I came across this great quote from Leon Golub, an American painter, now deceased.
“The adventures that you are going to have as artists, as individuals, are going to go in all kinds of ways; they’re going to turn back upon each other, they’re going to turn upside-down; you’re going to recover, you’re going to go on the attack, you will retreat, you will make certain investigations of the world in which you are involved. It’s never a single road towards achievement, success, or anything else. It’s a complex, messy situation. We often have ideal examples shown to us. It means certain artists have very beautiful careers, especially when seen retrospectively. Biographies always tell it to you to make the artist’s history look kind of fabulous. However, one of the things you should be aware of, and maybe you are aware, is that the self-consciousness that you will have as young artists and the problems that you face as younger artists are no different than what you will be facing in twenty to thirty years from now. And the problem of success or failure, whatever that means, nobody even knows what those terms really mean, those problems in the arts, and in all of the arts, exist for us continuously. And artists that are internationally famous have the same anxieties as you do as to how they are being treated, where their next exhibition will be, etc. A negative review by someone can throw a well-known artist in a spin that he or she will not recover from in weeks. So they face the same kind of, in a sense, nervous instability for the most part that we all face together. We can almost take this for granted. Of course, it’s better to be nervous and extremely successful than to be nervous and unknown.”
This is from a transcript of the Graduation Commencement Address given by Golub at the Art Institute of Chicago on May 23, 1982. As recounted in The Art Life: On creativity and career, edited by Stuart Horodner and published by the Atlanta Contemporary Art Centre.
Today’s my last day of lessons with the students I teach at the London College of Music, as they are about to embark into the world with their BA Honours Degrees in Musical Theatre. So these words are for them. God speed and Good luck!