Please click on paintings to view larger.

Friday, February 22, 2013

Navigating the 5 Phases of Rejection

"West 57th" - oil on linen - 9x12"
purchase info

I received notification today that my submission was declined from this year's Oil Painters of America National Show. (not the above painting)

I thought it might be useful to write a post about rejection right now, in the thick of the sting of it, before I have processed it and landed in a more empowering perspective.

Putting Yourself Out There

First of all - SO bummed! I was certain that this time, this painting (view entry) was getting in.  I was feeling super confident that it was strong and worthy of being in the show. That there was no way they'd say no to this one. Yep, I thought after 7 consecutive unsuccessful attempts to get in the OPA National - this was my year.

Having gone a significant number of rounds with this particular demon, I believe there are 5 key phases that lead into and eventually out of the experience that is rejection. The time spent in the middle phases varies depending on a few factors such as:
  • emotional investment in your painting
  • caliber of show entered
  • what you feel is riding on your acceptance
  • who else is in the club
  • how many times you've been in the ring
Over time I have come to cycle through the stages pretty quickly, but I have never escaped riding the wave for a few moments at least.

Phase 1: Dear John...

Today the news came in via posts popping up on FB from some really great artists, "Hey, so thrilled that my painting was just accepted into the OPA National!"

Uh-oh, know what that means...logged on to check the status of my entry, scrolled past one accepted entry (Yay! Melissa got in!) after another (Yay! Sarah got in!) - all the way down to the "W's" to confirm my name glaringly missing from the list.

There is always a brief moment here when I think, 'Well that can't be right, they must've made an error. Forgot to put my name on. For sure, cuz I know my painting belongs in this show."

Ha ha, I wonder if they ever actually contact an artist and say, "Whoops, our bad, your are so in the show, we just screwed up on the acceptance list."

Phase 2: Owning It

For the most part, I have come to the place where it barely phases me anymore as I am confident in my work and I know that I am doing the best I can, but this time it knocked me around a bit more than usual as I really, really love the painting I entered.

So I walked around feeling heavy and down for a while and then I decided to be really present with whatever was rising up in response to the news, starting with getting curious about the overall sense of disappointment and negativity wanting to creep in and run my day.

Phase 3: Spinning It

Here's what I noticed my particular story is around this one:

There's this exclusive club of the best painters in North America. Every now and then they let me come to their meetings (I have been juried into a few regional shows), but they are never going to let me be a full fledged member of the club. Nope, no national shows for me. (Did I mention my friends - who are fabulous painters - are getting in?)

Phase 4: (Mis) Concluding

Therefore, I must not be very good. And if I'm not any good, then where's the fun in painting? And what's the point in painting? More importantly, I reaaaallly want to be in the club....but they keep saying, "NO". What's wrong with me? Oh wait, right, I'm not very good....

Rinse and repeat.

Phase 5: Shifting Gears

Of course none of this has anything to do with fact, but as long as I tell myself it's fact, it is a big dark cloud circling around me and pulling me in. If I choose to let it, it will feel like the truth and interfere with my peace.

The solution lies in the freedom to choose. I kinda need the pity party for a while so I can process the natural feelings that rejection triggers. For me this starts with a huge wave of 'so not happy', wallowing in that for a time, and at some point deciding I really would prefer not to feel this way. From there I start to get clear what the negative messages are, give them space to have their say, and mindfully reflect on their validity.

Then I ask, "What else is true?" This is the way out from under, back to center, back to what's important. "What do I intend as an artist? What compels me to paint? How far have I come since my very first painting?"

These questions inevitably lead to a deep satisfaction in what I have accomplished so far, and a sense of joy at how much room there still is to grow. These two things, and the fact that they will never cease to be a part of the experience,  are precisely what make painting such a rich and rewarding pursuit.

The rest of the game: sales, shows, awards, credentials - the many forms of external validation - while worthwhile, are secondary to my primary passion to see what cool things I can do with paint.

