Using Rejection as a Learning Experience

March 11, 2016

Momentum | Artist Opportunities

Editor’s note: This week, guest blogger Randall Barnes looks back at how a past rejection helped him grow as an artist.

Rejection, that fickle mate of acceptance. When it comes early, it can feel huge and crushing—deterring even. Other times it pushes us to be better, focus, or make us try something new.

The first time I felt a serious rejection was the first time I was accepted into Momentum. In 2012 I submitted two paintings to Momentum OKC and one was accepted. This was my first painting accepted into a juried exhibition and I was AMPED! I delivered my painting early in the week. A couple of days later I got a call telling me my work would not be exhibited in the show. Damn. Rejected. Even worse to feel the rush of acceptance, only then to discover rejection.

There were parts of the painting that were well done and others that were found wanting. When I saw the exhibition, I knew why the painting was not included. As the sting of rejection faded, I knew I had to better. I began to really understand the importance of presentation and what it took to be professional. I wanted to deserve to be in this show.

Momentum OKC 2016
Momentum OKC 2016 (photo by Ryan Pack)

I began to see Momentum as something around which I could set goals. I wanted to make good work that was worthy of display. I wanted to earn the Spotlight award, and serve on the event committee. I wanted to be a part of this!

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Community scrapbook: visitors recall what Momentum has meant to them at Momentum OKC 2016 (photo by Ryan Pack)

This specific rejection really focused me. I was a student at the time, and it really awakened me. I became fully invested in making art, putting in the necessary late nights and weekends at the studio. I graduated in 2014 and received the Student Award of Excellence from OVAC with the work that I was making as the result of that rejection. Last year I was one of the three Spotlight Artists for Momentum OKC, I served on the committee, and volunteered with the event. I have found a strong supportive community through Momentum based on this rejection.

Momentum OKC 2015 (Photo by Joshua Cassella)

Momentum OKC 2015 (Photo by Joshua Cassella)

This year I Co-Chaired the event with the amazing Cayla Lewis and I also had a piece selected as part of the exhibition.

I turn thirty later this year and when I think about my development as an artist and my future, I think about Momentum and the Oklahoma Visual Arts Coalition and how I wouldn’t be where I am at without them. I am honored to have been a part of the 15th anniversary of Momentum as an artist, committee member, Co-Chair, and supporter. My advice would be to use Momentum! Set goals around it, volunteer, join the committee, and take part in it!

THANK YOU to the Oklahoma Visual Arts Coalition for the work you do in the state and out communities, thank you to our Momentum Committee and all of our sponsors and patrons!