“I'm not going to talk about Picasso. I have done my duty to those memories. I have had a great career as an artist myself, you know. I'm not here just because I've spent time with Picasso.” – Françoise Gilot, Born Nov. 26, 1921.
This is why you've got to toot your own horn, and kill your darlings, and not live forever in the shadow of the titans of your given field.
Gilot was an incredibly accomplished woman. But pretty much all anyone ever wanted to ask her about was her former lover, father of two of her kids, and absolute giant in the art world, Picasso.
Now I'm not saying Gilot did this to herself, or that there is anything she could have done about this considering the situation.
But I do see it as a warning for the would-be gurus and thought-leaders and audience-holders here.
When you're starting out, it's great to have mentors, living and dead. It's great to kneel at the feet of the masters and glean what you can from their hard won experiences.
But at some point, because our field has no true recognition body or organization, you have to break off and declare yourself separate. You have to decide when your apprenticeship is over. You have to decide when to make your mark.
What legacy do you want to leave? That you were so-and-so's student? When people look you up, is all you're leaving behind praise for the same wangs everyone already licked clean years or even decades before you wanted a taste?
Claim your name. Claim your results. Begin creating and teaching your new material. Offer opinions on legendary figures when asked. But don't participate in hagiography of anyone but yourself.
Hell, you can even disagree with and slag on the old masters when and wherever you authentically disagree with them – of course you need a valid reason and point to do so, but don't fear to knock a few heroes off their pedestal publicly when you have something to say.
And endeavor to create work that deserves to get accolades and notice and even glorification from people who now want to follow YOU instead of standing beside you following someone ELSE.
You don't want your primary claim to fame – now or later – to be your connection to some other luminary. You don't want to be seen as a second fiddle or also-ran.
You are the star. It's up to you to get your OWN planets and burn as brightly as you possibly can. Don't wait too long. Don't become a cultist under someone else's personality.
This Cult of Copy makes cult LEADERS. Not followers.
Now, do as I say. Amen. 😉