LISA MALTBY Illustration & Lettering


Welcome to my blog where I post about all things creative, from my latest food illustrations, design work and hand lettering doodles, to articles about freelancing and creativity. I hope you like my posts.

Febreze just doesn't cut it with art directors: Dealing with rejection in the art world.

I wanted to write this post because, as a perfectionist, ‘failing’ is not something that comes easily to me. That’s not to say that I don’t fail of course, but for years I tried not to do so, or at least to cover up my errors like a bad smell. Except that Febreze just doesn’t cut it with art directors.

What I found from my 'failure’ (there’s that word again) to deal with 'failure’ (ouch, double whammy) was that I was left with very little to show for it. No experimentation, no persistence with pushing doors and no confidence in my work. Epic fail.

So, I started to learn to fail - which I’m now a little too good at by the way (or maybe I just admit it now). For those of you that know me well, you will know I have sat on my artwork for a number of years like a duck sat on an overdue egg. If you’re the creative type, you will understand what this does to a person - it makes you want to explode and it’s only so long before you 'crack’.

I’ve learnt that the biggest mistake you can make is to pretend that you don’t make any. It’s okay to say to clients that you don’t understand their brief or that you haven’t done a certain type of work before. It’s okay to say 'you don’t know’ but that you’ll get back to them with a solution. Better that than getting back to them with a badly done job that they won’t want to pay you for. People are only genuinely impressed with you after you complete a job for them so focusing on getting the job right is the key, not pretending you’re something you’re not. 

When I first graduated I tried to push doors with my artwork, I went to London armed with my portfolio, met some very rude people and some very helpful ones. Some went through my portfolio tutting and shaking their heads, some just said 'that’s lovely’ in a very insincere voice and some told me to go away and come back when I had 'developed’ my work. Developed?! I spent three years doing that! Looking back they were so right. 

I’ve been lucky enough to work as a Graphic Designer for a number of years and gain a lot of commercial experience, as well as working with some great clients, both locally and internationally. I love my job, I love being creative and I love that I can combine my design and photography skills with my personal work. It helps to push me to try new things and stop me getting bogged down with one creative aspect. 

So I guess my point is that I wanted to encourage those of you who are trying new things or pushing new doors that it’s great to make a few mistakes along the way and not to worry about it. If you get a few rejections, then it’ll push you closer to your future successes - view them as a push up the ladder, rather than let it make you topple.

So I’m going to carry on writing and illustrating children’s books. I had a letter of 'rejection’ the other week that told me they liked my work. They liked my work. That’s made me think it’s worth pursuing because publishers do not talk bull-shit or flower up rejections just to sound nice. I take their word that my work just didn’t fit their publication. 

React to rejection like water off a ducks back; it finds new paths; It’s somehow natural and organic, like it uses the friction to find it’s way. Don’t be disheartened, if it’s what you were meant to be be doing it will feel natural to pursue it.