Carrie L. Lewis, Artist & Teacher

Helping You Create Art You Can be Proud Of

Dealing with Disappointment

Dealing with disappointment is one of the toughest lessons most of us have to learn. It seems to me that artists have an especially difficult time because of the intensely personal nature of what we do. Our artwork is part of us.

The last couple of weeks have seen some disappointments in the studio and in life in general.

The biggest one arrived Friday morning and involved a prestigious juried exhibit for which I entered a few pieces. I’ve been waiting for notification since submitting entries at the end of May. I’ve tried to maintain personal and professional balance by keeping busy, pushing forward on new and existing projects, and not thinking about that show or the pieces I would do for it.

I try never to assume anything, but deep down inside, I was certain enough of being accepted into this show to begin putting together a new collection for the exhibit.

The email in Friday morning’s inbox made me catch my breath. This was it. Today was the day.

Then I saw two words in the opening paragraph. We regret….


Another door closed.

Dealing with Disappointment

Just for the record, this isn’t the first screening I didn’t pass. It may have been among the most important in my field of experience, but it wasn’t the first.

Nor will it be the last. As with most of us who paint for fun and profit, I have failed to make the cut more often than I’ve succeeded. That has less to do with my skill as an artist than with the number of excellent artists who also have hopes of a spot in prestigious shows.

Fact of life.

Still, it was a disappointment and it shaded my mental outlook for part of the day.

Whether or not you will ever face disappointment isn’t a question. You will.

The real question is: How do you deal with it?

Dealing with Disappointment

My Method for Dealing with Disappointment

For a little over an hour, I mulled over the disappointment. Allowed myself to be surprised by depth of the disappointment. Even to wonder what had made me think I fit into that show in the first place.

Then the Good LORD began drawing me back, grounding me again, bringing things back into proper focus.

It’s important to allow yourself time to experience disappointment. Savor it, if you must, but don’t immerse yourself in it. Savor for 30 minutes, then let it go and move on.

I caught a glimpse of the current large portrait on the easel in the studio and of the compositional designs on a wall in another room. The large pastoral drawing that was to become the centerpiece of my entry and the small equine still life finished earlier this year. Big pieces. Ambitious pieces. Good pieces, if I’m honest with myself.

The current body of work in progress is among my best. I remember thinking as I worked through three separate drawings last week that a corner had been turned professionally.

The disappointment over failing to make the cut did not change the caliber of that work.

Tips for Dealing With Disappointment

Whenever faced with artistic disappointments, remember:

Failing to make the cut for an exhibit or show is not necessarily a reflection on your talent. If your work was good before you submitted it, it’s still good. The fact that your work wasn’t accepted is more likely a reflection of limited space and perhaps a judges whim.

Look forward to the next show or exhibit. You now have pieces available for another show. Go ahead and enter them.


Don’t let one disappointment dampen your enthusiasm for creating art. Look for the next piece to create or finish whatever’s currently on your easel.

Remember, there’s always next year.

The moral to this story is that you will encounter disappointment in some form. Don’t let it get personal and don’t let it get you down. Keep making art and keep looking forward.

And by all means keep trying.

The only sure way to fail is to stop trying.

What gets you going again after a disappointment?


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  1. Patricia Bos

    This was just what I needed today. I just finished a colored pencil portrait that I am not happy with but I did the best I could with a very bad photo. I think I need to just put it behind me and work on my next commission which is starting out nice. Your story was just what I needed. I just discovered your website and will be following you.

    • Patricia,

      Thank you for your comment. I’m so glad this post was helpful to you.

      There will always be those portraits that don’t quite measure up. I’m glad you were able to finish that one and are having better success with the next one. Keep up the good work!


  2. Kathie Wiederspan

    I am a 61 year old absolute beginner at drawing. Most of my work so far has been a disappointment, but I drew a chickadee a few months ago that was quite good. Whenever I am less than pleased with a finished work, I look at that bird and know I will get better as long as I keep practicing. Thanks so much for your blogs. I am really enjoying them!

    • Kathie,

      You’d no doubt get a chuckle out of some of my first drawings, so don’t let discouragement over your work get you down. The more you draw, the more your work will improve.

      Thank you for reading and leaving a comment.


  3. Mariepier

    Good life lesson .

  4. Robin Racoma

    I think another important part of dealing with disappointment is to be careful not to get caught up in comparing your work with those of others that did make the cut and end up feeling like your work is lacking. I believe that everyone judges art subjectively, and what one person likes doesn’t necessarily move another. The main thing is to stay focused on what’s important to you as an artist and continue to grow and express yourself as only you can!!

    • Robin,

      Absolutely right. There’s a world of difference between comparing your work to another artists to see how you can improve, and comparing your work to another artist’s and beating yourself up over it.

      Thank you for sharing your thoughts. This is a topic we all deal with in one way or another and it helps to hear other artists talk about their experiences.


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