Being shortlisted for the RA Summer Exhibition 2024!


As an artist, there’s a lot of bravery in putting yourself forward for exhibitions. In an ideal world, we’d all get accepted all the time, but in reality, there’s a whole lot of rejection. And that’s okay! The real strength is being able to pick yourself up and carry on.

You never know, the next exhibition might be the one that accepts you!

 Keeping it real

A lot of artists only want to share their wins, not the other zillion exhibitions they didn’t get selected for. I get it, it’s hard to turn around and tell people you haven’t been chosen. No one wants to do that! I have to admit, I did think twice about telling anyone I’d been shortlisted, but rejection is a big part of being an artist (or if you do anything creative!), so I think it’s really important to talk about it.

As a lot of social media is just the highlights, it means that a lot of people aren’t seeing the bravery that’s going on behind the scenes, and think these artists are breezing through being accepted into every exhibition. It can be disheartening to face rejection and feel like you’re the only one. I promise you, you’re not!

I recently applied to have work in the gallery section of The Knitting & Stitching Show, but I wasn’t successful, and last year I applied for the Sussex Contemporary exhibition, but I was rejected.

I think it’s refreshing to share the wins and the losses – it doesn’t make you any less of an artist. It means you *are* one!


RA Summer Exhibition

The piece I put forward is Dancing in the Shadows (2023). Everyone always says how much they love that one, so I thought I’d put it forward and see what happens.

I’ve always wanted a piece of my artwork in the Summer Exhibition, so getting selected would be a dream come true. Thousands of people come to see the exhibit every year, so a whole lot of people would get to discover my work!

So far, the process has been longer than I expected:

  • January to February: You submit your artwork.
  • Middle of March: You find out if you’ve been shortlisted.
  • Beginning of May: You drop your work off.
  • End of May: You find out if it’s in or not!

 Unexpected things to consider…

There are lots of reasons to put yourself forward for exhibitions, but there are a few downsides too – and I don’t think many artists talk about them.

If you’ve put a piece forward for an exhibition, you can’t show or sell it. That means you could end up in a situation where you’re going to a show, but you’ve put lots of artwork forward for various exhibitions, so you can’t take them with you! You need to consider the balancing act of which pieces are being put forward for which things, as that takes them out of the mix.

For example, I can’t show Dancing in the Shadows at the Artists Open Houses this year (where I open my home and artwork to the public).

So, a lot of artists think they’ll create a new piece for every exhibition they put themselves forward for – but the problem is you’re then on a treadmill of creating. You could end up with half of your pieces not being accepted, or if they do get accepted, they might not sell. It’s mind-boggling keeping track of what you’re doing!

To keep it simple, I now look at my existing paintings and choose which ones to put forward and take them off my website (then they might reappear later).

Whether I get accepted or not, the Summer Exhibition will be amazing. Each room feels quite diverse, and it’s always a bit different depending on the judges – it’s a lovely day out!

We’re all in it together

As artists, we’ll all face an amount of rejection, so it really helps to have a like-minded community to turn to, like the Flourish membership or if you have completed the full 12 month membership you can join the Graduate club We can commiserate our rejections and celebrate our wins together!