I've been on the train for a long time now. Every now and again the ticket taker comes along and asks for my ticket. Ticket? I know I bought one, way back when I boarded the train.Where is it? But Mr. Ticket Man insists that if I don't have one, I must get off the train. I scramble through my pockets searching in vain, but nothing I do makes the ticket materialize. It has vanished- Poof- into thin air. Like a punch to the gut, I realize I'm not going to be making it to the next stop. I have to get off. That's what rejection feels like.
I used to take rejection very personally. If someone didn't like my art or had something negative to say about it, I felt like I was a failure. My art was an extension of who I was and it hurt. I have since grown much more philosophical about rejection. I have learned something from the countless "no thank yous" I have endured over the years and it is this:
The fact that I got rejected says much more about the person rejecting me than it does about me.
I heard it once said that we should learn to love and embrace rejection because it points out to us those people that have no desire to align themselves to our visions and passion. If we don't let them clutter our lives with doubt or keep holding out hope that someday they will come around, we can make room to find the people that will allow us to progress and succeed. Find your believers and along the way, I think the key is to keep working.
I have entered and been rejected by countless professional illustration shows over the years. Once in a while I get something in, but I had long since given up wishing for a Gold Medal. For years I held that up as some sort of Holy Grail. I thought that if I could somehow earn one of them, I'd be on my way. After enough rejection, I decided to change destinations. Just do good work and enjoy it, I thought. That's enough. Well, a few weeks ago, I found out I won a Gold Medal from SILA- the Society of Illustrators Los Angeles for my illustration Grasshopper Hunter. Sometimes you get what you want when you stop wanting it so badly.
It feels nice, I will not lie, but it's not what defines me as an artist anymore. I still have a lot of things to create and things to prove to myself, even if nobody else cares. But it's not about the destination anymore. It's about the journey. I have to create the art that I want to create, to make the paintings that I can't wait to get into the studio to work on. I need to do the things that make me smile with satisfaction when the signature goes on. Outside voices will never give you that inner validation. You have to give it to yourself. Of course you should never ignore or summarily reject any criticism of your work that accompanies rejection. It should be analyzed and dissected with the intent of using it to improve your work, but do it in a non emotional way. Some may be subjective, but some will be helpful. As difficult as it may be, you have to separate your personal identity from your creative output. Don't take criticism personally. Keep riding the train and polishing your work and sooner or later, you will find yourself always with ticket in hand and looking forward to your next exciting stop. All aboard!