I recently attended an art reception for a long standing and highly regarded local competition. As soon as I entered the gallery space for the show, another photographer approached and introduced herself. She knew who I was and knew that I’ve entered many a competition. We began to talk art competitions. We talked about rejection.

Alone on a Hill

Entering an art competition involves many things. There is a procedure to submit your work. Online submissions require filling out online forms and having properly executed photographs of your work. Those images must be sized and titled correctly. You pay the submission fee online. You hit submit and wait. Drop off submissions require printing the paperwork. You drive the work to a drop off location. You have your paperwork in order and pay the submission fee in the form of cash or a check. You drive home and wait.

And, wait.

Entering an art competition can be nerve wracking. There are two outcomes to the submission process. You either get in or you don’t. 

It’s personal.

There are a variety of you didn’t get in words. Declined. Uninvited. Not accepted. Bottom line? REJECTED.

The very first competion that I ever entered is the same one that starts this post. In 2018, I’m a new-to-the-wall artist. I’m full of optimism and hope. It’s a drop off submission. Within a week, I get the dreaded “declined” email. I’m incredulous. I’m deflated. I then do what I usually do when I don’t have a clue. I googled it. I don’t remember what my search terms were, maybe something like “What the hell is wrong with my art!?” I looked into all the reasons why an artwork isn’t accepted into a juried show. There are the personal preferences of the juror. There may be space limitations. There may be an overabundance of your medium. Maybe you screwed up with the requirements for hanging the art and, yes, there are all sorts of requirements. Bottom line? Having your art rejected doesn’t necessarily mean that your art sucks. 

My initial research did what I wanted it to do. I got my perspective straight about rejection. If you are going to put your work and, therefore, yourself out there, you’d better grow a thick skin. It’s not personal. It’s the nature of the beast. You win some, you lose some. If you’re losing every time, then your art probably sucks. If not, consider it a win to get in. 

The artist that had approached me spoke of being rejected and how much it hurt. I shared with her my story of being “declined” with my very first competiton, the very one which we were now attending and had both been accepted into. The second time I submitted to this competition, I shared my first ever rejection story with the artist doing the intake. She is a long standing and enormously talented artist - Linda, you know who you are - and her wise and experienced response to my story was this: 

“Just remember, when you are rejected, it is the opinion of one person.”

Yeah! one person! so there!  She went on:

“And, when you get First Place, it is still the opinion of one person.”



PS - One of the pieces from that first rejection went on the take two awards and garnered my first collector. Go figure…

Using Format