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Winning Is Always An Option If You Don’t Quit

As I approached the gallery I found myself wondering how in the world I was going to get the massive sculpture I constructed up the stairs. I had somehow managed to squeeze it into my car without damaging it, which I attributed to dumb luck.

Luck seemed to be on my side that morning, considering I had pulled into a parking spot right in front of the shiny and unending staircase into the gallery.

Nature Of Being Sculpture By Rafi Perez
Nature Of Being Sculpture By Rafi Perez

I’ve entered the juried art competitions at Artel Gallery a handful of times with varying results. I still remember the first piece I entered, which was rejected with no particular pomp and circumstance. It was laid off to the side with the other rejects waiting for me to glumly collect it, like picking up a child from detention.

That rejection had a devastating impact on my self esteem as an artist for some time. I had just started selling my art and gaining some traction with local collectors, and it caused me to feel like I wasn’t good enough to continue masquerading as an artist.

It wasn’t until several years later that I decided to enter another piece, which didn’t get rejected.

Rafi Perez Best In Show Artel Gallery
Rafi Perez Artel Gallery

The marble steps to the gallery blazed white in the hot sun, daring me to make a move. I had managed to get the sculpture out of the car without damaging it, knocking myself in the head only once.

The only idea that my mind could seem to muster that morning was to pick up the sculpture and maneuver the stairs as quickly as possible. The sculpture isn’t necessarily heavy, it’s just awkward to carry around, because like most sculptures, I didn’t design it to be carried around.

I prepared myself at the bottom of the mountainous stairs, glanced around to make sure no one was watching, and steadied my breath. One false move and all the work and effort that went into my art would be laying in pieces on the forbidding marble steps.

Rafi Perez Best In Show Artel Gallery
Rafi Perez Best In Show Artel Gallery

After deciding to enter my art again, I got pieces into four separate shows, won best of show, and had a solo show in their alcove. I also got rejected two more times, but it didn’t have an impact on my self esteem as an artist. Some might attribute the lack of feeling dejected to the fact that I had a couple years as a career artist under my belt, but I know plenty of seasoned artists who have a difficult time with any rejection.

I don’t have difficulty with rejection because after two years of avoiding art competitions, I finally realized that you can’t win if you don’t enter; and your art is not being rejected, it simply didn’t match the taste of the juror. The thing is, that art competitions don’t matter, but if you want to win one, you are going to have to face rejection. In fact, if you want to do anything awesome or important with your art career, you are probably going to face a lot of rejection and criticism.

If you want to be safe from rejection, then don’t put yourself out there, don’t do anything different from the norm, don’t try to have a voice, and definitely don’t become an artist.

Rafi Perez Solo Art Show 2017
Rafi Perez Solo Art Show 2017

Simply because someone rejects your artwork (or whatever it may be) doesn’t mean that you are worthless. It doesn’t have anything to do with you, and never will. A lot of people avoid thinking about being rejected or losing, but in my opinion it’s a good idea to think about that worst case scenario, and face the fear in your mind.

What if my piece gets rejected? How will I feel? What does it mean?

These could be hard questions, but until you ask yourself and question the validity of your answers, you are going to keep reacting in misery to rejection. The really cool thing about exploring these questions is that you don’t have to react at all, you can respond to the situation however you like.

My answers are less dramatic and devastating since I’ve had a chance to explore this topic and really decide how I want to respond to these questions and this particular type of rejection.

What if my piece gets rejected?

Then it get’s rejected. I pick it up, bring it home and probably sell it at some point in my lifetime. Who knows, it may win a prize at some other art competition… just didn’t suit the juror this time I guess.

How will I feel?

Fine, I have other more important things to focus on.

What does this mean?

Only what I think it means. If I think I’m a failure or a reject, that’s on me. This is an opportunity for me to show myself who I am, by the way I respond. I choose to respond by saying “Well, maybe next time… I got shit to do right now.”

Chasing Fairies By Rafi Perez
Chasing Fairies By Rafi Perez

I glanced around one more time, held my breath, and made a run for it. I verbally counted every step as I ascended the stairs with the agility of sloth in running shoes.

Out of breath and elated that I made it to the top, I stood there gleaming in victory. I then proceeded to scrape and bang my way awkwardly through the front door, hitting my head one more time for good measure. I placed the sculpture safely in the gallery lobby, signed it in, and breathed a sigh of relief.

