in everyone’s life we develop a sense of identity. Some are able to arrive there in their late teens or twenties with a clear idea of what they want out of life and how to get there. They tend to achieve early and high. It takes us late bloomers a little longer. Call it maturity if you like, self worth or self esteem, but when you finally find yourself it is a marvelous thing – no amount of criticism or rejection will mean anything. You can grin at negative evaluation of your work because only you know what you are trying to accomplish. And who are they, anyway? Just a bump in the road. No one determines your success but you alone. I suppose that is why I love old people so much … they don’t care. They dress as they please, eat what they want, and are indifferent to reaction when they say what we wish we had the guts to say. They found themselves decades ago …. Rejection is part of the job description for anyone in the arts … one must have a sense of purpose. You must have direction of where you want to go with your art and no one decides that but you. Seek relevance instead of approval.

From: Marilyn Kousoulas — Aug 02, 2011

My work has been rejected as well as accepted in art shows. Now, I look at who will judge art shows and get some background on his/her/their art background. If they do not have experience in the medium I am entering, I know that if I enter the art show, it will be a risky adventure. However, if judges do have experience in my art medium, I enter the show with confidence; if rejected, I mark it up to “I tried” and keep on creating. “You cannot please all the people all of the time…”

From: Marvin Humphrey, Napa Valley — Aug 02, 2011

Buggg is the Tribal Mentality. Declare your independence, and tell him to buggg off. Edward Hopper’s response to those asking “What are you trying to say?” was “If I could say it in words, there would be no reason to paint.”

From: Suzette Fram — Aug 02, 2011

My 2 cents’ worth of advice for Kristen is this. You must not ‘personalize’ the rejection. When some of your work is rejected (over in these parts, we say ‘declined’), it does not mean that you and everything you stand for are rejected, or worthless. Having work criticized or turned down for a show, does not mean that you are a bad painter, and certainly it does not mean that you are not a valuable person, worthy of love and acceptance. Rejection can feel that way. It can shake you up to the core and make you feel unworthy, unloved, and worse yet, unlovable. So, give yourself a shake, and remind yourself, it’s only the work, and it’s ONLY THE OPINION of a few jurors, or a teacher (a teacher who perhaps couldn’t make it as an artist so became a teacher instead??). If you truly cannot take any kind of criticism or rejection, then I suggest you stop showing your work. You will never please everyone, so you must please yourself. (I think someone said that before me. LOL.)

From: Marilyn Muller — Aug 02, 2011

I kid you not but I literally burst into tears reading this. I too struggle with criticism, rejection, low confidence. I recently did not make it into a prestigious juried show. Somehow, I was able to move on because I know I am a good painter and my fine art has been validated in other ways. I rarely apply for those shows, so I find other venues. BUT I have been especially challenged by rejection lately in that I have simultaneously been pursuing work as a scenic artist- that is, as a painter for Film and TV. Talk about rejection! I recently cried all weekend after being let go from a movie crew. But everybody has an opinion and they will all be different. I guess that this tough stuff is steeling me in that I can deal with feedback about my fine art and take it or leave it. Switching gears from one art form to another is also refreshing me so that I can paint for myself, not worrying about opinions of others, and coming up with fresh ideas. Kind of. Still hurts. Hey, I myself am a work in progress.

From: Kay Christopher — Aug 02, 2011

What a totally wonderful letter this is, Robert. Thank you so much. Since Buggg is in all of us it speaks to to all of us. Much appreciation for your letters and your continuing generosity.

From: Patty Oates — Aug 02, 2011
From: Kristen Dukat — Aug 02, 2011

Thank you Robert! After reading it 3 times before I drift off to to sleep – think I’ve got it! Something tells me my work is about to change.

From: Patsy Scott — Aug 02, 2011

This is scary and could actually happen if we stay on the road we’re on. Lord help us is all I can say.

