Notes and Notices

On art, architecture and design

11/07/2012

Read: Steal Like An Artist

Posted by Carren Jao Pineda |

We've been raised to think that "stealing" isn't right--and in most cases, that's accurate. But artist-writer Austin Kleon makes a case for "stealing"ideas--that is, paying attention to what's great in the world and incorporating it in your work.


I had heard of the book for a while now. It had made its way around the blogosphere and of course I was intrigued. Like many good things, the knowledge that a book like this was floating around was tucked in the back of my mind, filed for future reference as it were.

Thanks to my newfound Kindle-amazingness, I got a chance to crack open Kleon's wonderful read. The book is a quick overview of what it takes to live a creative life, the way he's done it over the years. He says he wrote it for the 19-year-old him.

He condenses the book into this quick bullet-pointy poster, but the read is so much richer.

Advice such as "Don’t worry about unity—what unifies your work is the fact that you made it. One day, you’ll look back and it will all make sense," particularly rings true because I constantly worry about making all of my work add to some grand scheme.

He makes a compelling argument for me to get up from my desk, "The computer brings out the uptight perfectionist in us—we start editing ideas before we have them."

He even reminds me that boring is a-okay. "I'm a boring guy with a nine-to-five job who lives in a quiet neighborhood with his wife and his dog," he writes. "The whole romantic image of the creative genius doing drugs, running around and sleeping with everyone is played out...The thing is: it takes a lot of energy to be creative. You don't have that energy if you waste it on other stuff." Score one for routine.

Every chapter is filled with Kleon's casually disarming voice, plus lots of back-up from creatives such as Salvador Dali to Jay-Z to his own mom.


Kleon also uses his artistic skills by giving words new life by actually drawing them. I had forgotten the charming, warmth of handdrawn (albeit digitally rendered) letters. His figures combined with words of creative wisdom bring home the message that either cannot do adequately by itself.

Definitely feel this way sometimes. :)
While reading "Steal Like An Artist," I had the urge to take out some pencils and find some small index cards, just for me to actually "play" with ideas floating, immaterially in head for a while. I also had to fight the urge to raid the nearest bookstore for a nice blank page sketchpad. (Side note: where would one find a bookstore nowadays?)

I exhausted my Kindle's highlight function. Now, I'm kind of itching for a print version. Uh oh.

If you need a little inspiration or some direction, this is a great place to start. Get it here. Outtakes from the book seen here.




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