By the way, it was number 13 in the roster… talk about dumb luck.

I had done it. I achieved something I thought was impossible to do on my own, willing to face humiliation and rejection for something I love and believe in… my art, my sense of fun, my freedom to be me.

Nature Of Being Sculpture By Rafi Perez
Nature Of Being Sculpture By Rafi Perez

Had I given up, after that first rejection it would have controlled me. I would have spent the rest of my life being afraid to face rejection, and I would have been filled with “what ifs”.

I don’t believe you actually fail, even if your art doesn’t get in. Even if you get rejected, or lose… I think you only fail if you give up… because that’s the one thing you have control over.

It’s sometimes easy to give up because things might seem hopeless or hard. I didn’t think I could possibly get the sculpture to the gallery on my own, but my belief in dumb luck took over, and I decided to try.

Good thing too, I won Best Of Show.

Recycled Art By Rafi Perez
Best Of Show Recycled Art By Rafi Perez
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We Did It! We Gave Away Free Art!

So every year we try to do this little art hunt thing where we give away a lot of art with the intent to bring a smile to someone’s face. That someone is a beautiful little town named Pensacola. This year I created a bunch of art, about 80 pieces, and I created small inspirational hand painted magnets, about 100 of those… Phew.

2018 #inspireasmile Art Hunt
2018 #inspireasmile Art Hunt

As some of you know we had a YouTube contest to find the perfect name for this art giveaway thing we’ve been doing for several years, with awesome results.

Hashtag Inspire A Smile (#INSPIREASMILE) is what it’s called now, and that my friends is awesome!

2018 #inspireasmile Art Hunt
2018 #inspireasmile Art Hunt

So the date was set (March 12th, 2018) and the weather was like “hey wait a minute… I think you’ll enjoy doing this a lot more if it was dreary, cold, and windy, because that’s what all the cool kids want.”

And I was like “shit.”

But Klee and I bundled up and like the old explorers of Antarctica we braved the elements to spread our message of cheer.

(Listen, I know it wasn’t that cold, but I live in Florida the sunshine state, anything other than sunshine and warmth is unbearable.)

2018 #inspireasmile Art Hunt
2018 #inspireasmile Art Hunt

I put an entertaining video of our adventure together that morning for your amusement Below. Enjoy!

Within minutes of being done with the art hunt, inspiring happy messages started flooding in which makes freezing our buts off so worth it.

2018 #inspireasmile Art Hunt
2018 #inspireasmile Art Hunt

I think it is so important to smile. Each time you smile, you throw a little feel-good party in your brain. The act of smiling activates neural messaging that benefits your health and happiness. So smile you beautiful human you!

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#INSPIREASMILE Art Hunt March 12th In Pensacola

The date has been announced, we will be releasing 80 small art trees and 100 empowering happy magnets around downtown Pensacola on March 12th, 2018. Klee and I will go out in the cover of darkness and #INSPIREASMILE with art.

2018 Pensacola Art Hunt By Rafi And Klee
2018 Pensacola Art Hunt By Rafi And Klee

There is something special about the mystery and the covert nature of bringing joy to people that totally gets me pumped. It’s a very rogue and unexpected way to bring happiness and I hope people will be inspired to smile by the gesture.

In the past, I have left small art trees around town, this year in addition to the art I’ll also have small sketches that say empowering things, meant to brighten someones day.

2018 Pensacola Art Hunt By Rafi And Klee
2018 Pensacola Art Hunt By Rafi And Klee

After doing this art hunt for about four years, we realized it needed a name. We asked our awesome fans on YouTube for help and they did not disappoint.

#inspireasmile captures the essence of why we do these art hunts. Also, it helps us try and collaborate with artists who are interested in doing something similar in their town.

The idea is to spread around some happy, positive, empowering messages, and try to inspire a smile from the world. It seems sometimes, that the world could use it… I know I could use it sometimes.

Rafi art hunt

If you are an artist, or just a person who wants to #INSPIREASMILE feel free to join the movement, use the hashtag, and send us pictures of your art hunt along with information on who you are, where you are, and why you did.

If you are in Pensacola, mark your calendars. Pieces will be hidden in plain sight and some will be a little harder to find, but all will be just for you! I’ll be making some more announcements and releasing clues leading up to and the day of.

Thank you so much for being awesome Pensacola!

-Rafi