From: Paula Timpson — Aug 02, 2011

feeling rejection is nothing more than the ego~ meditation is steady stability… breathing in and out, focus,freedom~ Creating empties & fills the Soul, same way as breath for the Spirit, children’s honesty, moon’s waxing and waning and stars breathing Light!

From: Katherine Harris — Aug 02, 2011

I have always enjoyed viewing all your artists’ works,- with your and their comments. This time, however, I felt I must write to disagree with the artist who said that art must have a social impact. I think of art in the same way I think of music. …it should be mostly there to ENJOY– sometimes lightly, and sometimes deeply, but mostly freely!

From: Paul deMarrais — Aug 02, 2011

Every painting I do is going to fall short. The tough part about the artists’ journey is that is that in the end it is ALL up to you. You have wear a number of hats whether it be stern critic, encouraging coach, therapist or cheerleader. It is when you give these important jobs over to others that the problems begin. You have to put on your armor and build up what you refer to as the ego-force. You are then the only person who can deflate you, but are also able to pat yourself on the back when it is needed. You can’t paint to please someone else as this artist does. Painting for others puts you at the mercy of the fickle nature of people. The only way to survive is to take charge.

From: Rosanna — Aug 02, 2011

One of the things that feed my Buggg is being asked to teach art to children. I teach music and for that I have the proper training but I have no training in art other than workshops and working under other artists. I love children and working with them but I am having trouble finding successful art projects that can be constructed in a 2 hour class and also that have been labeled for age appropriateness. I have just been winging it for the last few years but I would really like some guidance and structure so that Buggg would leave the pit of my stomach alone! There are lots of craft resources but I am looking for art. Do you have any online web sources/ideas you can share? Do you know of a good Art project book that will help inform and develop early teens?

From: Deana Blanchard — Aug 02, 2011

I have been working professionally in glass since 1978, supporting my habit and myself very nicely, even winning prizes from time to time. Nonetheless, whenever I take a class, even now, after all these years, and at the age of 71, I still get tremendous performance anxiety when I take a class in any type of art. It takes me about three days of being petrified and blocked until I finally give in and just let things happen without worrying about my worthiness. The classes, even though they are scary at the beginning, have always resulted in a jolt that can take me up one more step in my creativity. “Life’s like a movie; write your own ending. Keep believing; keep pretending.” Jim Henson

From: Gary Cameron — Aug 02, 2011

If Buggg continues to interfere, one session with a clinical hypnotist to enable the removal of the imprint where Buggg got its foothold should be enough to bury Buggg –the cost should be less than the value of one small painting (between $50 and $200, depending on rural south or NYC). Your making Kristen aware of Buggg might do it, but, if not, self-hypnosis taught in an initial session should.

From: Wendy Landkammer — Aug 02, 2011

In reading this week’s letter about the girl who let rejection stop her from painting for 7 years, several thoughts went through my head. My first thought was that if an artist allows fear to own their skill and talent, then growth is really next to impossible simply because they can’t or won’t take criticism, good or otherwise. But I do understand how rejection can stop a person cold. It hurts to be rejected plain and simple. Life is filled with various forms of rejection, but that doesn’t mean that a person stops living. If that happened every time rejection showed up, half the amazing things we all take for granted in the world wouldn’t exist. I remember the first time my work got rejected. It was at a gallery whose owner had agreed to look at my work. I was all excited. I was young and it went straight to my head….the gallery owner and another artist friend of mine, at the time, decided that I should redo all my work in the gallery owner’s style and my artist friend should pick out the colors. Talk about getting kicked in the gut! It wasn’t just rejection but it was telling me that my skill and talent wasn’t worth anything! I was livid when I left. But being an artist in my bones, I kept painting, and kept drawing and kept going. I’ve destroyed my own work. I’ve taken old paintings and cut them into smaller pieces so I could use the back side to make new paintings and drawings because there was no money to buy new paper. I’ve had three one woman shows in my art journey and have art in a several states and a few foreign countries. But for the successes I’ve had I’ve faced more rejection and more crappy opinions of what I honestly believed was really good work. It’s all part and parcel of being an artist. It takes courage to keep going on the artist’s road. It takes a thick skin and it takes a love for art that goes to your bones. I’ve told more people to be honest when they look at my work because stroking my ego does nothing for me or my art. If they don’t like it, oh well. They don’t like it. The reality is, art isn’t about the shows, it isn’t about getting into a gallery or the people turning an artist into a rock star, it’s about the act of creativity and the driving need to do it. The old saying “if you can’t stand the heat, get out of the kitchen” applies here. If you can’t deal with how hard the road is, go find another road.

