Thursday, February 08, 2007

Rejection Letters

I use 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.
Best wishes...

This one was especially kind in that he said he would show my information to other galleries.

Not hand-written, but another good one:
Dear Deanna,
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:
Dear Deanna,
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.
Best regards...

Another good email:
Dear Deanna,
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
Rejection Collection


Anonymous said...

Hi Deanna

I am a bit addicted to my stats too! I don't think I have had any search terms about 'rejection letters' yet though. Your post is very interesting and I will continue on with it on my blog in a minute! ... might as well give those 'rejection' searchers a run for their money!

thank you for sharing your letters.

Anonymous said...

Yep, have all of those already!
Keep trying over here too..
Good luck

Rebecca said...

Yes, I had just finished checking my stats for about the 7th time, today before coming to your blog to see what you were up to.

Great blog.

Deanna said...

Oh, good. I'm glad I'm not the only one...

Nancy Van Blaricom said...

Count me in on that stat counter addiction also. I know I have better things to do than keep looking at that ...

Julia said...

Can we start a Statcounter support group?! I would be interested in hearing about your common searched phrases.

By the way, I've looked at your blog alot today, but I know you know that! ;)

freshie (and zero) said...

Awesome post! I work in an art gallery and I was honestly googling "artist rejection letter" to try and come up with better wording than what I usually send to artists, which I know is short and not very sweet. What can I say - I get two or three submissions a day and I have other things to do than come up with a nice, thoughtful rejection letter for each and every one. Usually the work is so awful, I'm trying to hold back and not be mean (I am blunt by nature). As a gallery director, I can translate those letters for you... When they say they're not currently seeking other artists, they're saying that they don't want to fit you in. If they liked your work and wanted to sell it, they would bring you in unless their gallery really is just a 10' x 10' space. They either don't like your work or it truly isn't a fit with their gallery. Some galleries have very narrow focuses or they just really know what their clients buys and don't want to waste your time or theirs. Our gallery has a variety of subject matter, but it is cohesive and I can tell what "fits" and what doesn't. If we reject someone, it's 95% because the work isn't good enough for our semi-high-end gallery. Out of 50 submission, I might get one that I actually think we could sell. Then, 9 out of 10 of those artists flake out and we never hear from them again. We even offered to have a show for a new artist who we spoke with a few times, then - nothing. Where did he go? The whole process is pretty ridiculous!

Anonymous said...

I will definitely be cribbing from you rejection letters! I have a a modest, few hundred square foot gallery space in an gallery-rich part of town. In the past week alone, I have received 2 dozen submissions but really want to be considerate and thoughtful in my rejections.

Anonymous said...

yep, I'm just a lowly gallery attendant given the task of writing the rejection letters. I wasn't even given any notes on why a particular artist wasn't of interest- but I want to be polite and kind, knowing how hard rejection letters are to receive... thanks for providing me with some examples!

artdiva said...

Another random, fledgling gallery leader chiming in with a big "thank you" for this post. I've never had to write a rejection letter before, and I'm certainly not out to hurt others' feelings. Your interpretations of these letters really helped.

Anonymous said...

I am sending out a large batch of rejection letters for a festival and wanted to nice it up a bit.

Not everyone we rejected was necessarily a bad artist or submitted bad work -- we got more good entries than we could handle. Also, some of our curatorial decision were thematic. Lots of good work was rejected because we either didn't have the right space for it or it didn't fit with the thematic programs we developed. Thanks for your post!

Anonymous said...


I am an independent Art Dealer in Raleigh, North Carolina. I was recently invited to organize the Art portion of a large creative festival, and wanted to more neutrally word my rejection letters--so as not to misrepresent the festival organizers. Thanks for the help!

Halee said...

I like that you can see the good in letters. I'm trying to be a writer and I was sending my stuff to an agent who I'd really like to work for.

They said my work has merit but it's not what they're looking for.

So I'm being optimistic about it.

Keep up the good work.

I'm sure someone will accept it.

I'll keep trying to send my writing to agents.

Sonja Kodiak Wilder said...

You got some good, encouraging rejection letters! I work for a magazine, and I am in the position, unfortunately, of writing my first rejection letter to an artist whose work just isn't publication quality. I am an artist and writer too. I feel bad, gotta do what you gotta do I guess. Its so bad it'd probably be kinder to write what will be my future form letter.

Anonymous said...

I was one of those: I ended up on this page because of my search terms "whitechapel ART rejection letter".

