Dealing with Disappointment

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.

Artistic disappointments come in all shapes and sizes. Big, one-time opportunities that don’t happen quite as we imagined, or little disappointments we seem unable to shake.

I’ve had my share of both in the last year. Yes, some opportunities turned out better than expected, but there were also equally big opportunities that just didn’t happen.

Then there’s the ongoing disappointment of finished drawing that don’t measure up to my vision for them, and a failure to create as many drawings last year as I hoped to.

Learning to Deal with Disappointment is Important for Every Artist

Many of us have waited anxiously for the results of a juried exhibition. The anticipation of being accepted, the fear of being rejected.

My work has failed to make the grade more often than it’s been accepted.  I always try to maintain personal and professional balance by keeping busy, pushing forward on new and existing projects, and not thinking about the shows I apply for or the pieces I would do.

Even so, those notification emails in the inbox always make me catch my breath. This is it. The Big Day.

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


Another door closed.

Dealing with Disappointment

Just for the record, being having your work declined for a juried show or exhibit has less to do with your 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’s always a disappointment that can shade your mental outlook for part of the day. At least it does mine.

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

Tips for Dealing with Disappointment

Give yourself time to mull over disappointments. Allow yourself to be surprised by depth of the disappointment. Even to wonder what made you think you fit into that show in the first place.

Disappointments are just like grief in some respects. You have to go through them; there is no way around them, over them, or under them.

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.

Remember that 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 it wasn’t accepted is more likely a reflection of limited space for the exhibit, 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. The best remedy I’ve found for dealing with disappointments is to look forward to the next thing, whether it’s another show, or exhibit, or another portrait client.

In other words, keep moving forward.

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.

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?


  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.

    1. 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!

  3. 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!!

    1. 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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