Feeding the Habit and the Art of Rejection

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Now that you have the tools, or at the very least, an idea of what questions to ask, it is best practice to set aside time, daily, weekly or even monthly to practice the business of art. Whether you are updating your website, reaching out on social media, combing through opportunities lists, photographing your work or keeping track of your receipts, if you set aside regular time to practice, you will not find yourself at the end of a residency, school or exhibition wondering what to do next.

The best advice at the end of all this is to to the hardest part, make it your priority: show up and do the work: Success, Drive and the drive to keep creating

Over your career you will receive more rejection than praise. You will not get into graduate programs, residencies, exhibitions, will not receive commissions and you will hear back from a fraction of the applications you submit. That is what it is to be an artist. Rejection is a part of the food we must eat in order to grow. Do not take these things personally! As you grow you will  learn your target market, where you fit in the conversation and find that there is plenty of room for your work. You will figure out where to apply, who to talk to and how to make your applications better- all the while your art will be growing!

The artist Arthur Gonzalez published a great book called the Art of Rejection in which he published the rejection letters he had received over his career, proving that we all go through it. My strongest advice to you is to use that artistic imagination or yours. Picture yourselves where you want to be and cast a wide net. You may find a grant or a show whose prospectus doesn’t quite fit with your work and yet with a little imagination… apply, apply, apply! No one will have the chance to interact with your work if you do not take risks. Apply to everything, say yes to as much as you can, and don’t take rejection personally. You never know who will be reviewing your application. Every single application puts your work in front of the eyes of more people, whether or not you get the job, or the show, residency or graduate school. Some of these reviewers will take note of your work even if it doesn’t fit the current application. I found myself spending a year teaching at Penn State because of one of these rejections. I didn’t get the job, but 2 years later I received an invitation to come work as a visiting professor. It’s all a crap shoot really and the more ground you cover by applying to everything, the more likely you are to land something great!

I have repeated this throughout this course and I will say it again. The more time you spend on the business of art, the more likely it is that you will find yourself where you need to be. You have a completed application now, use the tools you have developed in this course and apply for more!

Feeding the Habit:

There are so many variations an art career can take. This is not your typical field. There is no set way in which to “make it”. Find the way that is best for you.

So how do you support yourself while working towards a goal of living a life of art? There are so many ways to do it! They are all the right way. This is perhaps the best thing about our field. Some artists prefer to work within the arts in teaching and administration, to feed the habit of art making. These artists often benefit from access to studio space, housing, materials and the like. However, the regular hours required for these jobs are not right for everyone. Other artists work in construction, at seasonal jobs or in the service industry. These jobs often have irregular schedules and allow for large swaths of time in the studio. You may be able to work as a server or a bartender a few days a week and spend the rest of your time in the studio. However you end up doing it, it is important to keep in mind that you are working to feed the habit of art making.

It is so easy to lose your way, or find that you have not stepped foot in the studio for months, or to find that your job has taken all the creative energy you need for the studio. This is not a bad thing! It is OK to find that your artistic mind has been fueled by your day to day. If you discover yourself invested in something outside the visual arts but feel that your creative center is satisfied, that is OK. Art takes many forms, it ebbs and it flows. Your artistic mind needs time occasionally to refuel. If you are compelled to make, you will always find your way back.

I cannot tell you how important it is to be gentle with yourself. Artists seem to have a terrible habit for self abuse. It is so easy to find yourself feeling so good, excited and happy with your life the day an exhibition opens, and crippled by self doubt the next day. Part of your growth and success will be in learning how to ride that wave. You will learn how to take rejection and not take it personally! Artists are notorious for working themselves to the bone. That’s fine! You need to work hard- very hard, but you also need sleep, proper nutrition, exercise and a healthy inner life. Check out this radio show about the Habits that Harness Creativity for a little insight into your creative mind. You will learn to navigate this exciting life. Be good to yourselves, you are on the right track!

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