Rejection + Resilience

©Zandra Stratford: My concept sketch for the Victoria Airport Installation Project.

©Zandra Stratford: My concept sketch for the Victoria Airport Installation Project.

I’ve been meaning to write about this for awhile, I even started a blog post in January called Fail, Fail Again, Fail Better (which I must have read somewhere but my brain is soup about such things) that was about not getting the Victoria Airport Installation that I was one of five finalists for. I have been rejected from several things since then too and usually it doesn’t bother me at all. I feel momentarily disappointed but depending on the kind of rejection (little r or capitol R) I can usually move on pretty quickly.

Not getting accepted into a juried show is a pretty easy one for me, that one feels less personal, and I have a pretty positive attitude when it comes to those ones. The same with rejections for things that I felt I had zero chance of getting but thought, “Why the fuck not? Apply!” I never invest emotionally too much into those probably because it feels like such a long shot that I never feel like I will be seen let alone accepted. Recently however, something came along that felt like it WAS FUCKING MADE FOR ME. The brief about what they were looking for and what my work is about seemed so simpatico that when I was preparing for my submission I half wanted to just wave my hands at my website and say LOOOK, THIS IS WHAT I’M DOING AND TALKING ABOUT OVER HERE, IT’S WHAT YOU SAY YOU ARE LOOKING FOR… LET’S DO THIS THING. I diligently prepared my submission and really believed that I had a shot of at least making the short list because it was just so perfect.

You can see where this is going right? *Cue the tiny violin music.

I didn’t make the shortlist, and as is fairly common, no explanation, just a “Thank You… So many submissions… blah blah blah.” You know the rejection letter. I wasn't disappointed. I was fucking mad. I’m still kind of stewing a bit to be honest, I’m not quite ready to be a mature adult about this just yet. I have given myself pep talks about why this probably wasn’t a good fit. Sitting in board meetings, red tape, bureaucracy, negotiating, managing personalities and dealing with people, maybe being bored out of my mind, not being able to control how far back I can roll my eyes without getting caught. Obviously I don’t know if any of these would be true but this is me trying to rationalize and move on.

Why do I care about this?

I allowed myself to get emotionally invested in this one, usually I have a pretty good level of non-attachment when submitting but goddammit, I wanted this one. I got excited about all the potential this had and what it could do not only for my career, but also just having some input creatively in the city I live in. I got way ahead of myself and thought about how much leverage it would give me artistically and the platform building it would create. In my mind, I was creating partnerships, working with brands and generally just raising the bar even higher for my work. The truth is though, I can still do all those things, it may not be as easy, but I think that idea is just limited by my own thinking. I don’t really need a fancy title to move forward with all those things, I can still work away and work hard towards those things on my own. Those goals were on my list before this thing was in front of me so nothing has really changed. Sigh, I just have to get back to work.

So, get back to work.

The good thing about capitol R Rejection is that if it’s something really big (whatever that means for you) it probably pushed you creatively to apply for it. It probably got you thinking about things in a bigger way. It probably made you aware of what you could do if you had a bigger box of crayons to play with. It probably got you excited about your work and your future work and got you thinking, what if?

While it feels really good, if you’re always getting accepted for stuff, you might not be pushing yourself as far as you can go. If it starts to feel easy then it probably is, for me that means that I’m getting too comfortable and that will never do. It’s a big yawn for me. That said, if you’re getting a series of little r or capitol R rejections in a row, it’s totally legit to just want some kind of win already, because it can feel like you’re being held down and if you don’t have the mindset you can get stuck there. I could probably write another post about Permission & Acceptance, but i’ll let that one percolate for a bit before I get around to it.

This is another long ass post, and there is more I want to say but I feel like I’m talking to myself and I’d rather engage with you guys. I shared a post about Getting 100 Rejections in a Year on facebook earlier in the year. It’s a bit different for writers as I guess they maybe don’t have the same kind of submission fees that we do, but there is some good stuff in there. In googling that piece I came across this piece by the same writer and it’s so fascinating to read what happened as a result of her piece going viral, I encourage you to read it. She comes a bit full circle on some thoughts I wanted to share too (and now I know where that failing better bit came from) but would rather have a conversation about. Now that I’ve read it I’m also tempted to edit my piece and expand a little bit more but Kim’s thoughts very much mirror my own in many ways. Maybe they will for you too. Love to hear your thoughts…

It’s May and I haven’t run out of fingers on how many things I’ve been rejected for yet, but I’m close. :) How about you?


CVP 4.0 Free Mini-Workshops with Nicholas Wilton

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*Edited to note that the enrolment for CVP is closed for the year. If you click on the link below it will take you to a short video with Nick and there is a link to be added to a reminder list for next year. *

Enrolment for CVP 4.0 is coming up soon! Nicholas Wilton is offering up 3 free mini-workshops to discuss the principles of DESIGN, VALUE, AND COLOUR.

If you’ve followed my work since the early days, you’ll know how instrumental this program was to my development as a professional artist, and I cannot recommend it enough. More than just the exceptional instruction, Art2Life tapped me into an incredible community of artists all over the world who support each other. Many friendships have been made and lots of scheming has happened! I have also been fortunate enough to have worked with many of the artists who have taken CVP to help them with their branding as well.

