A Commission, A Sale and Two Rejections: the Story of Art

Moon Over The City - detail

In my perfect dream world, the art is made easily, there's a buyer waiting at the door and my work flows effortlessly through the studio. Reading about Andrew Salgado's 10th sellout show this week, for some artists this dream world is actual life - it doesn't quite work that way for me. The story of the piece of art above is a long one - it took a happy accident to create it, two rejections before it was sold, and two rejections and a sale before I gained a commission.

If I were a clever mathematician I could try and define its story as an equation - something like this perhaps:

 C = 2R + (S+A)

Clearly I'm not a mathematician! But if I could analyse all my art in this way, I might be able to work out how to spend my time more effectively. Thinking about the journey of our individual pieces of art is a great way to measure our practice without it feeling too cold or business like. Each piece has its own story, which can reveal the good, the bad and the less than beautiful in our creative practice - here's the story of this piece of work.


Rejection #1

Sorry to say that I was the one who first rejected this piece. The work came out of a particularly playful session with my teenage son, during which we threw A LOT of excess dye on the canvas. It was looking good until I decided to release a jar full of iron water over the top - bad move! That was a recipe for turning all the vibrant colour into a messy black splodge - ooops! 


Happy Accident

I hate rejecting anything - it's in my DNA to rescue, re-use and re-claim - so I turned the canvas over and started again. This time I carefully applied dyes with a large brush, letting each layer dry before adding another. Low and behold, I found that some of the marks from the black splodgy mess were drawn through the canvas, adding texture and interest to the surface. A new technique was born - don't you love it when that happens?! I call this reverse dyeing and I now use this all the time in my large wallhangings. What started out as a rejected canvas slowly became one of my best pieces of work - or so I thought!


Rejection #2

Hmmm, perhaps the piece wasn't as good as I thought...rejection number two came from an exhibition that I had hoped to be part of. Oh well. Rejection is part of the professional artist's life so I really don't take it to heart anymore, but it does make me re-evaluate how I present my work and I always double check the images too - this piece had been particularly difficult to photograph.


A Sale

This is the ultimate acceptance of our work isn't it? Two weeks after the exhibition rejection, the piece was sold on the first day of my open studio weekend - always lovely to sell direct from the place where the work was made. I also received lots of positive comments so I was encouraged to explore this technique further and to go BIGGER. 


A Commission

The icing (frosting if you are American) on the cake. The second day of my open studio a lady walked in and immediately fell in love with the piece and placed an order for a commission of the same size. It's always a little nerve wracking creating commissions - my work is so "one off" that I can never repeat the marks but I'm happy to try. She will be taking the work to her new home in New York so it's lovely that the work will be rooted in the PNW in terms of the materials used, and I'm excited to get started on it. You will be able to follow the progress of this work on my Facebook page, check in from time to time and see how I cope with the pressure!


The Lessons

What did I learn from this story of a piece of my art?


  • It is worth re-visiting a piece and "making" it work. That's the way to move your process forward
  • Rejection emails/letters are unimportant, it's the sales that matter (to me anyway)
  • Don't let people take purchased artwork away with them! Luckily my buyer suggested leaving the work on the wall until the open studio had finished so it could be seen by others - thank you!
  •  I will probably never have a sellout show like Andrew Salgado! 


What have you learned from the stories of your artwork


Is there a pattern to how you sell work?
Analysing the journey of a piece of work, helps give you feedback on what you need to do in order to achieve your goals, whether that's selling work, exhibiting or gaining a commission.
Maybe you could even represent this journey with an equation! 


I would love to hear the stories around your work. Leave your comments below and let's start a conversation about what you have learned from analysing the journey of your work. 

Until next time, wild ones!