Art School Reject

art career mental strength rejection Jun 14, 2023

The year was 1994. 'The Lion King' was killing it in theaters. And I was killing it with an awesome animation portfolio. I was going to be a Disney animator at all costs.

I submitted my portfolio to Cal Arts in Los Angeles. 

Then came the letter, with the words no artist wants to hear: 'We regret to inform you that.....YOU SUCK...blah blah blah'  ( I'm paraphrasing;)

But that was the gist of it. 



I still feel that sting sometimes, almost 30 years later!

It crushed me, but I wanted to share how that disappointing experience fueled my trajectory as an artist.

See, my 17 year old self believed the myths that only inherently talented artists succeed and that formal education is essential to SUCCESS.

But being rejected from CalArts led me down some unlikely and unconventional paths, where I found incredible opportunities that jump-started my career.


Looking back, I realize I wasn't naturally gifted. I struggled with art despite years of practice.

It was my relentless drive and refusal to give up that brought me success.

I honestly believe anyone can be an artist if they truly desire and believe they can be, and of course, put in the deep work to develop their potential.

Rejection is PAINFUL.

I've experienced it many times in life. But my rejection from art college was a turning point. Today, despite that rejection, I've worked on billion dollar projects as an animator, illustrator, concept artist, art director, and art instructor.

Rejection doesn't define us. We can use it as motivation to prove others wrong( there is such thing as 'healthy spite' ;) 

It's also a MASSIVE opportunity for growth and transformation. Embrace it, learn from it, and let it fuel your determination to achieve your dreams.

Rejection is FEEDBACK.

Ultimately, the stories we tell ourselves about our rejection experiences are what truly matters. 

Equally important, it matters is how we respond. I chose to persevere, study, experiment, and push my creativity. With each rejection( and there were many beyond this one!), I grew stronger and discovered my unique artistic voice.

Don't let setbacks define your journey. 

Embrace rejection as a stepping stone to greatness. Success isn't a linear path, but by staying true to yourself and your art, and by trusting your instincts, you can overcome great challenges.

Remember: Formal training and validation aren't prerequisites for artistic success.

Believe in yourself and your vision. Explore different mediums, keep learning, and never stop evolving as an artist.

If you've experienced rejection, know you're not alone. Use it as inspiration to pursue what you truly desire. Embrace your resilience, cultivate your skills, and find joy in the creative process.

Rejection is just a chapter in your narrative—one that adds depth, character, and strength to your journey. Learn from it and inspire others who have faced rejection.


REMEMBER: You are an artist! Craft and design what success looks like to you, and show that rejection can propel you toward greatness.


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