Of course selling out is no guarantee that your work is good. It means that you touched a tender spot in people's hearts, and you, perhaps, should have asked for more money for the work!
"Familiarity breeds contempt", and other dilemmas artists wrestle with are many...submitting to exhibitions may be at the top of any top 10 list of things we hate to do, but know we must! I will tell you what I know that could save you from too much pain.
Here are a few of the dilemmas:
If your work is too familiar, it is not challenging.
If your work is too unfamiliar, then it does not fit the current discourse.
If there is no continuum, a dialogue with previous artists, then your work doesn't address art history.
If your work is non-traditional then you may be unskilled.
If your work is highly skilled then you may be too traditional.
If you work with new media, you may have no art skills.
If you avoid technology in your work may not be contemporary.
If your work fits too well, it is trendy.
If critiqued by a person who just doesn't like your style, then your work will not interest them.
Is your head spinning?
How do you know your work is good? Each person who sees it will have a different opinion colored by the viewer's personal experience and knowledge. Should you be discouraged when you:
1.never get into juried shows
2. only sometimes get into juried shows
3. when you always get into juried shows (probably not!)
Many artists produce work that gets routinely rejected by the mainstream. It has famously happened, repeatedly, to artists who are now considered world class. Van Gogh is an easy example. And then there are the artists who are here today and gone tomorrow...those artists like Georges Roualt, who is still known, but not as well as he used to be, relegated frequently to the study of Biblical art...not a bad thing. Jacques Louis David was the cat's meow and got down-sized. Here are underrated artists in an Artnews article.With art it is a damned if you do, and damned if you don't proposition, with the possibility that if you "do" today, in 20 years, you might be a "don't", and there are multiple variations on this theme.
Possible solutions to rejection, and bad, or no reviews:
1. develop a hard shell
2. take what you can from the comments
3. believe in yourself
4. believe in your work!
5. ask somebody else
6. keep working to improve
7. find like-minded artists and see what they do
8. look at good art! (tricky, but you can trust some galleries and museums...)
Google the juror before you submit to a show
If you are submitting to juried shows there are a few things to keep in mind:
1. Jurors have preferences. If you know they make abstract work or are the curator of contemporary art at a museum and you're a realist portrait painter, you may not get chosen (not a rule, but a possibility).
2. So if you research the juror, you could be prepared if you are not accepted, and happily surprised if you are.
3. Jurors don't know everything. I have been on juries where I discovered one or more of the others were not familiar with some fairly common techniques.
4. Take chances! You never know when you might be chosen!
5. Make sure you submit good images of your work
6. Follow entry rules and deadlines