If you’re ready to step-up and take your work to the next level, sign up for the free mini-workshops that start on April 26th.

The Workshop schedule is as follows:

April 26th - Part 1
Introducing DESIGN
And answering questions!

April 29th - Part 2
Introducing VALUE 
And answering questions!

May 1st - Part 3
Introducing COLOR 
And answering questions!

After these free workshops you will be invited to enroll in CVP which starts May 9th!

*Full disclosure: I would 100% recommend this program to anyone who is ready to take their work more seriously without needing to be compensated for promoting it. While I am not a big fan of pressured sales or MLM I need to say that should you end up enrolling in CVP using my link, I will make a commission from your enrolment. I am a big fan of artists helping artists so any financial compensation I may receive does help support me and my work.

That said, just signing up for the free work shops can be super helpful even if you do nothing else after that. Feel free to shoot me an email if you have any questions.


Heni Talks- Under the Gaze: The Art of Cindy Sherman

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Heni Talks: Under the Gaze: The Art of Cindy Sherman

(website excerpt)

Critic and art historian, Hal Foster, looks back to 1970s New York where he first encountered a generation of young artists engaging seriously with the images and effects of mass consumer culture. Amongst them, Cindy Sherman, whose iconographic self-portraits would come to reflect a fascination with how women are depicted in the visual language of film and advertising.

Head on over to watch the video (it’s just over 9 minutes long) and you can follow Cindy Sherman on Instagram if you aren’t already!


“The Supreme Gift … Is Scale”: Robert Motherwell’s Monumental Paintings (Hyperallergic)

Sheer Presence: Monumental Paintings by Robert Motherwell  at Kasmin (installation view) (2019) (all images courtesy Kasmin)

Sheer Presence: Monumental Paintings by Robert Motherwell at Kasmin (installation view) (2019) (all images courtesy Kasmin)

This really resonates for me as I have just stretched a big chunk of canvas directly onto my studio wall. I love scaling up and honestly that’s where my best work is.

Hyperallergic “The Supreme Gift … Is Scale”: Robert Motherwell’s Monumental Paintings

The first exhibition devoted exclusively to the Abstract Expressionist’s vast, mural-sized works is on view at Paul Kasmin Gallery in New York.


The Extraordinary in the Ordinary

From Austin Kleon’s book Keep Going…

From Austin Kleon’s book Keep Going…

This has been a theme I’ve been examining more closely this year (and I was delighted to see a whole section in Austin Kleon’s new book about it.) I think it’s always been there but I was never really deliberately aware of it before, or at least not in the way I’m looking at it now. I’m inherently curious and as soon as I got an iPhone (circa 2007) I began collecting imagery and capturing things that I saw and liked just because I could. Things would fill up pretty quickly and you had to delete pretty much everything or like, upload it to your computer, crack open photoshop edit the shit out of it, save multiple versions (final13_FINAL), and upload it your Flickr account or whatever… so much effort. With cloud storage and a bevy of filters that do everything for you in a fraction of the time, it’s even easier to make a crappy photo look like something worth keeping.

That said, now that I have a more discerning eye, I don’t have the endless collection of photos that I took just because I could. I do have an endless collection of things that caught my attention, usually the composition of something, the interplay of shadows and light, the construction/destruction of pretty much anything, and piles of shit left behind that tell a compelling story especially if you make the photo BW and it becomes a poignant statement for insert whatever topic here. Très artistique!

This week I had the pleasure of being a guest for my friend and fellow artist Cheryl Taves class The Artist’s Mindset. We were talking about sources of inspiration and where it comes from. I’m going to have to go back and review the interview and probably edit this because I know there were some little insights that came up but my monkey mind can’t remember exactly what they were just now. This is all part of Cheryl’s magical ability to draw this sort of thing out of you.

Awesome video still of me and Cheryl Taves from this week.  *It’s been pointed out recently that I talk with my hands but I worry that it might be interpretive dance. Either way, look out.

Awesome video still of me and Cheryl Taves from this week. *It’s been pointed out recently that I talk with my hands but I worry that it might be interpretive dance. Either way, look out.

I have just recently moved into my new studio and while I’m still prototyping the new routine, I found this past week that the short walk to the studio is a lovely transition moving from my business head to my artist head. I’m very lucky to live in a beautiful neighbourhood close to the downtown core where my studio is. The walk should take me about 13 minutes if I stay focused and don’t get distracted, but there is so much to be distracted by that I find it can take me twice as long to get there. I’m calling this productive distraction and part of my process because something happens in that transitory space. I might see something that sparks a narrative in my head and I like to think that comes through in my work. 

Here are a few snapshots from my walk-in days last week with tree lined streets (from which I took zero photos), a Cathedral beside a small cemetery full of people smoking weed, and if I’m really into a productive distraction, an art store stop-in to see what’s new. In a more literal merger with abstraction, I will use some of these images as image transfers to kind of catalogue things, they may be obscured, prominent, or covered up completely but I feel like this layering adds to the overall story of the work. It’s all there, even if you don’t see it.