6 Things

by lesley // posted on Jan 23, 2017

1.  It takes a hundred "nos" before getting to one "yes".   

When you become a professional artist and are seeking exhibition venues, media attention and buyers for your work, celebrate every time you are turned down.  Each "no" brings you one step closer to a "yes".  I swear this on a formidable stack of my own rejections.

2.  Rejection is not about me.  It is not personal.

It took a few years to develop a genuine "non-reaction" to having my work declined by a jury.  I had to work at getting over myself.  It wasn't about me.  Major exhibitions receive hundreds of submissions.  There are several valid reasons a work may not be accepted.  Understanding it's the work, not you that's being rejected, evaporates the sting. 

3.  Promises made are not necessarily promises kept.

Venues where I can be present with my work are the best.  Interaction with the public is invigorating and inevitably teaches me something new or reinforces past lessons. 

People are sincere when they say they say they will contact you, will be back shortly,  would like to commission a piece, they have an amazing photo they want to share with you, they would like to arrange a studio visit, would like lessons...the list goes on.

There was a time these statements created anxious anticipation often followed by diappointment.  This too I've overcome by appreciating their intent, but not attaching expectation.  It really is freeing to arrive at this stage so by passing this along, I hope it will help you cut to the chase.

4.  The way to personal success: keep improving - detach from the outcome.

I measure success differently now.  I thought if at least 5 people a month weren't signing up for my newsletter, visiting my studio, emailing or calling me, I was failing.  None of that is true.  Whether things are quiet or busy, I now maintain a "steady does it" attitude and plod on.  Opportunity has its own schedule.  All I have to do is recognize it when it shows up.

5.  You can't build an art career all by yourself.

Stand on the shoulders of the Masters - your contemporaries - friends - family - anyone that understands and supports your dream.

6.  What you do is not who you are.

Making paintings is something you do.  It has nothing to do with defining who you are. Who you are is determined by whether or not you do what you do with integrity and grit and fully appreciate the gift of dancing to the beat of your own drum.  

What things have you learned or should I say "un"learned since beginning your art career.  Anything you can pass on to help the rest of us?  (see #5).  


Hi again Lesley. In response to your question about why people ask me if I have sold any paintings. Some are genuinely rooting for me to sell my work as they like what I do, others seem to think I should be selling my work as that is their measure for success.

Thanks Cecilia. So much more to learn but that's what keeps us engaged and challenged.

Fantastic newsletter, Lesley --you really hit the nail on the head right throughout!

Hi Jocelyn: This post was definitely geared toward artists who are interested in selling their work and are frustrated with parts of that process. You're coming from a relaxed, unattached position, which is less stressful and just as rewarding when a sale is made. I wonder why people ask that question: Have you sold anything? How are they interpreting your answer be it yes or no? There are so many possibilities. It would be nice to know.

I have learned that success is not measured by how many paintings one sells. I paint for pleasure but also like to show my work as I want to share it with others. To my surprise, a few paintings have sold. Now some people ask whenever my work is somewhere, Have you sold anything? My response may be yes or no, but I also make it clear that is not why I paint. For a professional painter I'm sure it is a different experience, after all, they probably want to make a living at it. For me though, just having others see what I've done is reward enough.

That's a good one Erin. Thanks for passing it along. Once your art is done, it's free to exist on it's own. I like that concept because once you let it go, you've relinquished control.

Don't judge your art. Just because what you created doesn't fit your criteria of a great piece, doesn't mean someone else might not love it. Likewise, just because you love one particular piece doesn't mean everyone else will. Once your art is done, it's free to exist on it's own. Don't judge it's journey.

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