And next year I'm getting in dammit! :-D

44 comments:

  1. Liz, this was a very timely post for me, and fascinating to hear the similarities in our thought processes. For the first time this time, I did as you have said here and allowed myself to just be present with the feelings and negative thoughts coming up without judging them. And then the 'this I know to be true' led to an hour-long meditation of gratitude for all the many things I have to be thankful for. I woke this morning on full reset. Thank you!

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. LOVE it! And isn't it awesome that we can apply the same process to all challenging experiences, not just rejection...

      Delete
  2. God, you are so honest! You've captured it to a tee. Liz, I think your work is fantastic and I'm shocked that piece didn't get in. Your art and your candor make you one of my favorite artists. Keep your head up and keep producing your wonderful work. There isn't a week that has gone by that I haven't lamented not having enough money to buy "Passing Through Queens" when I saw it at Gallery 1261!
    Scott

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Scott, it was worth getting rejected to get this comment from you. Made my year! Thanks so much :-)

      Delete
  3. I feel your pain...I too struggle with not having been admitted to the club of national shows, especially since I started out strong with a nod in a magazine and then fell off the radar screen as soon as I started to actually get good! But there is a certain freedom to it and this past year I got into an upcoming book for my mixed media work which is totally different from the more realistic/impressionist approach we used in Carolyn's workshop. The competition has gotten fierce so we really can't take it personally.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. I so agree Carole, there is huge freedom in everything that pushes us to connect with why we actually paint. Low sales, rejections, paintings not working - it all sends us inward to get clear about our intention. And once we're clear, then it's really 'game on'.

      Delete
  4. If I were the judge... I would have picked your painting, Liz! This year, after so many OPA rejections, I didn't even bother to enter. But I admit, seeing the jubilation on FB of the chosen few... tweaked a slight stirring of envy. Meanwhile, we continue on with the absolute joy painting gives us and say... SO WHAT!

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. First we punch the jubilant artists in the kisser and then get on with it. :-D

      Delete
  5. I loved "Night on the Town" when I first saw it on your blog and of course, love it still. Like Diane, if I had been the judge, you would have been in!
    Thanks for being so honest. I, too, have gotten a bit thicker skin about rejections. But every so often, one really hurts. And though I hate to admit it, it's comforting to know that an artist one admires can feel that sting as well.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. I love that you admitted that Shirley.

      We're all swimming around in the same vast ocean of experience that painting is and I love that the online world has given us the opportunity to know we're not alone in the water.

      Delete
  6. Great post LIz! If you had gotten in this year you would have not been inspired to write this honest and inspiring post...next year will be your lucky year!

    ReplyDelete
  7. Liz - Scott is right - it's your visceral honesty that has made you who you are as a person and a painter, and keeps me and many others I'm sure, reading and re-reading your posts.

    ReplyDelete
  8. I remember reading about the time N.C. Wyeth and his son Andrew both were entered in a show...and the kid got in and the old man didn't. Now THAT was an awkward evening. So it could be worse.

    Really Liz, I'm amazed at how consistently good your work is.

    ReplyDelete
  9. Dear Vincent, sorry you've never sold a painting but with the kind of stuff you're doing you can hardly be expected to become rich and famous like Tissot and Meissonier. Their names will live forever but when you die you'll be forgotten and the junk you've been painting will be relegated to the scrap heap and burned. All those pecky strokes and twirls and swirls and things, those cumbersome sunflowers, that "Starry Night" abortion......c'mon Vince, face facts, you can't draw and you don't know how to paint, so give it up, get a real job, and stop spongeing off your brother

    Lawrence Humphrey.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. right on!!...and hes not the only one....

      Delete
  10. I love your painting -- it really sparkles. Thank you for the honest blog about rejection. We all face it at some time or another.

    ReplyDelete
  11. This post reminded me about about that riveting video you posted on your other blog about what motivates us! (to be autonomous, to get good at something, and to share what we know!) As artists, we have all of those opportunities and more. And none of it has anything to do with fame or fortune! You are amazing and I thank you for sharing so much wisdom!
    Can't wait to see where that painting ends up.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Thanks Nancy! For those of you curious, here is a link to the post Nancy is referring to: http://liveattuned.com/archives/556

      I so agree with you, the further I get down this road, the less it becomes about fame and fortune, and the more it becomes about a sacred journey.

