Have you ever wondered what it would be like to devote your life to creative expression? On Wednesday, Oct. 25 Matthew Fishel, St. Mary’s Class of 2001, told students his take on the life of an artist in his presentation, “Interested in Being a Professional Artist?”
He began by telling the room of prospective artists that there are no employment benefits to being an artist, and that they should get used to the idea of sharing a living space with cockroaches. He also went on to say that things most students are used to having since most come from a middle-class background, such as houses and cars, are harder to get as an artist than from a typical 9 to 5 salary job; he said an artist has to get used to being efficient with what he or she has. On the flip side, according to Fishel, most people spend their lives doing work they are not passionate about, or happy doing, and creating art is one of the few professions where people can devote their lives to something they love. On the way, one can have amazing adventures, work for oneself, and “make the world a better place.”
Fishel gave advice that could be useful to many kinds of graduates of St. Mary’s .He said, “you can’t be talented without hard work,” and never give up – but also recognize when it is time to give up. He explained this blatant contradiction by describing his passion for being a percussionist in a band here during his time at St. Mary’s and his quest after graduating to form a band, which never became a reality. Of this experience, Fishel said that here was an instance where it was time for him to give up, and consequently, it made his art better.
He also advised students to: “Seek out things you enjoy.” For him, he took eight one-hour car trips to see concerts featuring performers he admired. Fishel is glad he did it then, because now that he has more responsibility, he can’t go on such wild spur-of-the-moment adventures; thus, he advised the audience to go on similar adventures while they have time and fewer responsibilities.
He also emphasized that students should not feel rushed by time constraints or career deadlines society seems to be pushing on young adults. He went to graduate school a bit later than he thought average, but he learned that people always told him they went to graduate school too early, never the opposite. He also warned that many people go to grad school for the wrong reasons: because they feel they have to, they want to avoid “the real world.” He said that these reasons are not enough to last one through the process that is “an exhaustive experience,” costing “time and money.”
Fishel concluded that: “Persistence is the biggest part of success, not just as an artist.” He believes failure is beneficial to artists as they realize they can always do better, and that the “ego” should never take over one’s life. He stressed the importance of having a healthy mind and body and that artists should take care of their minds, by reading a book he or she doesn’t fully understand, for example, because the mind is the artist’s tool to stretch and expand.
First-year Nina Paulin said that the lecture was “useful and good advice,” and Senior Stephanie Scott was enthusiastic about the lecture saying it was “definitely a mantra for aspiring artists.”