Steal Like an Artist is both a theoretical book on artistic production and a practical one. Specifically, Austin Kleon explains how to become an artist by borrowing -or stealing, in the author’s words- from other artists.
- There is no such thing as original art: everyone builds upon others
- Immerse yourself (/steal) from your favorite artists: imitate and then emulate
- When you realize you’re not quite like them, you’ve found your own voice
Give Up Originality
There is no such thing as a completely original form of art. No person lives in a vacuum and no art is created in a vacuum.
Everyone is influenced by the world and the artists that live around you and came before you.
Some artist can be pushed against the wall by the erroneous concept of “originality”. Don’t let that happen to you.
Austin Cleon says that art creation is a bit like making children. Same as the DNA of two people combine to give new life, new art new art is the mixture of different influences to create something new.
That means that the artistic process start when you find the right art to build upon -or to steal from-.
Start Imitating Your Heroes
Sure you can’t plagiarize, but you can imitate them.
Steal Like an Artist recommends you live and breath the artists you like. Learn what makes them tick, reproduce their own art for your own consumption. Then branch out to the three people that your favorite artists most learned from.
Eventually, you will realize that you are not quite the same as any of your artist -the author calls them “weaknesses” that you can’t quite replicate the same way-. You have your own style and you can make your own contribution .
You’re another branch in the tree.
Keep Hobbies and Leisure
The author recommends that as much as you love your art, you shouldn’t drop other hobbies and passions of yours.
They make you a more rounded individual and they are creative sources that will inspire you in your art.
Similarly, don’t hole in at your workplace or home studio. But go out, or even change city and live in some other country.
The author says there are benefits in being unknown and obscure, such as the total freedom of failing and experimenting.
Eventually you want to reach a certain level of fame though. The best way to do that is to share everything you do.
When you share you will receive some harsh criticism. The author says it’s important you don’t allow the negativity to drag you down or sidetrack you through anger.
And if you can’t stop anger from getting to you, then you can use that anger for a source of creativity. Also read:
Austin Kleon recommends not only that you use anger as fuel, but also that you save all the praises you get.
You can then read through all the praises you got when you need an uplift.
My Note: I personally am strongly against idea as it trains your ego to depend on other people’s praises. Praise should only be used as a feedback tool, but not to derive ego satisfaction. Sophia Amoruso I recently read also is of the same opinion.
Read more here:
Real Life Applications
Stop Stressing About “Copying”
I write a lot of reviews here so I end up speaking with authors. And quite a few of them hold many grudges against anyone who “copied” their work.
Yet I rarely think their work has been copied. It had quite a different flair in my opinion. Don’t stress about copycapts too much. As Prada CEO said:
We’re not interested in creating products that nobody wants to copy
Just make sure, of course, that they’re not copy-pasting your work and that you find your own voice even when you re-interpret old concepts.
Albeit I like the idea, Steal Like an Artist rotates around one single idea basically. I felt the same for The 5 Second Rule, for example.
But that might be a bit unfair to say as some of the other tips can also add quite a bit of value.
Brief and Easy
I might even been even shorter -but I often think that-, but it’s certainly not long and drawn out. And it’s very easy and pleasant to read.
I loved the idea. There’s no such thing as new and 100% original. So don’t stress about it, consume all media and feel free to say what’s already been said… But with your own unique
I absolutely loved the idea and concept behind Steal Like an Artist. I often thought the same -albeit not nearly as eloquently put- and I couldn’t agree more with the author.