Friday, January 15, 2010

About Rejection

This is a difficult topic to think and write about. It seems somehow more personal than other subject matter, rather something better not spoken of lest one be deemed rejection-able.

The first time I experienced it after becoming a full time dedicated painter happened some thirty years ago. I was crushed. I had answered the doorbell to find the UPS man returning to me several large paintings I had consigned some months prior to a San Diego gallery. There was a letter asking me to send others in their place as they had had no luck with these. I was too distraught and discouraged by the reappearance of works I expected to be readily embraced by an adoring public (well, maybe not exactly expected, more like hoped) to respond by sending new paintings for consignment — big mistake. I felt that I could not possibly send any work anywhere ever again. Yes, it was an overreaction and at some level I was aware of that. So I called a friend, the fabulous Jane Hill, multi-talented actress, playwright and all around arts person, who immediately came to my doorstep. She spent a generous amount of time telling me about auditions and of picking oneself up and going for it again.

I learned. It doesn’t hurt less or nor is it less disheartening. But the restorative thoughts come quickly now: about how Ernest Hemingway papered the room he worked in with rejection slips, how Van Gogh sold nothing during his lifetime, how Mozart was dropped into a pauper’s grave and Schubert acquired his first piano not long before his early death. I’m in good company, I tell myself. I remember my successes and consider how they outweigh the disappointments. I think of all the paintings I have sold over the years and try to recall some of the pats on the back. I will not let the rebuff be a measure of the quality of the work I do nor instill self-doubt. I am my own harshest critic and that will suffice. The painter Elmer Bischoff said: “Success begins and ends in the studio”.

Has it gotten easy? No, it has not. But it has become one of the acceptable attributes of a life worth living.

The image above is Mini Triptych Han, acrylic & mixed media collage, 4.5 x 3" each, 2005. For information about any of the paintings seen on this site please email Joan.


  1. Beautiful post, Joan. The conclusions you draw and lessons you have learned from years of working through the self-doubts that rejection can inflame strike me as applicable to so many people and activities, not just painting.

  2. Im looking at your mini triptych and wondering if you color choices are at all inspired from your life in South America ?

  3. It is a beautiful post. And a topic I have more personal experience with than I care to ponder. Do people really need to wonder why artists are said to suffer from depression? Who wouldn't get down about it.

    Another story I like to keep in mind is that of Theodor Geisel. He almost destroyed the manuscript for his first Dr. Seuss book, To Think That I Saw it on Mulberry Street, after the 27th rejection arrived in the mail.