Sorry, You’ve Been Rejected

It’s tough to deal with rejection, especially if you’re not sure what went wrong.


It's never easy being rejected.


Perhaps you’ve applied to your dream show, but didn’t get in. Or submitted your application to a gallery show hoping to find an opportunity to display your work, and were not given the chance. Jury notifications most often only advise applicants whether they are accepted or not, so you may be left wondering what happened.

If you weren’t juried in, it may have nothing to do with the quality of your work. Perhaps the theme or focus of the competition wasn’t a good fit for what you do, and you simply made a misjudgment in applying. Or, if you are trying to get into a fair or festival in an over-saturated category like jewelry, it could be a real uphill battle to be granted a booth space at all. It may take more than one application to get over that hurdle.

Can you get feedback on your submission? Sometimes, yes. It doesn’t hurt to send an email inquiring whether you can receive a bit of information on how you might be able to improve your application in the future. Don’t expect an in-depth critique; that is not owed to any applicant. But you might hear back with some useful insight into why you got that rejection letter.

Most artists receive a mixture of acceptances and rejections. That’s just life. If you’re experiencing lots of rejection and feel that you need a bit of help, you may benefit from a review of your work from a mentor or advisor. Is your portfolio really well done, or are there flaws? Perhaps your photography isn’t as good as it should be, which is often a reason for rejection. Or, you need to choose a different selection of your work which gives a better presentation.

Finding the right show or exhibition for your artwork is key to submitting winning applications. Take a look at previous exhibitors. Are they your peers? You may want to research the jurors in a particular competition, to see whether they seem to have preferences, and would be either positive or negative given your work.

And always be sure to fill out every application completely, double check to make sure that you have followed the rules, and get it in before the deadline.


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  1. There’s is no right or wrong, just the various opinions regarding the marketability of your work. It’s a numbers game: Keep painting. Keep submitting.

  2. Art is very subjective. Every no is a step closer to the yes. You can evaluate what you see in fairs you want to get into, and start with some smaller local venues if you have them which are generally open to artist without jury. This will tell you if you need to vamp, ramp or change your portfolio slightly. I like to look at what others are showing, what they are selling and compare that style or subject to what I am offering. If close, you are on track. If very different maybe you need to consider moving to a different subject or learn a new style.

    Don’t give up, keep working painting and selling when you can. Go to the online galleries, there are several, and offer your work. Here you can play around with some pricing models and find the price window that seems to be right for you. Then go into every show you can and offer at those prices. If you are not making sales but getting some great feedback as I did recently in one show, consider making prints of your more popular pieces. At this one show I saw my neighbor selling prints left and right but no one was selling originals very often. I made two sales that day of originals but that was well below my hopes.

    Keep on keeping on. Join art communities near you if possible and be active in them. You will get your yes, or find out why your not getting any yeses. Believe me, it is not always about your skill. I see some things sell that I am shocked by at prices that I am shocked by – both ways good and not so good. There is a buyer for every piece you have. Just stay with it, you will find them soon.

    Keep on submitting even to the shows that say no. If you accumulate too many pieces and need room, sale them cheap, give them away, or paint over them. Every two year anniversary a painting has in my domain, it is offered as a last chance sale. If it sales, I get it into someone’s hands. If it does not sale, I paint over it. Win win really. I don’t have to keep it, I can move on without buying more canvases. True some pieces I get attached to. If that is the case, I can keep it or find someone to give it to. I have yet to find someone not willing to accept a free painting. Many times they are very excited and it generates more visibility and exposure. Two good things.

    Be tenacious, and paint. The yeses will come.


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