      Delete
    2. exactly.
      And although when we get the prizes, it feels good, keeping a perspective about the variables ie., preference of whomever is judging, number of entries (when it's relevant) is a good thing.
      But, one cannot help but compare and wonder....

      Delete
  12. I cannot imagine that you did not get accepted...I cannot imagine because your work is so brilliant. You are so very brave to post your feelings and have helped so many, including me with your honesty. I always enjoy your posts...thank you so very much.

    ReplyDelete
  13. First of all, I CAN'T BELIEVE YOU DID NOT GET INTO THE SHOW! Especially with the piece you entered! I thought it was a fabulous piece and so well done. Second, your writing of the rejection is spot on perfect. That is exactly what goes through our minds when this happened. You put into words what the rest of us think and I personally am not so articulate which makes me appreciate your writings all the more.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Thanks Claudia!

      I have been getting some interesting mail from people who have greatly misinterpreted my words. Thank you for clearly hearing the message I intended and the spirit in which it was offered.

      Delete
  14. Sorry you didn't get in. Rejection always sucks, but without it the wins wouldn't be nearly so satisfying. A couple things I always do when the rejection blues set in is ask myself how getting accepted would affect my life/career (vs how I perceive it would affect me); and how not getting in affects my life/career (vs how I perceive it). The answer is invariably - probably wouldn't have much effect. I just think it will.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Right on Roberta, so true! It's what we decide is true that either ties us up in knots or frees us.

      Delete
  15. I LOVE your post (and your gorgeous painting!). I appreciate so much your honesty, thoughtfulness and insightfulness in posting what all artists feel at some point. The "why bother" can hit with rejection as well as those frustrating stages of learning where you wonder if/when you'll break through with the next "aha!". Thank you for sharing the answer, too. It IS all about what drives you in the first place to do art—the unending passion to consistently improve and create the best paintings possible. Glad you're back on your feet! Looking forward to reading about your success next year!

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Isn't is great to know that we all have these feelings to some degree Pam? I love that we have a fabulous tool in the internet which allows us to share the journey at such an open and honest level.

      Surprisingly someone commented on another forum that my post was too personal, and too much information for a professional blog. I couldn't agree less. Standby for a post coming up on that shortly.

      Glad it resonated with you!

      Delete
    2. I disagree, that the post was too personal and out of place on the blog. A blog is personal and is a vehicle for sharing information about our experience as well as our work.

      Delete
  16. Thank you for writing this for ALL of us. And sometimes it does hit harder than other times. When you have a truly stunning piece like yours, it's a shock.You could wonder why your best is still not good enough.I am grateful to you for sharing the internal process that many of us go through in such a thoughtful manner...so comforting to know we're not alone in this!

    ReplyDelete
  17. This was a great post. I love your entry painting. I put it in my "inspiring paintings" folder when you first posted it. I seem to float between the thrilling sensation that I get to paint, and the excruciating fear of failure. The above painting is wonderful. The taxis really look like they are moving. You are so talented and you will win you entry eventually. It will be so satisfying.

    ReplyDelete
  18. When I opened the link to your wonderful painting I was talking to my computer and expecting an answer. What? Seriously? It's a gorgeous painting. And thank you for sharing and reminding us of the process for processing the disappointment, no one is immune.

    ReplyDelete
  19. Hi Liz...why the pressure...enjoy the process...yes...we know the world if very political...and yes you are a master painter : why not just enjoy?

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Hi Annette, your comment echos a couple of others that seem to be missing the point of my post.

      It is not about lamenting the rejection, it is simply sharing what I find to be the natural process when you put your best foot out there and things don't go as you would like in your best envisioning.

      Kinda like the audience not clapping when you've given the best performance you can.

