I don’t usually share the challenging side of my experiences working in the art world. I love my job almost all of the time, but in this instance reflecting on some of the negative aspects – particularly the art of rejection – helped me clarify my values as a practicing artist.
Let’s start with Radiohead. They released an amazing title piece, written for the James Bond film ‘Spectre’, which apparently had been rejected as the film’s title track. It’s a good song – haunting and full of Bond style orchestration that provides a glimpse into the ethos of the film’s content. Radiohead’s piece was passed over for the now iconic Sam Smith track, which has just won a Golden Globe for Best Original Song. Both are great – yet show two stylistically different approaches to the same subject.
I know how Radiohead feels. I recently had a ‘good’ offering rejected. I create and submit designs all the time to art directors, project managers, clients, festival directors, etc. Most of the time they come to me for what I can do – my personal spin on the art form I practice. They see my work and approach me with expectations of something breathtaking, grand and mesmerizing. That’s all well and good, but I do usually deal with ‘editing’ suggestions or direction, and sometimes those edits alter the integrity of the vision I have for the piece.
Sometimes these creative collaborations work extremely well, mainly because I like collaborations. I enjoy helping others see their dreams come true. And good art directors know that you play to the strength of the creative you are working with – they let me ‘do my thing.’ Other times, I am not so fortunate and the work becomes constricted, tied up tight and just a shadow of what it could have been. In those cases, I do the best I can. I love a good challenge and I am an experienced professional. The images wind up working but not quite to the fullest potential that I envision. It’s called compromise.
Recently I had this work rejected for a festival, which asked that we create fantastic, extraordinary, natural and/or imaginative works to delight their audience. Here’s what I came up with:
For some reason various parts of the work were undesired and I was asked to revise the work. After thinking on it, I decided NOT to alter the design, as each component I placed there is required to create the story I was narrating. I simply did not want to compromise the integrity of the drawing. My solution to this conundrum was to design a different work for the festival and log away this design in my vault. I’ll either create this autonomously in my studio, just for me or happily offer it up to another festival who accepts it the way it is.
Great Masters Are Not Exempt from Rejection
We all make compromises one way or another. Even art heroes like Michelangelo had works subjected to censorship and compromise. His seminal work ‘The Last Judgment’, which adorns the focal wall of the Sistine Chapel at the Vatican, is a masterpiece. Painted as intended, there is nothing lewd or crude about it – it depicts the turmoil of judgment, in all of it’s heavenly and hellish glory. Mankind is stripped bare before his God for all to see, as he was when he came into the world.
Unfortunately, the Vatican quickly decided to censor this work (after the artist’s passing) and had other artists paint small pieces of cloth over the genitalia of the ascending or descending masses. I don’t think Michelangelo would have approved. To this day, the fabric bits remain as the Vatican decided to keep them in the most recent restoration of the work. The first image shown is how ‘The Last Judgment’ looked after censorship – the one we see today. The second image is a tempera painting copy of the mural, not long after it was completed (by Marcello Venusti in 1549) before censorship.
So you see, artists face the same trials and tribulations we all do – rejection, approval, dismissal, acceptance, indifference. The trick to staying centered in all the ups and downs we deal with is to not take any of this personally – treat each experience as a learning opportunity and take any insights you glean from it forward with you. I became clear on the fact that sometimes I am ok with compromise and sometimes I am not. It all depends on my motives, intentions, vision and values. Lesson learned.
Now back to listening to ‘Spectre’……by Radiohead.
Disclaimer: Image Courtesy of Getty Images – Please visit to view more: www.gettyimages.com