How to Handle Rejection as an Artist • Blog Post by Christopher Gallego

Zoe Frank
Houseplant on Tiles, 2017
Oil on panel, 16 x 16 in.

Marketing gurus recommend a five-percent customer conversion rate for businesses. Same goes for individuals. So if you’re getting one result out of twenty attempts, then guess what?

You are succeeding.

Two for twenty means you’re killing it.

Consider the numbers:

Ten open-call submissions a year, each with a $40 entry fee, means a $400 yearly investment in your life’s passion. That’s the price of a few restaurant dinners you can live without (a Disneyworld ticket is $115). The cost of these shows is no reason to avoid them.

And the best part?

Your exhibition list will grow faster realize.

The first goal for any emerging artist is to build a resume—your gateway to future shows, sales, and opportunities. No one asks about your failures and you don’t have to share them. You’ll forget them yourself in time.


Ignore the Haters

One harsh reality is that no matter how talented you are, no matter how hard you work, no matter how rigorous your training, there are people out there who won’t like your work. Some will actually hate it.

Let that sink in for a moment.

Some people will hate your work.

What a completely dreadful thought. It seems so cruel and unfair.

Yes, some will love your art, but they’re the minority. And I know how pessimistic these sounds, but it isn’t. It’s simply the nature of art, one of the most personal and subjective things in human experience.

You’ll always have your fans. They’re the ones who feel your work speaks to them, personally and directly. Who feel your work belongs to them, whether they own it or not.

Who think of you as their artist.

And these, fellow artists, are the people we want in our lives. Which brings us to the next tip:


Narrow Your Focus

I know someone who sells over half his output to just six collectors. You read that right.

For decades, the same six people have consistently bought this artist’s work, which isn’t cheap, for themselves and for others. The other 7.7 billion people on the planet don’t matter to him.

Because painters aren’t like writers or screen actors who need a million adoring fans. A small, loyal following and few solid relationships, and you’re set.

So focus on those who could potentially love your work (I’d recommend more than six). If they respond, keep them posted on your new works and activities. The rest of the world you can forget—you can’t be everything to everyone and your time is precious.


Final Thought:
Toughen Up