Steal Like An Artist

Steal Like an Artist. Austin Kleon

This was a bit of a surprise. It is considered a modern classic by arty farty types and I thought I would have a look. I was a bit disappointed when it arrived. It’s quite small, not very thick and there are a lot of drawings in it.

I was a bit stroppy because at first glance it looked like one of those Instagram things where people post squares stating the flaming obvious and then flog it as if it were their original contribution to the wisdom of the ages. Things like “Only YOU can be YOU. Be YOU.” or “CALM. You owe it to your heart.” The Internet has a lot to answer for.

However, not for the first time (or the last), I judged too soon. I have found this really valuable – to the point where I am making notes. The central idea is that there is nothing new under the sun – artistically. (Already pointed out in Ecclesiastes. It’s the Circle of Life)

Kleon argues we should all feel free to take ideas from other people who create – artists, writers, musicians, etc. He’s not talking about pinching other people’s work, he’s talking about letting other ideas inspire you and having them take you off on a tangent and stimulate creations of your own. He distinguishes between good theft and bad theft – one honours the original, one degrades it.

Also, he talks about having two work areas. One digital – laptop, phone etc and one analogue – post it notes, drawings, pen and paper planning as these stimulate different areas of his creativity. This is interesting for people like me who spend too much of their time on the laptop.

It’s a deceptively thoughtful book and it’s rare that I make notes from a non-fiction book. That probably says more about me than the quality of the books that I read. If you are looking for a stimulating and encouraging book with lots of practical ideas about how to be creative while being normal – having a job, a life and leaving the house, this is really helpful.


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