From: Jean McLaren — Aug 02, 2011

I think this fear of rejection comes from the way things are in the world today. We see our governments both in the US and Canada, doing things we don’t agree with, like spending our precious tax dollars on stupid wars they can never win, and yet we say nothing. We have a fear mentality in North America. I hate to think that it would stop us from painting. I once did a slightly political painting and a woman said to me – you will never sell that!! – thanks a lot, I did. you just have to ignore the naysayers and go for it. I have only once put a painting in a gallery. I live in a creative community on a small island and we help each other.

From: oliver — Aug 02, 2011

The best way to not be petrified of rejection I know is to first and foremost love what you do! If you have done this you are already satisfied. Secondly, know and truly understand that not everyone likes everything and understand how your work affects the viewer. I know people who dislike Picasso and some who only like parts of his work. Feel this in your bones, feel this in your soul. Understand your work too, I often see artists make, especially dark brooding message art and not understand why people don’t want to live with it on their walls – some is even very good and I may even want it in a book on my bookshelf, but not surrounding me daily influencing my mood. If you don’t understand your work and how it may affect the viewer, quite simply you have some work to do. Third, make sure you are financially in a position that you have what you need to live and enjoy life. Be brutal about this, follow the financial guidelines for other self employed entrepreneurs, things like 1 years expenses – everything food, shelter, entertainment, healthcare etc in the bank, 2-3 years of progressive income build before CHOOSING to stake everything on art as your primary source of income. If you are so insulated – a) You love what you do, b) You KNOW not everyone will like your work and understand how and why people react to it, and c) you are financially secure you can thank people for not enthusiastic responses to your work, and you may even be able to objectively listen to what they say and take it as constructive criticism or just let it roll off your back. Your supporters you can cherish and love – but you’ll probably learn more from the critics than the fans. Fans can easily trap you into repeating yourself and not growing.

From: Marjory Lois Sampson — Aug 02, 2011

I signed up for a correspondence art school and was given constructive criticism. I finished with an A-. My teachers were all Famous Artists.

From: Dianne Levine — Aug 02, 2011

I just wanted to add my two cents to the problem of rejection. I too, went through the agonies of hell with rejection. What I have discovered is the rejection is like a blister which you get when you do something overly strenuous. It hurts like the devil, but with more doing, you form callus to protect the area from the rub or what ever is causing the blister. Once the callus has formed, no more pain. Unfortunately I know of no way to get a callus without the pain first. Artists are so soft and vulnerable at the beginning of their careers that the pain is often so debilitating, they stop painting or doing whatever their art is. It is good to look back over the 50 years of my art career, and remember that the first 10 or so years were so painful that I am not sure how I managed the rejection/pain. I finally started using this motto for the times I am rejected, “I have been kicked out of better shows/places than this one.” It helps put things in perspective and helps me keep my callus.

From: Eveleen Power — Aug 02, 2011

I experienced the same rejection at art college. I was overwhelmed by the criticisms of the tutors and stopped painting. It took me years to believe that I was good enough to paint or that I was qualified to paint. The only way was to just keep painting. But it is very difficult to show your paintings at the risk of having them rejected. I still don’t see myself as a “real” artist whatever that is!

