I Heart Rejection Letters


These rejection letters have been collected over the years. I had no idea why I kept them instead of throwing them away. Maybe I liked the letterhead design, maybe they symbolized a scar on my ego. Now that technology has improved, these letters have been phased out and replaced by a less personal email version. I see the need to treasure these relics.

They all fall into some sort of template on how to say sorry, better luck next time. Some letters look formatted, some add a touch of humanity with a nice signature and some are truly inspiring with personal notes. Although the letter itself is a discouraging phenomena, I found them to be encouraging.
I realized that the more I apply, the better chance for me to land a show. The more I write and exhibit, the clearer my art practice will manifest itself. I also see writing and applying for grants or exhibition opportunity as an informal survey of what I’m proposing and practicing in comparison with the relevancy of current contemporary art. 

An artist’s work will gain more exposure by exposing it to the selection panelists. This is one of the ways that you can have a dedicated panel of curators, gallerists and artists sitting and paying full attention to your portfolio. I believe it is the best marketing strategy, regardless of whether or not you get the grant.

This is a collection of unsuccessful applications, but I also had lots of successful commissions, representations and shows, both from the application process and by invitation. They are all documented in my resume at the end of the book.

I hope you’ll keep on creating art and continue applying. Please do not take it personally if you receive another rejection letter in the mail or e-mail. It is just an editing process; it is part of being an artist.


“Nothing is a mistake. There’s no win
and no fail, there’s only make.”

- John Cage




Rejected, a collection of rejection letters by artist Tattfoo Tan

A collection of rejection letters by artist Tattfoo Tan and an essay by Christine Wong Yap on the odds on applying for various grants opportunities. Size: 8" x 10", Pages: 212, Cover: color, Pages: black and white

Order at McNally Jackson's.


"Every rejection is a form of self discovery,
a realignment of your true purpose."

- Tattfoo Tan


"Every rejection is building block for
success. When you reach there,
your target seem to be moving further
away. True success is to be at
peace with yourself this moment"

- Tattfoo Tan






Navigating and untying the knot in creative practice

Staten Island Ferry Terminal, Wednesday, November 16, 2011, 7pm
Join us for an informal group session set on a round trip on the Staten Island Ferry about facing rejection.

Artist Tattfoo Tan will discuss ways to unknot our frustration, reset our mission and re-chart our course.
There will be a book signing for Rejected, a collection of rejection letter by Tattfoo.

Meet at the Visitor's Center Information Booth in the St. George Staten Island Ferry Terminal at 7pm to ride with us!
Workshop is ideal for anyone who has ever been rejected.


Have you ever been rejected? I have, multiple times, may be a couple of hundred times. Instead of being frustrated and negative about it, I choose to celebrate it with a new book featuring a compilation of rejection letters I've received titled, "Rejected". Now you can even join in with your own rejection letters by submitting them to iheartrejectionletters.com. 

When hit by rejection, know that you are not alone. Don't let rejection hurt you. Realize that rejection is a process, and nothing personal. Accept it. It may be frustrating but it doesn't have to be devastating. Learn from it, work out the connection: what you could have been done better and how can you improve your approach?

1- In the Beginning there was the Word
Take the time to write an artist mission statement. Writing will help develop your project idea and why you do your art. Some missions are great for applying to only certain grant opportunities. If you applied to others, you chances will diminish. Know who you are and who you are applying to.

2- Be prepared.
Invest in equipment like computers, a camera, printers, and a hard drive. Learn to use them.
Pre-prep your materials. Take the time to prepare your CV, biography, artist statement and images of each project or artwork. Prepare them in folders and be ready to be use them. This will save time and frustration every time you have to send in another proposal or application. By doing this in advance, you cut your work load in half.
3- No idea is a bad idea.
Recycle your proposal, a rejected proposal might be a winning one for another opportunity. 

4- Sit on both side of the table.
Volunteer to be on a panel. Know how the grant process works. It will improve your applications and work after being exposed to a diversity of proposals and discussing them critically with your fellow panelists.

5- D-I-Y Set up your own grant program
Don't always ask for gift. Enjoy the gift of giving. Save up some money and grant it to another artist. Manage the process and be an art administrator. Be a leader.
(P.S. I tried this with S.O.S. Guilds)

6- Blessing in disguise
If you are rejected, sometimes it is for the better good. Did you ever consider that you might not enjoy the project or the people that you'd be in contact with. Sometimes it is okay to just say, "Thank you for not choosing me."

7- Never gave up
Each year is a different panel, so don't be dismayed, apply again.

8- Free studio visit
Every time you send in your portfolio, it is a free studio visit for you! The panelist usually consist of curators and artists that is the lead in the industry that you might not have the opportunity to show your show to. 

9- Treat your practice like a business
Make sure you got paid as an artist and be professional. 

10- This is only the beginning.
Rejected or not, a grant is not the end, It is only the beginning. Do not expect that it will support your work, it is only an award, moral support for your career. Focus on your art, and find alternative funding if needed.