However, I was specifically looking for an artist's name/gallery name. There is a showing currently in Whitechapel, London somewhere where the artist has received and break-up letter or a rejection letter (I forget which) and the artwork consists of the letter being dissected by linguists, psychologists etc. I was hoping to find a review or location/gallery details for this "letter artwork" so I could go and see it today in Whitechapel.

Hopefully some names will pop up at some point during my search.

So, it could be that many of the searches are actually for that, not just random rejection letters.

Deanna said...

I would love to see any information you find on that show about rejection letters. Please post a link if you do! Thanks.

Tracy from Calgary said...

I am gallery owner that has the inevitable and unfortunate task of writing rejection letters. I did a search for “gallery rejection letters” and found your site. Thank you for your input and ideas. I am an artist myself and work mainly in encaustic. I met some artists that were members of Texas wax while attending the encaustic conference in Beverly last June. The world is a lot smaller than it appears. I only wish I could find more encaustic work for my gallery, but I am only representing Western Canadian artists. If you were a Canadian resident, I would love to see your portfolio. Thanks again and good luck.

Anonymous said...

I am currently in the process of writing rejection letter for an exhibition I am organizing. I have been on the receiving end of a rejection before, but have been terribly nervous and guilty feeling about having to reject others. The 'kinder' rejection letters you have received inspired me to take the time to really share my thoughts and add a personal touch to the ones I must write. I hope that this helps with 'letting them down easy'. Thank you for sharing, and may there be no rejection letters in your future!

Anonymous said...

I started laughing as soon as I it artists trying to find kinship with other rejected artist??...yeaaaah :.( lol...I got a rejection email today that sucked! it basically just said "We recieved over 1200 pieces from 400 people around the nation and chose only 28...unfortunately yours wasn't one of them...Thank you...and good night"....they didn't say that last part lol. But, I definitely wish I could've gotten more insight as to why but, I also understand that 1,172 plus pieces means a lot of personal responses...

jon said...

I guess I'm about 4 years late in commenting on this post...
My worst rejection(?) was a few years ago, a very well known craft gallery contacted me saying they saw my work in an exhibition catalog and were interested in showing my work at their gallery and asked for more photos of my work. I sent photos of more work in the same style, waited 2 weeks with no reply. I emailed them asking if they had time to look at them or if they wanted more photos. They asked for more photos. I sent more photos, and again no reply. I emailed them back a week later, and didn't get any reply at all. What a let down. Why did they contact me in the first place?

If you're still checking in your site traffic, I got to your blog by googling "artist statement generator" and then found this post after looking around for a bit.

Barb Hilts said...

I am an emerging curator and found your blog most helpful. I would like to give more feedback but work only ten hours a week, so usually keep to a template format. A kinder approach may be to also offer feedback if it requested by the artist.

Sini said...

Jon- I can relate to your rejection; I was just on the receiving end of something similar. I had been communicating with one of the owners of a two-owner gallery that just opened this year and when I described my work, he suggested I bring in some samples. I returned to the gallery, he remembered me, looked at the samples, liked them and was willing to at least give the merchandise a try. He even began presenting the pieces to other customers in the gallery as if they were already part of the stock. He said he also needed to get input from the other owner. When she arrived, she glanced briefly at the works and said no. If they are both owners, I am not sure why he allowed her to override his initial acceptance of the work and I don't see why they could not at least try for a month or so. It took a lot of courage for me to mention my work in the first place; I absolutely hate giving sales pitches to stores in person. I prefer to concentrate on more subtle marketing like wearing t-shirts printed with my business name, or including my business name in the signature of my emails, etc. I think I am done with approaching boutiques and galleries in person and will stick with online selling and a high-end non-juried holiday sale I have been participating in annually. Also, since I create wearable art, I am going to simply wear my creations as often as possible, and if it catches someone's attention enough for them to ask about offering my work in a boutique or gallery, I am going to play hard to get and explain that they will really have to convince me that this is a good opportunity because I have had too many problems with boutiques and galleries. No matter what kind of rejection you deal with, the moral of the story is that there is ALWAYS a reason to continue creating and there is always a possibility that an offer will come when you least expect it. If Plan A didn't work, the alphabet has 25 more letters! Stay cool.

Anonymous said...

As a gallery director now in charge of responding to submissions, I landed here in a desperate search for how best to write a rejection letter. We receive an incredibly high volume of requests, most of which are not a fit in one form or another for our space...and yet, as an artist myself, my heart aches to put this sort of hurdle in the path of another artist. So often rejection letters are seen as an obstacle; it is my hope to make them a stepping stone instead. Your blog was helpful in this task; thank you.