Creative Problem Solving for Artists: Rejection

Tim Burton Rejection

A Disney editor rejected this story by a very young Tim Burton.

Every creative faces rejection now and then. If you’re just starting out, the rejection letters can be discouraging and overwhelming. If it’s any comfort, know that you are not alone. I love this thoughtful rejection letter that a Disney editor sent to a young Tim Burton. For tips on how to deal with rejection and move on with your career, read the next part in our Creative Problem Solving series below. You can read all of Holly deWolf’s problem-solving tips here.

Keep creating and good luck!


Rejection by Holly deWolf

Rejection is one of the biggest momentum killers I can think of. Let’s face it, it feels rotten but is one of the unfortunate bumps along the illustration path. You can pretty much count on rejection (like bills or aging). No matter how many times you hear the phrase “Your work does not suit our needs right now,” rejection can make even the most positive person wonder what they’re doing wrong.

“Pick yourself up, dust yourself off. Start all over again.” —Peggy Lee

Most often you aren’t doing anything wrong. You may be targeting a market that doesn’t need your particular talents at this time. It could also mean they don’t fully understand what you do. Or maybe they’re looking for a particular style of illustration that isn’t yours.

A great site that lets you submit rejected work is The Designers Recovery Magazine ( Their motto is, “We celebrate good designs that have been flogged in a monthly magazine.”

“You’re like some kind of superhero that can ward off success at every turn.” The Drew Carey Show

Too often we question our work, our marketing style and worst of all our personalities! Keep in mind that even the best of the best get rejected. We can get too down on ourselves when we’re kicked to the creative curb. We are talented. How could they not want what we do? How is it they don’t see what we see in our work? Why don’t they realize how hard we’ve worked to get to this point?

We ask all sorts of “why” questions when we feel dejected and bummed out. So, what are they really saying when they throw your efforts a curveball? Number one, they are not rejecting you, they are rejecting the services or the style you provide. Sometimes they are rejecting all illustration services because they don’t need work at the time or it isn’t in the budget. Remember that this industry is based on many factors, and rejection need not be forever. Ask them to put you on file. Ask them for a critique. Ask for a little advice to see what they need from a potential illustrator. And, lastly, ask them if you can follow up in the future.

“I reject your reality and substitute my own.” MythBusters

Reject your rejection. Don’t let it take away your creative power. Find another way. Find another audience. Stay true to your style, your creative voice and your goals.

Holly DeWolf is an illustrator, mentor, DYI’er, blogger and author of the book Breaking Into Freelance Illustration: The Guide for Artists, Designers and Illustrators. She currently lives in New Brunswick, Canada, living the creative freelancer’s dream.
Excerpted from Breaking Into Freelance Illustration © 2009 by Holly DeWolf. Used with the kind permission HOW Books, an imprint of F+W, a Content + eCommerce Company. Visit or call (800)258-0929 to obtain a copy.

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