Today I was rejected. It felt like I was, though it was more my paintings that were rejected than me as a person. But, they’re intertwined with my being, so the rejection feels very personal. For the first time in these 2-3 years that I’ve been occasionally showing my paintings out in public, a location said, “We’re booked… mumble mumble indefinitely…” and the rest of the message basically said, “Don’t call us, we’ll call you.”
For about an hour, I paced around in a daze. I considered whether maybe all of these pictures I’ve been making are really totally pieces of garbage and that I’m a sham. Just saying my pictures are worth sharing doesn’t make it so. I was sad and lonely and hurt and everything else in my life seemed suddenly dark and hopeless. I wasn’t even able to shake it enough to lick my wounds. I only bled.
As I make more paintings, I’m finding the ideas I consider more sophisticated and interesting (t0 me). Lately, due to limited supplies I’ve explored what I’m calling “underpainting.” I haven’t googled it to find out if that’s a real thing because it is to me. Twice now I began a picture and it wouldn’t go in a direction that felt right so I took it in a dramatically different direction. Both now show a texture of what was before and I don’t know how that will be perceived by someone who only views the final painting (I am curious to find out).
At the same time that I was painting over previous attempts at paintings, I began one that I have intended from the start to have 2-6 layers. I started with two in mind, but now have three. (I added the 6 there because I don’t know at all where it will actually go, even though I have a feeling about how it will end.) That I had two parallel actions (painting over paintings) going on for different reasons feels good. There’s an interesting flow that has come from an unexpected place.
This is the painting, showing the second layer that I did today. Neither are stand-alone paintings, and I don’t know if either will be apparent at all when I add the next layer after this latest level dries:
I began this a couple months ago but wasn’t able to work on it for a few weeks because I needed red and white paint but couldn’t afford it. I ran a kickstarter project and it got funded (thank you, backers!) so this weekend I bought the paints I needed (and two extraordinarily satisfying brushes).
When I find a particularly sensitive or vulnerable place in me that I didn’t know about (the rejection of my request to show my paintings hurt much more than I thought such a rejection might) I tend to move quickly to building callouses in that area. I’m exposing myself by showing this in-progress painting. This exposure will make me feel stronger.
I still feel self-doubt, sadness, and disappointment that my paintings weren’t accepted. But now I’m into the callous-building phase of my hurt. I’m taking the rejection and using it as fuel to energize me. I now realize I’ll get rejected again (it hadn’t really occurred to me it would happen in the first place). I’m not excited by that prospect, but I do know each rejection will help me know that being rejected doesn’t change anything about me or my paintings. Their judgment means nothing more than “not a good fit.” Now, I’ll keep painting and start searching for places where my paintings (and I) will fit.