I use statcounter.com to track the traffic on my website and blogs. I'm a bit OCD about it - I check it several times a day. I'm mostly interested in where people come from - how they get to me. Often people will do Google searches for some combination of "artist's or gallery rejection letters."
I wonder who is searching and what exactly they're looking for? Is it artists trying to find solace and kinship with other rejected artists? Or is it someone at a gallery trying to find a template for a form rejection letter to deal with the towering pile of artist's submissions on their desks?
So I looked through my pile of rejection letters and thought I'd share the best and worst. So if anyone happens to come here looking for the perfect rejection letter to send to an artist, maybe I can persuade him or her to make that rejection a bit less painful...
The best rejection letters (that sounds like an oxymoron, no?) are handwritten notes that include something personal. These are rare, but very much appreciated. I'm happy to get any kind of response, even a form letter, but I'm especially grateful for a gallery owner or director who takes the time to write a personal note. I know that they took the time to read my letter, look at my brochure, and perhaps check out my website, and that they carefully considered whether or not my work would be right for their gallery.
One of the best ones:
Thanks for sending images of your work. Very interesting and as you said, "shares an affinity" with work we represent.
We are a very small gallery, already overloaded with artists, so, I'm afraid we cannot at this time add to our dilemma.
I will, however, share what you have sent with other galleries - there's always a chance to exhibit somewhere in the area. It's just a matter of timing and some luck.
This one was especially kind in that he said he would show my information to other galleries.
Not hand-written, but another good one:
Thank you for sending us recent images of your work. Your work is beautiful and we enjoyed looking at images of your mixed media canvases. We appreciate your enthusiasm and interest in our gallery, unfortunately we are not in a position to add new artists.
We encourage you to send your work to other galleries in the area. You may want to visit the Chamber of Commerce website to aid your pursuit of a local gallery.
Good luck with your work!
I will occasionally receive email rejection letters - also a good opportunity for the gallery owner or director to add a personal touch.
Here's one that I liked:
Thank you so very much for your interest in our gallery. Your submission was wonderfully designed. Elusive is probably my favorite of the series you sent. The colors and composition are great. Unfortunately your work does not meet our needs at this time. I want to thank you for thinking of us, and I do wish you the very best of luck.
Another good email:
Thank you for sending information about your artwork to the gallery. I took the opportunity to visit your website (nice, by the way) and I can see why you felt there is a commonality in your and our aesthetic. Unfortunately, we aren't currently looking to take on new artists at this time. I would like to keep your brochure on file for possibilities in the future.
Thank you again, and good luck in your artistic endeavors.
These personal letters usually include a note about something that they liked about the work (which is nice to hear). Sometimes they will say that they think the imagery is not right for the gallery but not go into any detail as to what that might mean. I understand that gallery people look at a lot of submissions and can't possibly critique everything that crosses their desk, but it would be helpful to know why my "imagery is not right for the gallery." Maybe that's just a way to say they don't like it.
I think I've only received one letter that offered constructive criticism:
We enjoyed viewing your work and though it is visually intriguing, we suggest you compose larger pieces.
And there was another one that said:
Our client base really responds to more representational artwork.
I also like the letters that say something like:
Please do resubmit in the future as the work progresses or changes. We would love another opportunity to take a look.
I hope you will keep us updated on developments in your work.
I know that they are open to looking at my work again in the future. Maybe they see potential in my work or maybe they want someone with more shows or that is more established. Who knows?
Here's what sounds like a standard form rejection letter (in case that's what you're looking for):
Thank you for bringing your work to our attention. Unfortunately we are not in the position to take on any new artists at this time, as we are committed to the artists represented by the gallery and to our current exhibition schedule.
Thank you for your interest in X Gallery. We wish you the best of luck in finding representation.
When I started sending out my brochure to galleries, I would occasionally receive a letter or email back, but most of the time I wouldn't hear anything at all. So I started sending a SASE. That helped - often I would receive a letter but mostly I would get a note sent back on my cover letter. Most of them were nice but one gallery simply wrote, "This is not for us," on the cover letter and sent it back. A couple just shoved everthing in the SASE and sent it back without any note or acknowledgement at all. I understand that people are busy, but come on. That's just rude.
When I got those, I had intended to post something about the galleries in question and warn other artists to avoid them because they were rude and insensitive to artists. But I got over it. Everybody's entitled to a bad day... My good experiences have far outnumbered my bad, so I have faith that the art world is not such a horrible place.
Have you gotten any particularly great or horribly awful rejection letters?
To commiserate with other artists about rejection, check out:
Rejection Letters of an Emerging Artist