From: Doris Swanson — Aug 02, 2011

I had Buggg hanging on until I realized I was in the wrong gallery. Sales went to Abstract and Contemporary Art. I was devastated and angry because my realistic paintings were not selling and then I realized I was in the wrong gallery. Choosing your Galleries with “like” art is a no-brainer and maybe most artists know this. In my eagerness, I didn’t. Do not be too eager to join a gallery that does not fit. Give BUGGG THE BOOT.

From: Mimi Shapiro — Aug 02, 2011

Today’s letter really touched me! Good for you Kristen and yes all artist’s have to get beyond the bugggs – keep on being creative it is the thing that keeps the planet spinning !

From: Linda Saccoccio — Aug 02, 2011

By persistently pursuing your creative work, you attain stability and liberation, while your Buggg becomes petrified. I think it realizes its ineffective state. Once in a while it may give another try here and there, when you hit a rough patch, but essentially the artist can see its tricks too easily by then and it only serves to point out how much healthy growth has occurred overtime. Cheers to all who have overcome the debilitation of the Buggg ! The time has come for civilization to evolve beyond it as well.

From: Pamela Bleakney — Aug 02, 2011

Rejection is really good for your soul if you use it to push harder, not worry about what others think and say. Create for you and love what you do! Also remember it is just one person’s opinion. Keep working!

From: Peter Daniels — Aug 02, 2011
From: Susan Hirst — Aug 02, 2011

No one mentioned to Kristen that her work is wonderful. Loose, colorful, so painterly. I say, go big…..”You can’t ignore big.” I’m guilty too, so can’t advise. Deep down, though, I know I have something that makes me think I’m not doing what I’m supposed to unless I’m making art. And I know not everyone has that need.

From: Gene Martin — Aug 03, 2011

No one but you knows whether or not the piece succeeded. I stopped entering shows where I did not know the judges credentials and background. I have found each judge will judge from their level of information. If they have no knowledge of oil painting then why on earth would you enter an oil painting. Create, seek knowledge, drink deeply of the creative life and enjoy.

From: Rene W — Aug 03, 2011

Rejection seems to be most difficult to accept by the novice artist. Once you earned your credentials rejection no longer affects you as much. Go with the flow and learn from the experience.

From: Deborah Kay Nees — Aug 03, 2011

Ahhh, “Buggg”! He rears his head just to annoy us. Thanks for the reminder we have defeated him; even when he pops back into our lives at various stages!

From: Cindy Mawle — Aug 03, 2011

I was just speaking with an artist friend the other day about art show rejections. I likened it to being in shape. When walking up a steep hill, you are out of breath at the top, but the better shape you are in, the faster you recover. Same as entering shows. Of course you will be disappointed, it is a normal reaction, but its the recovery that is important. So, feel the rejection, catch your breath and get on with the next.

From: David Morgan — Aug 03, 2011

Don’t give damn was these so called critics say. They are mostly failed artists themselves and love to pontificate with little idea of what the artist is trying to project in his/her own way. Take heart from the fact that Van Gogh sold but one painting in his life. He painted for the pleasure and angst it often gave him. Now look at what they say! As Robert says, it is better to be a loner and immerse yourself in your own pleasures. Making art is a lonesome business. Enjoy your efforts. Forget the masterpiece and do your own thing.

From: Tatjana — Aug 03, 2011

I think that we have some very useful tools in our emotional toolbox to deal with rejections, but maybe they are not so obvious. How about spite? Or perhaps anger? Any emotion that springs you into action will do, just take initiative! And be good to your ego, don’t try to stifle it as some suggest. A healthy ego will know how to deal with rejection. I wish you best of luck!

