Steal Like an Artist by Austin Kleon [Book Summary]

Who do you consider as the biggest thief of all time? Perhaps John Dillinger? Or The Great Train Robbers? What if it was really Picasso or Dali? 

Behind every great work of art is a different great work of art. Creative work does not occur in total isolation; it is the outcome of the diligence of generations and generations of artists. Any artist that is competent would mine this artistic legacy as much as he could: briefly, he wouldn’t be scared to steal someone else’s concept.

In this book, you’ll find out how you can be inspired by your artistic heroes, and how you can succeed as a creative in the present world.

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Chapter 1 – There’s nothing as fully original art.

What defines great art great? A lot of people believe that originality is what defines greatness: art can just be brilliant if it’s something none has ever witnessed before.

This can drive artists into hardship to create fully original art. Regardless of how hard they attempt, however, they’ll usually fail. No art or artist is fully original – not Picasso, Dali, nor W. B. Yeats.

Every art is an outcome of the artist’s influences. Artists aren’t original whatsoever – they take (or steal!) what other people have done and then take it another dimension.

For instance, the Beatles began as a cover band. They just began to make their own songs after they’d learned the work of their heroes.

Artistic influences are kind of similar to genetics. Every child is a combination of their parents’ genes. Someone’s DNA isn’t new or original, but the specific output of it is.

This entails that artistic work starts when you discover the appropriate art to steal or develop on. Therefore, surround yourself with art that’s worth stealing!

A good method to do this is to make your own artistic family tree. Firstly, look for the artist or another creative person whose work you extremely respect.  Afterward, bury yourself in their world: hang their imagines on your wall, find out what made them tick, and learn the methods they utilized to make the work you admire.

After, you can now learn about three people who influenced the person whose work you admire and repeat the process with them. You can continue with this process as far as you want. The more your tree branches out, the more concepts you’ll be able to integrate into your own work.

Eventually, you should see yourself as the newest branch on the tree. When you feel linked to the legacy of great artists, you’ll be more inspired to go into the world and make!

Chapter 2 – Begin by copying your heroes, and end by emulating them.

Actually original art doesn’t exist. However, that definitely doesn’t entail that you can only copy another person’s work, does it?

Truly, it kind of does! You definitely can’t copy another person’s work by making it your own; however, copying someone is different – and a great means to begin.

You most likely won’t know the precise thing you want to make when you first begin. At this stage, copying your heroes is really useful.

Therefore, look for that person whose work you admire, and endeavor to be like them. This doesn’t only entail copying their art. Copy everything about them: learn about their way of life and what inspired them to work.

A lot of musicians, like Nick Cave, started by copying their idols.

As you continue imitating your idols, you progressively understand that you’re pretty different from them. In some aspects, you won’t be able to do precisely what they did.

When you discover these weaker aspects, you’ll have discovered your niche – your own method of making art. These “weaknesses” are what you need to be exploiting. This is known as emulation.

The comedian Conan O’Brien, and talk show host began his career in that manner. At first, he wished to be like David Letterman; however, he couldn’t quite imitate him well. His differences allowed him to stand out, and he tuned out fairly different from his idol.

David Letterman initially wished to be like Johnny Carson, who, in turn, wished to be like Jack Benny! Each of these men began by copying their predecessors then discovered the weakness that made them stand out and hinged their careers on those differences. The aspects where they failed to imitate their heroes eventually defined their careers and making their work what it was.

Chapter 3 – Don’t leave your interests and other projects when you refocus your life on art.

When you begin on your journey as an artist, you may be tempted to leave your interests and side projects so you can completely engage yourself in your work.

This may look like a good thing; however, restricting yourself in this manner can truly obstruct your efficiency and happiness.

There are quite a few causes for this. Firstly, your interests and other projects offer you with an opening when creative blocks hit.

If you focus only on one project, what will happen when you hit a block? You’ll most likely only attempt to make a way through it. Your labors will probably be futile, and you’ll become frustrated with yourself. Also, your work will suffer as well.

Creativity and inspiration usually emanate when you allow your mind to wander. Therefore, it’s a good thing to have a few back-up projects that can divert you from your major one – they can make the required mental space for innovation.

Side projects don’t need to be creative in nature. If you dedicate time to housework or only ley yourself to procrastinate from time to time, you’ll feel the same effect.

Keeping your interests is also significant because if you leave them, you’ll most likely feel empty. How can you be really creative if you aren’t let to take a break and enjoy yourself at times? Regardless of how devoted you are to your central project, you’ll usually have some kind of emptiness in your life if you refuse your leisure activities.

The author found this when he quit playing guitar to focus on art. Also, he felt empty, until he basically began letting himself to go back to the guitar for fun. He felt happier and more skilled, and his artwork got better as well.

