We are surrounded by judgment these days. And judgment only seems to come in one flavor – negative. Mocking and the put down have become a past time.
Being an artist, my job is to put my work out there to be seen. And being seen, it is going to be judged. And a large majority of the time, the painting is judged not good enough – it is not selected to be in a show, it does not receive an honor, it is not bought. So artists know about rejection.
How do we keep our self-esteem when what we make is disrespected?
People and criticism
Human beings have trouble distinguishing between an evaluation of what they produce, say or do and a rejection of themselves. We don’t feel bad when someone said they don’t like the color blue unless we happened to be wearing blue at the time.
We don’t like being judged. Or rather we only want to be judged positively and be determined to be acceptable, valuable and appreciated.
Artwork by its nature is always being judged. Maybe the viewer will really like it. Maybe they will be unimpressed. Or maybe worse, it will not affect them one way or another – indifference is yet another unpleasant evaluation.
The ultimate validation to an artist is selling a painting. But even when getting accolades, the paintings may stay on your wall instead of finding a new home.
I have entered many juried art shows. There may be hundreds or even thousands of artworks submitted. So it is rare to get into the exhibit. If there are awards, only a few pieces will receive those. Those selections are made at the whims of the appointed judge or jury.
What’s really going on.
When on the wrong end of judgement, the thing to remember is that it is not about you. First, the art, although very personal, is not the same as you. You are not being rejected.
Second, everyone has their own preferences. If you paint clowns, and the viewer is horrified by those apparitions, they will not like your paintings regardless of how well it is done. You will not find a receptive audience for your abstract in a person who finds abstracts confusing. Taste in art varies in many more subtle ways too.
Someone may love your work but does not purchase it for various reasons. They may think they do not have enough money or enough wall space. They may not inherently value art enough to own any. What you have may not match whatever color scheme that is already in their home. They may be nursing their own hurts of being judged for their early forays into creativity.
It is very interesting when selections are made by a judge in a show. You can see the other works and probable make your own judgment about which are best and which are inferior. Yet the judge will rarely match your rankings.
I had the experience of hearing a judge doing critiques about the works of art that she selected. It was very illuminating being told the reasons pieces were selected. You could hear the prejudices that she had. And understanding those criteria, I could appreciate the selections that she made.
It was then no longer about that she didn’t like my stuff well enough. It is that, by her values, my pieces did not fit into the boxes she was looking to fill. For example, this person was enamored of detail throughout a painting. I tend to put detail only is the main area of interest. So my art will have trouble reaching the bar she has set up for the top awards. She is not wrong – that is what she likes. And it is different than how I paint. A different judge may have given me a higher award.
What we all like is so individual, personal and visceral. It Is not a criticism if someone likes blue and you like green. And if you can understand their evaluation criteria, it is easier to see that it is not a criticism but rather a preference. And it certainly is not about you personally.
Do you have strong preferences in art so that you have a hard time appreciating other types of works?
How does this essay apply to life in general?.
How have you handled apparent rejection?
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