From: John Ferre — Aug 04, 2011

Dear Robert, I don’t think there is a sadder saying in the world than “It might have been”. How sad that this artist will not pursue their passion for painting. There is nothing said that an artist is any less of an artist if they do not show or pursue the path of marketing or selling their works. If this artist is good, people will respond to it and will want to buy it out of their studio. Galleries are a business and simply put, a stepping stone between the artist and the buyer. Often they are two steps below the used car salesman. But there are some really good and caring dealers out there who carefully select artists and paintings so that the rest of the world can enjoy them. Rejection is part of life, personally and professionally. But it is how an artist chooses to respond that makes the difference. If they have low expectations, then they will never be disappointed. Studying and knowing a thing or two about art history is one thing, to be a painter and live a passion is a rare thing in this world. It should never be squandered. John Ferrie

From: Phillipa Dalhousie — Aug 04, 2011

We have a local show where the show management culls the submissions prior to the arrival of the guest juror. Local notables always survive this pre-judging. To be fair, so does some good work by unknowns. However, the show management reports to a director who has a personal interest in photography, so an ucharacteristically large portion of photographic submissions survive the pre-judging, and inevitably find their way into the show. The jurors statements are often that he or she wants to represent what’s current in the region. Photography, apparently. I have a good idea where my work stands relative to the professional standards of the area. Among landscapists– who almost never succeed in the high end shows, but sell otherwise– I’m somewhere in the middle of the pack as far as quality goes. However, my sales have been weak by comparison with that middle pack. I’ve noticed– and it’s been brought to my attention– that when my work in the galleries is next to that of someone who has a track record commercially (meaning, is better known) that even their weaker work will sell more readily. Actually, I don’t find this as depressing as it might be. I’d like to support my efforts, but I have a day job, and someday someone will hang some of my paintings, and will take them from home to home, despite having no idea who I am or where I went to school or which workshops I attended. I know this, and so am able to go about the effort of showing and selling without pumping up hopes for the result. I save consideration of results for the actual work of painting, and then it’s a pleasure, and rarely frustrating.

From: Gregory Smythe-Pelly — Aug 04, 2011

I expect to be rewarded for my efforts, which include, a classical art education, long experience, and great painting. That’s what I offer, and that’s what the client pays for. I see no value in hiding my substantial background in education, success in juried shows, gallery and museum representation, and sales record from the market. This information is made available as is my use of the best possible archival materials, so a prospective client understands exactly what he’s getting.

From: Bev Willis — Aug 04, 2011

Why don’t we paint a Buggg that we have in our mind for ourselves and then when we look at it a short while and paint right over it – and make a gorgeous picture over the top of it – a symbol of taking care of that Buggg – wonder how many different paintings would turn up of each person’s Buggg.

From: Mark Brennan — Aug 04, 2011

Robert this is great stuff. I am sending it to my girls soccer team… some of them are full of Buggs!

From: Linda Smith — Aug 04, 2011

Just watched your clickback of István Sándorfi. It is quite moving work, exquisitely haunting and expressive….WOW! Thank you for all you do.

From: C.elaine Kairis — Aug 04, 2011

Realizing~ “The reason we paint”….giving the goodness which gains in richness is so valuable towards our GOAL in preserverance. Does the “roots” reach beneath the soul of epectation of..popularity? Towards acceptablity in what is popualar at the time…..the mass is doing it~ so it M U S T be WORTH considering. Nothing, will diminish our V A L U E if we truely have this down. Always each step will be a stepping stone towards fruitation of V A L U E to reap it’s own reward in time. And….really, if WE each… K N E W….who held the reward of our efforts in any encounter…..the blessing would be …L O S T! If it is within Us to such a L E V E L of unselfish enrichment…truely We have a… G I F T…appreciation will follow.

From: Faye Lewis — Aug 04, 2011

Exceptional skills depicting the body and human condition, however, I do not find the work soul uplifting.

From: Daniela, Australia — Aug 04, 2011

The female form with the menstrual pad over one eye really bothers me, then there is: blindfolded,and: no forearms….how many things can you do with a (submissive) female form….why do female nudes always have to look downtrodden …is it because artists of the past could only find prostitutes to take their kit off? Good brush technique…

From: Sarah Atkins — Aug 05, 2011

And what about rejection from those competitions sponsored by Artist Magazine, Watercolor Magazine, and Pastel Journal where almost 5,000 artists spend their money to compete? All of them are pre-judged by the staffs of the sponsoring organizations with only a relative few actually being submitted to the advertised judges. Most entrants have no idea how few that number is. They anxiously wait for the verdict and have no idea that it wasn’t really the judge who rejected them.

