Rejection

Today’s Journal entry is about rejection.

Please let me clear up any of your possible misconceptions that I lead a charmed life and that getting my work rejected is just something that never happens to me. Au contraire, as my French friends say.

The California Art Club is the oldest art organization west of the Mississippi. I’m a Signature Member and have been on their Board for years; I’m currently on their Advisory Board. Their Gold Medal Exhibition is the club’s most important show of the year. I just found out today that “Amazing Grace 2”, a painting that I consider to be one of the finest, if not THE finest, I’ve ever painted was just rejected for exhibition by the Gold Medal Exhibition committee of the California Art Club. To his credit, Peter Adams, the president of the CAC, called me personally to apologize for the exclusion.

I always felt that “Amazing Grace”, a painting of mine from about 18 years ago that depicts a breaching humpback whale in the Southern Ocean, should have been larger. So, I painted a new 6 ft. by 4 ft. version specifically for this exhibition. Signature Members are allowed to submit two pieces, so I threw in my small study for the San Diego Natural History Museum’s Oligocene mural as an afterthought. Of course (apparently after a very heated debate), that small study was the painting the judges chose for inclusion in the show (the rules allowed for them to include both).

My wife is really pissed off. She (and quite a few of the people I’ve shown this work to) thinks it might be my best painting. She asked me why I still even belong to the CAC and suggested I resign. Although not normally prone to conspiracy theories, she thinks it was rejected out of jealousy. It’s an extremely powerful painting (I intended it that way) and it would certainly dominate the show (I intended that as well).

My own first reaction was laughter. This wasn’t the first idiotic insult I’ve had to endure; I’m sure it won’t be the last. Another of my whale paintings, a huge painting of a sperm whale battling a giant squid (in my mind easily among the best five paintings of my life), was rejected by the Society of Animal Artists for inclusion in their annual “Art and the Animal” exhibition a few years ago (ironically that painting was accepted into that same year’s CAC Gold Medal exhibition).

I submitted my best illustration works for years to the (NY) Society of Illustrators; up until two years ago they rejected every single one of them (while happily taking several thousand dollars in submission fees from me in the process). Those rejections even included several entries that won Gold Medals from the Society of Illustrators of Los Angeles.

Everyone who loves fantasy art annually sees my work in SPECTRUM. When you see those three or four pieces in each annual collection, what you don’t see are the twenty to twenty five pieces of mine that are rejected each and every year.

Art judges are funny (I can say that, having been a SPECTRUM judge myself; I know I’m a REAL funny guy!). One year I had compiled my SPECTRUM entries. I think I had either 23 or 29 — some odd number. As an afterthought, to round out my number of entries, I added a magic poster I had done that year. That afterthought of an entry — the magic poster — won me my first SPECTRUM award. So, ya never know. Not Everybody likes Everything. And the stuff you think is just OK other people (like judges) might just go nuts over. Once the art is signed and out of your hands it begins its own life.

A couple of years ago a great book came out: The Rejection Collection. It consisted of New Yorker magazine’s best contemporary gag cartoonists’ favorite rejected cartoons. These were the cartoons these cartoonists thought were their best work yet somehow were inexplicably rejected. That book collection was so successful it spawned a recent second volume.

So, the moral of this particular Journal entry, this spontaneous essay, is DON’T GIVE UP! EVERYBODY GETS REJECTED at one time or another. There will always be a diversity of taste amongst people (look who’s President!). Stupidity will never stop happening (look who’s President!). And if you’re as good as you think you are, there will be plenty of chances in life to show these Bozos just how wrong they were.

If you’d like to see “Amazing Grace 2”, check out my website in a couple of weeks. I’m putting my money where my mouth is; I am making canvas prints of this baby (I’m checking the proofs today). They’ll be for sale in my bazaar catalogue and at Comic-Con. I think it will be one of my biggest sellers.

2 Responses to “Rejection”

  1. Dennis Bonilla says:

    Thanks much for this post, personal insight and honesty are always appreciated for when the going gets tough. I’m looking forward to seeing the piece.

  2. Sarah says:

    That is so inspirational and true! One of these days, we will have to get together for crumpets and tea, and I can tell you my own story of ultimate rejection! Ah… those days…..

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