      It's not a problem, just a process, and my post and reason for sharing was to let others who have done fewer laps with it know that they are not alone and they will get to the other side.

      Delete
    2. Now I get it. Sharing...to help others. : ) I like it.

      Delete
  20. Wow- for the well written post. And WOW for the rejection. Let me feel angry and bad and mad and you enjoy the sensible healthy way to process it. Just don't understand it.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Hey thanks for the offer Robin - the ball's all yours :-)

      Delete
  21. Hi Liz,

    Just found your blog through a post about artist's block which was amazing, then saw this. I am a newbie at painting but have been an Interior Designer for many years. There is a similar creative process and publication/awards. The one thing I have learned is that the most important judge are those to whom you bring joy with your creative process. The people who gave your paintings the ultimate value by spending their hard earned money on something that brings them joy. :)

    ReplyDelete
  22. I think it is important to put your thoughts down in writing, to see your process of dealing with rejection in a physical form, like this blog or a journal etc...rejection is part of what we do, dealing with rejection will be part of who we are as artists and thank you for sharing your thoughts and strategy. Your work is strong and worthy of merit and recognition...that is a fact. You are an amazing artist held in high regard by a host of knowledgable people and on an incredible artists journey that has and will lead you to incredible heights. This in inevitable....life is good Liz Wiltzen !!!

    ReplyDelete
  23. Your honesty in dealing with our feelings of rejection is refreshing to say the least. I gathered strength from your openness in showing what goes through everyone’s mind when we too receive a “no”, in whatever form, art particularly, but also in our daily lives. It is refreshing to see that even an artist with such huge talent as yourself does deal with the same emotions as those of us who are still struggling. Thank you for your honesty in showing that this emotional issue is not ours alone, and that a positive attitude shines through in the end. I too love your entry piece. You captured the rain and the lights to perfection. You remain a total winner in my books, and as always, an inspiration.

    ReplyDelete
  24. Sorry to be so late to the party, but thanks for sharing this, Liz. I've been rejected from OPA too. Also from CAC (though I did get one in once!) and other clubs. AND - just to get EVEN MORE rejection on my plate - I'm a writer who's been rejected by agents and publishers!
    But somehow I keep going - I just do it for me. Me me me, because what I paint and write is really only for me. If someone else likes it that's frosting on the cake but if not, I'll keep going anyway.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Hey Julia, thanks for your comment, I love what you said about doing it for "me", it's so important to make that the priority.

      I find I paint and write not just for me, but also with a desire to move people. I think the trick is to know that I will never move everyone, but if I create authentically I will deeply move some. And that's more than enough. :-)

      Delete
  25. Great post. I love your use of language, especially the description of "spinning"... so true. Thanks for being so generous, and I love your cityscapes.

    ReplyDelete
  26. Thanks for sharing your thoughts here on this. I didn't get in this year, either... again. My work was accepted into one national show a couple of years ago and it was more than a little strange to see a green check on my entry at the online jury system. I had to look twice to verify I wasn't actually seeing another red X. (There's a long line of red Xs at my account..ha.)

    Your painting is wonderful. Who knows why it was rejected, or at what point. Maybe it almost made it. With so many excellent paintings to choose from, painted by hundreds of top artists, the judges have to draw the line somewhere.

    The work that makes it into the OPA shows is always outstanding. With one or two exceptions, I am always impressed at the quality of art in the national and regional exhibits.

    Rejection is hard. We artists see it a lot, day to day, even, especially if we're putting our work up for sale at an online venue and no one buys it.

    I really like the way you laid out the steps to attitude recovery. Let us keep working and enjoying the gifts the Lord has given us, even the ability to see... especially the ability to see.

    Happy painting!

    ReplyDelete
  27. Keep it up, hope you get in. I like the Night on the Town painting, has nice depth and not to overpowering. Hope you get in next time Liz, your paintings looks great.

    ~Randall

    ReplyDelete
  28. Thanks for expressing what so many of us have all thought! Thanks for being so honest. Your paintings are amazing and so are your written words.

    ReplyDelete