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It’s Your Art, Not Your Soul: Don’t Take It Personally

January 6, 2009

ritual-20-smRitual 20, Acrylic on cradled panel 8 x 8 x 2″
Abstract painting in yellow with texture mediums

If you read a previous post on this blog titled Fear of Rejection, then this is the sequel. If not, I encourage you to read that one. Then proceed to the comments, because they are insightful and wise.

I’ve been thinking further about the whole sensitive issue of rejection for visual artists and how it influences our choices and our courage to keep putting ourselves and our art out there.

This morning I had a long phone conversation with a close friend and we talked at length about the subject. We realized together that just one negative response to our work can be damaging for longer than we allow ourselves to admit. More than one negative and it gets even worse, until we can become paralyzed about moving forward. Add to that the possibility that the criticism might be from someone who is a respected authority in the art field, and the problem becomes compounded (Think juror or judge or gallerist.)

I can’t really add anything to improve on the many thoughtful comments offered up after the last post on this issue. All I can say is . . .

It’s Your Art, Not Your Soul: Don’t Take It Personally

I know, I know. Some of you are saying “but I poured my heart and my soul into it. It’s my absolute best work.  So how can I not take rejection personally?”

Here’s how. Your art was a product of your heart and soul’s outpourings for only that moment in time. And I know that it’s more than just an inaminate object, or it wouldn’t be your art. But in order to become sufficiently detached from it, you need to just sign it, blow it a kiss, and release it into the world to be on its own. Or, as Vikki North said in her comment, “You have to cut it off at the elbow.” In other words, we have to detach.

You expose your art to criticism by putting it out there to be judged. If you choose to go that route, you should enter as many competitions as possible in order to improve your percentage.  Just refuse to take the negative feedback personally. I can tell you that the judging of art is extremely subjective. So remember that going in.

There are many artists like John G. who commented that he likes to just bypass that whole judging experience by finding other more creative venues for his art, such as alternative spaces, restaurants, even hair salons. I agree that this is a great way to get collectors and feedback that can ultimately result in a high confidence level.

But whatever avenue you decide on, choose to separate yourself from your art before you put it out there to be judged.

Remember —  It’s Your Art, Not Your Soul.

21 Comments leave one →
  1. January 6, 2009 10:58 am

    This is excellent advice. I am also sensitive to negative comments, but try to stand strongly in my sense of self, and honor my own perspective. Easier said than done, so I think of it as a punching bag; I can be knocked down, but stand right back up again. I do put energy into not ruminating the negative. I replace the negative thought with positive as much as possible. In other words, I strive not to give power to the negative comment.

  2. January 6, 2009 11:54 am

    Good point, Leslie. By putting energy into it you are giving your power away.

  3. January 6, 2009 12:14 pm

    Thank you for this and your earlier blog about “Fear of Rejection” recently I exhibited and someone wrote in my book how much they disliked the art in the show. The Cafe owner who hosted the exhibition crossed out the comments. I was angry that they did that because I really wanted to read what was said in order to improve myself.

  4. Jeane permalink
    January 6, 2009 12:49 pm

    Hi Marsha! – so glad I found your site – after purusing your work, it makes me want to work more abstract – a very important topic you have introduced – my work has received so much negative response over the years because it is not pretty, that I have had to learn to just press on with what is important to me! I had to acknowlege that once my work was put out to the public, they have every right to their opinions – it was a task seperating their opinions from what my needs as an artist were! thanks for your comment on my site! will definitely be back here!

    • January 6, 2009 2:06 pm

      Thanks for your comment Jeane. I’m so glad you stopped by. Your words are very wise. We all need to remember them.

  5. sherry carter permalink
    January 6, 2009 1:34 pm

    Timely and very helpful advice Martha. I have to constantly remind myself that art appreciation is highly subjective. Beauty is in the eye…and all that. Sometimes it just hard to let go of your “babies” As far as the negative criticism goes, I feel that as long as I enjoyed the process of creating then it’s it’s all good.

  6. January 6, 2009 2:40 pm

    great posts Martha – hitting very close to home for me. A professor (not art related) once advised me never to ask for nor accept an opinion from someone I didn’t respect. Turned out to be a valuable lesson learned for me…and while I intellectually understand and accept that comments about my work aren’t necessarily *personal*, the experience of poorly expressed feedback (I’m being charitable) chilled my creative desire. Working my way back to creating is a daily challenge. Reading your blog (and others) does a lot for those of us (me!) who struggle with putting ourselves *out there*. Thanks, Martha.

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