How to Overcome Disappointment

By Carrie Lewis in Art Business Advice > Motivation

Disappointment is as much a part of life as breathing. If you’ve lived any length of time, you’ve experienced disappointment; there is simply no way around it. You may even have already found ways of overcoming disappointment.

Some time ago, I wrote about experiencing disappointments in the studio and in life in general. At the time, I referenced a prestigious juried exhibit to which I hoped to be invited and my reactions when that door closed.

There have been other disappointments since then, and there will continue to be disappointments.

Disappointment with individual drawings.
Disappointments with exhibits or galleries.
Disappointment with business.
Disappointments with life in general.

So the question isn’t whether or not you encounter disappointments. The question is how will you respond?

How to overcome disappointment:

I’ve been an artist for most of my life—especially if you include those early masterpieces drawn on the walls with crayon. :) I make no claims to having learned all there is about art, about overcoming disappointments, or about much of anything else.

But I have learned a few things that will help you in coping with your own disappointments.

1. It’s okay to be disappointed.

That’s right. You’re not super human if you never give in to disappointment and you’re not less of a human if you do.

2. Give yourself time to mull over the disappointment.

Savor it if you must. That’s okay. But set a time limit. An hour is good. More than that will start robbing you of creative time and energy. The longer you entertain the disappointment, the greater the theft.

3. Understand it’s not personal.

This is especially important if the disappointment has to do with getting into an exhibit or gallery or something similar.

I was a gallery director for nearly five years. Long enough to have had to turn down artwork or artists for exhibits. Those decisions were never personal. I always tried to make selections based on the theme of each exhibit, what was best for each exhibit, and what would provide the best show for the viewing public.

So when I entered competitions or juried exhibits and was rejected, I tried to put my experiences as a gallery director to work for myself as an artist. The one who was turned down instead of the one who had to turn down others.

4. Understand it’s not always a comment on the quality of your work.

There are lots of reasons why certain drawings don’t make it into certain shows.

Maybe the subject doesn’t fit with the theme of the show, for example. Or the method of making the art or the type of art doesn’t fit the requirements for the show. Maybe it’s too large, or your mixed-media piece just won’t fit in a show that’s focusing on colored pencil—or any other medium.

5. Nor is it a reflection on your talent as an artist.

Rejection doesn’t mean you’re not a good artist. It may mean your work didn’t have a place in that exhibit, or it could just be a reflection on the tastes of the person or committee responsible to make the decision.

Remember I said I was a gallery director for a time?

Not only did I have to make such decisions for gallery exhibits; I had the opportunity to help artists decide whether or not to submit work to other shows and galleries. It didn’t take long to discover that even if a show was labeled as open—meaning all subjects were permissible—artists who did landscapes had less of a chance of acceptance if the judge was a portrait artist or painted florals.

So maybe you submitted work to a show for which the artworks were chosen by someone who worked outside your area of interest or style. When that’s the case, the rejection is reflection of the jurist’s tastes, not your talent.

6. Go ahead and ask yourself: What went wrong?

See if you can find things you did or didn’t do that contributed to the disappointment.
For everything you find, look for ways to correct that problem in the future.

If you learn even just one thing from a disappointment, that’s a step forward. Learning something helpful makes each disappointment less of a disappointment. . . and more of a teaching moment.

7. Work on something else.

You don’t have to start something new. Getting back to work on something already in progress will take your focus off the disappointment and put it back where it needs to be. On creating artwork.

8. Look ahead, not back.

Remember that when one door closes, another opens. That closed door may mean you have pieces ready for other exhibits down the road, or that you can take advantage of a new local show not previously on your radar.

It may mean that you can concentrate on a current portrait or finish the drawing you would otherwise have had to set aside. Or maybe you can focus on a show next year. Whatever the case, the path forward is a little more clear.

In the end, if you’re serious about creating artwork, you will encounter disappointment. Don’t let it get personal and don’t let it get you down. Keep making art and keep looking forward!


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