Artsy Shark

How Artists Can Inoculate Themselves Against Rejection

“AS:  Your father Clark Hulings was a very successful artist, which meant that he was also rejected from time to time. What lessons did you learn from his experience and his example?

EH:  My father started out painting society portraits in Baton Rouge, LA, after WWII. As any portraitist will tell you, the work can be tough. He had many stories. One family loved the painting he did of their debutante daughter, except that, while she was sitting for him in her purple gown, they repainted their salon. So their interior designer made him change the color of the gown so that it would “harmonize.” The biggest problem with portraits is that, if the client rejects it, who else will want it? You have to have a certain temperament to be a painter whose subjects are able to voice their opinions. My father chose to paint other kinds of subject matter.

He moved from portraits to commercial illustration, and told me that breaking into that business at its apex (the 1950’s) was very difficult. He would drag his portfolio from art director to art director, leave it with the receptionist, and return later the same day to retrieve it, hoping they would want to hire him. He reached a point where he would slip a string in between two of the pages, just to know if anyone had bothered to look inside. In the end, he got hired to do newspaper wash ads and worked his way up from there, but it was rough.”

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