Brenda Swenson

Fakulty Friday: Brenda Swenson on Rejection


This week, we wrapped up our series of posts about Sketchbook Skool students getting their work out into the world. With the thought of sharing your work with others comes the fear of rejection. Whether it means showing someone your work and fearing their criticism or submitting your work to a show or exhibit and literally being rejected. For today’s Fakulty Friday feature, here is a guest post taken from Brenda Swenson’s blog when she wrote about this topic and her philosophy on sharing your art with the world and saying goodbye to fears of rejection!

Rejection is a very touchy thing for most artists. When I first began entering shows a rejection notice would send me off moping for days. I felt as if the wind was knocked out of me. It would take a week before I felt like picking up the brush again. The feeling of hurt and rejection was overwhelming. My husband began to dread me entering shows…I can see why!

Ten years ago my education and understanding of how certain shows are judged was increased when I served as the Exhibition Director for the National Watercolor Society (NWS). The society is one of the most recognized in the watercolor community. The annual international exhibition is selected with the greatest of integrity. The first year I had an eye opening experience. I sat in the room while the 3 judges selected the show. The judges viewed paintings projected on a screen. No talking is allowed and the judges vote yes or no with a device. No one knew how the other was voting. On this day the judges had to select 100 paintings from over 1300 entries. It is a very long day. In the first round of viewing all the painting more than half were rejected. How long do you think the judges viewed each painting, 2 minutes, 5 minutes…? How about an average of less than 10 seconds! My painting was rejected in the first round, and my heart sank.

That evening I cried and I poured out my heart out to my husband. Through Mike’s great wisdom, understanding, and love I came to realize I was giving ultimate power to others to determine how I felt about my artwork. From that day forward I decided I wouldn’t give that kind of power to anyone accept those who are a trusted friend, a mentor, or my husband. So what’s my point? Don’t let anyone define how you feel about your work! Be proud, hold your head up and let your brush sing with all its might!

Last summer I learned another lesson. I was in Southern France teaching a workshop when I got an email from the President of NWS congratulating me for getting into the Annual Exhibition. After 10 years I finally made it! What came next was a flood of emotions I hadn’t expected…I went from elated to sad. The one person I wanted to share it with was my husband and he was in the states. I called him that evening to share the news but without a hug, a kiss, or a pat on the back…it didn’t feel the same. You see, a joy not share isn’t much fun at all. I tucked away my joy and decided I would celebrate when I attend the NWS Gala Reception. I went to the reception and it took everything I had to put on a fake smile. It was the worst…all I wanted to do was leave. You see, it was the same week my 30 year old son was diagnosed with cancer. So what’s my point? Any achievements or recognition I might receive means very little in the scheme of things. Today, Daniel is in remission…that’s an achievement!

I’ve learned a lot through these series of events and I hope my message hasn’t felt like a downer…I don’t mean it to be. More than anything I want to express what I have learned and how these lessons have made me a better person and painter. I paint with a different heart and purpose, now.

Now that you have heard from Sketchbook Skool students about their experiences as well as a Fakulty member’s perspective, go forth and share YOUR art with others. You might be surprised how much you learn from something as simple as sharing a drawing on social media or applying to a local exhibition and how much you can teach others through these endeavors.

3 mins

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