From: Meera — Aug 05, 2011
From: Laurel Alanna McBrine — Aug 05, 2011

The featured slide show paintings are very skilled and interesting but I find them a little disturbing and misogynistic.

From: Janet Best Badger — Aug 05, 2011

I wrote a lot of poetry as a child, even was taken to other classes in my elementary school to recite a few. Then my 7th grade English teacher pronounced one of my epics a “doggerel.” After I looked up the meaning of the word I didn’t write another poem until some free verse in college. Thankfully, I am finally back to my rhyming!

From: H Margret — Aug 05, 2011

I agree with others here that the featured slide show is quality work, but it doesn’t move me and seems stuck in the past. Re: submissions, I applied to 12 grad schools for an MFA and was rejected by all. I found out later that you must know someone. Too bad they didn’t put that on the application so we don’t waste the time and money. College is really questionable sometimes.

From: Kim Overall — Aug 05, 2011

His work is phenomenal figurative realism, but his soul seemed tortured. The figures become ghostly, downtrodden, oppressed, violated almost, spiritually deprived to the brink of starvation and ripped to pieces. The only painting that looked to have peaceful satiation was with the man and woman. The quality of his work is wonderful and I like the Fechin-like abstract approach to his broad brushstrokes to finish off the piece. He was a great painter absolutely.

From: Paul Watkins — Aug 05, 2011

Simply brilliant! It’s long been a mystery to me why we continue to revere the traditional ‘Masters’ other than their innovation at that time, but the imagination, technical ability and sheer force of his painting suggest he and many others like him in all corners of the globe are right up there with the very best of them. It makes me wonder why I bother with my own dull efforts in the face of such mastery.

From: Zidonja — Aug 05, 2011

I love his pictures, a nude is a nude, the ones cover in blankets and sheete or other wise are more fascinating, the tones of the skin is just marvellous

From: Judy Braaten — Aug 05, 2011

So is your belief that you evolved from a monkey? I was created from the breath of our Heavenly Father, created for love and greatness, he loves us so much that he created his son to come down on earth to teach us of his love by cleansing us of our sins of foolishness by him choosing to suffer and die so we can be forgiven and cleansed of our sins. God loves us so, we just have to believe and trust in him to take care of us for ever, even into eternity. If this offends you I do not apologize because Jesus is Lord of all of us in the whole world for ever. Just call out to Jesus and ask him to show you himself, that he is Lord and loves you unconditionally.

From: Victoria — Aug 05, 2011

What a fasinating body of work, I was totally blown away!

From: Elisabet Stacy-Hurley — Aug 05, 2011

Buggg….reminds me of the ‘Jung shadow’….google it…’s so important for artists to learn about….

From:Delores Herringshaw — Aug 07, 2011

this was the most inspiring exhibit that I have seen lately . Thankyou Robert.

From: Rebecca Skelton — Aug 08, 2011

Recently I have noticed that art institutions seem to look at what you say about your work more than the work itself. As for rejection, it always stings, but you grow thicker skin by continuing to make your art as you see fit.

From: Meggy Dee — Aug 08, 2011

I really dislike these paintings by Sandorfi. They smack of stereotype, of violence against women (and men).

From: Jacqui Chapman — Aug 14, 2011

At first I watched and dismissed realism as figurative painting from ‘how to paint nudes’ from the 70’s. But as I watched I was drawn in, taking time to appreciate the skill in execution and as it evolved the abstraction and myth developed, taking me elsewhere.

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Turkey Creek

acrylic painting, 16 x 20 inches by Roscoe Wallace, USA

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