Tuesday, July 1, 2014

Book Club - "Steal Like an Artist" by Austin Kleon

Steal Like an Artist by Austin Kleon. was the book for this month’s book club with Deb Prewitt of Blue Twig Studio.  The book is quick to read, full of humor, and advice on being an artist.  Austin Kleon wrote and illustrated the book as advice he would give to his younger self. 
Steal Like an Artist by Austin Kleon
Back of book  listing chapter headings
He starts out stating that nothing is original – "There is nothing new under the sun.”  Ecclesiastes 1:9 - that an honest artist “steals” his ideas - that we learn by copying. Copying isn't plagiarism, it's about reverse engineering to see how it works. 

       Salvador Dali said, "Those who do not want to imitate anything, produce nothing." 
       Wilson Mizner said "If you copy from one person, it's plagiarism, but if you copy from many,
           it's research". 
       Gary Panter said, "If you have one person you're influenced by, everyone will say you're the 
          next whoever. But if you rip off a hundred people, everyone will say you're so original." 
       Pablo Picasso said, “Art is theft.”

Another thing I do that Kleon suggests is always carry paper to jot down thoughts, observations, doodles, conversations, etc. He says to keep a “swipe” file (digital or analog) of stuff you’ve swiped from others – notes, pictures, sayings  – anything for inspiration. 

       Mark Twain says, “It is better to take what does not belong to you than to let it lie around      

Kleon also says don’t just steal style, steal the thinking behind the style. Don’t look like you’re hero, see like your hero. Study, transform and remix. Make art that you want to see. Write stories that you want to read. Write not what you know, but what you like! Add something to the world that only you can add.

       German writer Goethe said,  “We are shaped and fashioned by what we love.”

I love his advice to practice productive procrastination! Work on several projects at one time – when stuck on one, move to another – eventually you’ll figure out the first one and be able to finish it. I do enjoy working on more than one project at a time for just that reason. 

The secret is to share with people.  Wonder about something and then invite others to wonder with you.  The more open you are, the closer people feel to you.  Be curious, kind, have stamina, and a willingness to look stupid. And finally, instead of wasting anger complaining or lashing out, channel it into creativity.

Show Your Work by Austin Kleon
The last thing that really struck me was Kleon’s statement that creativity is subtraction. Choose what to leave out, so can concentrate on what’s really important. He gave an example about Dr. Seuss, who wrote The Cat in the Hat with 236 different words. When his editor bet him that he couldn't write a book with only 50 different words, Dr. Seuss won with Green Eggs and Ham.  It’s often what the artist chooses to leave out that makes the art interesting. Creativity isn’t just the things we choose to put in, it’s the things we choose to leave out. 

This is a good book to read more than once for the advice and suggestions! Makes me want to read Austin Kleon's latest book, Show Your Work: 10 Ways to Share Your Creativity and Get Discovered. 

Have fun.

Next month's book is "The War of Art" by Steven Pressfield. 


  1. I haven't yet read the other book, but I'm sure it is fabulous too.

    1. I have the book on hold at the library. I'll let you know what I think once I read it.