4 Jun 2011

Rejection letter – Riverdale Art Walk (RAW) 2011

Posted by Moshe Mikanovsky

This weekend is the Riverdale Art Walk 2011. Last year I participated in this first-of-the-season art fair, and had a blast. It was an amazing weekend, with great experience for me. This year, I was looking forward to participate again, learn and experience some more! I submitted my application on time, and waited for the acceptance letter. At about the same time, I also submitted an application to the Toronto Outdoor Art Exhibition (TOAE), as well as a project idea for Nuit Blanche 2011. I knew that TOAE is a tough cookie – many artists told me they submitted several years before they were admitted. Also that they were participating in some years, and rejected in others. I knew the acceptance rate is between 30% ro 40%. So I prepared myself to either reply, although an acceptance would have mean so much.

With the RAW though, I was not prepared, and the rejection, I must admit, hit me hard. It is an important thing to go through though, and many amazing artists told me how many rejection letters they have. So I must move on, and prove to everyone, but mostly to myself, that I can do it! Yes I can!!

I did receive from the RAW organizers an amazing letter with the details from one of the jurors, explaining the reasons for the rejection. And I decided to share it herewith you. The artwork that I submitted for adjudication was my 7 days of creation series.  Here is the entire series shown in a YouTube video. So when you read the following, you will have an idea which artwork is referenced.

So here is how the letter goes:

I’m happy to provide some feedback on this artist’s work.  

I used five questions to address the merits of each submission:
1. Does this work make a statement?
2. Has this artist mastered their technique and medium?
3. Is this work original?
4. What is the concept and message of the work and is it well communicated?
5. Does the work have consistency across the submission?

The body below provides a summary of what I felt were the major critiques of this work as a reflection to the above questions.

 I felt the work did not have a strong first impression because it is confusing.  Grids, text that wraps around the border of the work, painting right up to the edge of the border and a selection of abstract and representative works made for an overwhelming statement.  Grids are a difficult concept to work within, because they are indelibly linked to exercises taught to beginner painters.  This can give an impression of lending ‘training wheels’ to the work.  I found myself asking what the point of the grid is.  In this instance, it is stylistically more akin to collage or quilting than a specific movement in painting.  That a painting would reference a style other than painting isn’t an error, but it begs the question of why apply that style to watercolour?  I find that watercolour is a medium that is naturally able to provide incredible gradation through bleeds and washes.  If the grids are a method to control the intensity of colour I wonder if the artist is actually robbing him or herself of the opportunities available in this medium.  Likewise, if this is an interpretation of pointillism/divisionism writ large or reinterpreted, then introducing swatches of pure color, not shades of the same, should be investigated.  Finally, if this is an interpretation of pop-art in the vein of Lichtenstein then the grid must be applied universally to avoid confusion.  Why is the moon or Earth treated as a single object, where the grid is applied through drawn lines only, whereas elsewhere the grid is maintained through separate shades of colour?  Without there being a clear reason for the grid it falls quickly into the role of a gimmick.

The technique is good, though I would suggest trying to loosen up a bit.  Confidence with watercolour shows most when the work doesn’t seem so tight and rigid.  Also, less is more.  Why paint right to the border and cover the entire surface?  These works would benefit from much more white space.

I am very wary of text in paintings.  The Creation story is one of the most iconographic and oft repeated narratives in art.  Is the text essential to the piece? 

Upon reflection, the outstanding questions I had regarding this work were the basis for my rejection.  It was definitely not a rejection of the work in its entirety, as I respect the skill and creativity of the artist.

I have read and re-read it several times, and I do understand the reasoning behind it. Going beyond the initial hurt of the rejection, it is a good thing to receive such critique, an honest one that does not come from friends or other artists who want you to feel good, but from someone who believe in the highest standards, and from which I can learn and become a better artist. And this is the whole point.

Tomorrow (Sunday) I will be going downtown to the show, visiting my friends there and seeing some of the new artists who joined the RAW this year. I am sure it will be beautiful. Can’t wait!



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4 Responses to “Rejection letter – Riverdale Art Walk (RAW) 2011”

  1. hi Moshe,

    i looked at yr whole series, and i loved how u chose to depict each day of creation. (especially Adam and Eve holding hands, to (I suppose) convey their shared destiny, love, and the ‘standing by yr man/woman’ part of being a human couple, rather than just the over used naked random man and woman near an apple tree.

    sorry u’ve been rejected, but i was amazed and impressed at the elaborate letter of explanation attached to it!
    in all the rejections i got – not even once did they bother with an explanation, (not even when i contacted them afterwards, curious to understand, so i can ‘do better’ next time.

    i was just thinking that there were probably hundreds (and even if ‘only’ a few dozens) applicants who were rejected in this show – and how much time the judges took to articulate in writing each different letter of their reasons for the rejections.

    …but on the other hand: remember my opinion i voiced in my e-mail about the pompous judges in art shows committees from a short while ago?
    with all my respect for his elaborate reasonning in this letter – i must disagree with him on his ‘what’s right and wrong in water colour art’. there are endless variations of using each artistic styles, and this is the ‘nitch’ u created for yourself. u chose to use the whole space, grid it, and fill each square with a similar shade of the same colour, rather than ‘blocks of different colours’, as he suggested as ‘more right’. (says who?!!…)
    that’s the bit where i get frustrated with these decision making ‘know it all’: why is this ‘more arty’ than your way?
    i actually love the quitness of your colours, and how each picture is devided into this pale and un assuming mosaic. if anything – this ‘signature’ style of yours, is harder work that u created for yourself, and that he missed completely:
    it’s harder to create such subtle differences and hues for each square. it’s also harder to stay inside the line, with a medium that by nature wants to spread, and where every bleeding out of the line shouts: ‘mistake’, and ruins hours of patient work.
    don’t get disheartened, and i implore, in Billy Joel’s words: “don’t go changing, to try and please me..” (the judges or the lower public common denominator).

    Dalia. :-)


    Dalia Bar-Dror


    here is another thing u might like:

    I’m originally an oil painter. about 15 yrs ago i moved to acrylics, and in the last 7-8 yrs i moved to textural mixed media art.

    what I’m saying is that in all my yrs of interest in art – for some reason – i was never attracted to the water colour medium:

    i always preferred the vibrancy, strength and boldness of the more opaque paints, (and the fact that they are more ‘forgiving’), and of the 3D textures of objects.

    all the ‘wishy-washy’ water colour landscapes pictures, as well executed as they may have been – never did anything for me:

    the watery, pastelly look to them always felt ‘weak’, somehow, to me.

    but here is the bit u might like: UNTIL YOU…

    i still don’t get attracted to the water colour landscapes, but i DO enjoy looking at, (to the point of being impressed, even) – yr work.

    it’s different, and to my limited knowledge of water colour art – very unique.

    so, there!…. :-)

    Dalia :-)


    Dalia Bar-Dror

  3. Thank you so much Dalia,
    Your words are encouraging and flattering. I sure have to read them whenever i am a bit down and lack the energy! After all, my goal is to achieve my dream – become a full time artist! For that I must go beyond the negatives, learn my lessons, and move on, with more energy.

    Thank you for that


    Moshe Mikanovsky

  4. hi, Moshe!

    Hayom Yom huledet, Hayom Yom Huledet, Hayom Yom Hule-e-det Le-Moshe!….

    May this year be a great one, kind to you, full of love, happiness, good health, creativity, success, and only good news!

    Yom Huledet Sameach! :-)


    Dalia Bar-Dror

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