Chapter 4 – Share your work with other people to become famous; however, enjoy the advantages of obscurity first.

Do you desire to be popular? A lot of us definitely do. Some artists intend to discover fame immediately–however, don’t go down this path. Seeking to become popular eventually is great; however, when you first begin, obscurity can really assist your career.

Obscurity offers you the opportunity to be creative and make errors. When people know who you are, every part of your work will be examined. You’ll be under a lot more pressure to make “great” art. Also, It’ll be difficult to try things out since people will have expectations of you. If you attempt something new and it doesn’t go well, they’ll complain.

You don’t experience these issues when you’re obscure. When no one knows you, you have the liberty to do anything (and make as many errors) as you wish.

Although, you do wish to get known eventually. Therefore, what’s the best approach to do that?

It’s really quite simple: you have to share your work with others. And all thanks to the internet, it’ has never been easier to do this.

You can decide to share anything with people, provided it shows your passion. You can share your last pieces of work, works in progress, drawings, research or clues on your strategy. All that important is that your observers get a clue of what makes you tick.

When you invite people to share your passion and phenomenon, they’ll feel more close to you. They’ll also probably come back for more.

Therefore, make a blog or website, or share your work on some other online platform. It’s an important aspect of your journey as an artist.

Chapter 5 – Make an inspiring workspace for yourself; however, remember to get out sometimes as well! 

During the eighteenth century, when people desired to be inspired by great art, they had to travel to the Mediterranean to view the great Renaissance statues and frescoes. Presently, you only need to switch your computer or phone.

This signifies that artists can see and make work from the ease of their own homes. If you wish to make the most of your creativity, you have to wisely design your home surrounding.

Naturally, you need to surround yourself with the things that inspire you, such as the work of your best artists. But, this isn’t all.

Also, you have to ensure that your workspace provides for every part of your creativity.

A lot of artists surround themselves with computers or other devices. They make all their work electronically, on programs such as Illustrator or Photoshop.

Although, the computer isn’t usually the best device for creating an idea. Make use of your hands as well. Creativity usually derives from making models, sketching or basically writing in notebooks.

The author makes his book, Newspaper Blackout, by printing his text, then cutting it up and moving the pieces of paper all around. This offered him more liberty to try out things, and it was more effective than putting things on a computer screen.

Therefore, separate your office into segments. Make a space for your digital tools and space where you can work using your bare hands.

Also, remember that artists can work from home; however, it’s good to get out at least once in a while. Don’t become really contented – you’ll become bored, and your work will suffer.

Relocating to a different city or country can be rather inspiring, and provide you new views. The author is from Texas; however, he has lived in England and Italy. Staying om abroad transformed his life and his career.

Chapter 6 – Value the praise you get and don’t allow the criticism to weigh you down.

The internet is a great device for making your creative juices flowing; however, it also has its disadvantages. If you put your work online, you’ll need to face a lot of vitriol and criticism from those who don’t like you or your art. 

When you are harassed or criticized, don’t allow it to weigh you down and definitely don’t stop producing. Disregard the negativity, or turn your anger inward and allow it to inspire you.

Engaging with your critics a lot can become a big waste of time. If you use your time responding to mean-spirited emails, you won’t get time to make and improve your work.

If you can’t help becoming annoyed, then at least look for a productive way to use your anger. Anger can really be something good if you can make it become a source of creativity.

Kleon, for example, at times reads his hate mail in the morning, because it provides him the drive to stand up and get to work. 

The internet has a lot of negative and hateful idiots; however, it will also give you a lot of praise. Concentrate on that praise, and remember to continue praising others too. Praising other people can be another great method to make meaningful work.

For instance, you can write on your blog a post praising your best author, or post a work inspired by your hero. The more praise you give to others, the more you’ll get back.

In order to take advantage of the praise you get, make a praise file. Keep the most positive emails, tweets, and comments you receive. Whenever you’re feeling unhappy, take out your praise file and tell yourself that people appreciate the work you’re doing – it’ll provide you a nice boost.

Steal Like an Artist: 10 Things Nobody Told You About Being Creative by Austin Kleon Book Review

No art is completely original –every artist steals. Therefore, steal effectively by learning about your role models, imitating them and making a positive workspace for yourself. Keep your hobbies and drive yourself out of your comfort zone, then promote yourself online as soon as you’ve finished relishing the advantages of obscurity. Eventually, you’ll make use of your influences to make work that’s new – and will inspire others as well.

Don’t get obsessed with your work.

Don’t give your entire time to your art –permit yourself to take breaks, have fun and concentrate on other things as well. Don’t remain locked up in your studio as well–drive yourself to relocate to a new city or country, and explore. Keeping an ideal distance from your art will actually make it better, and you’ll feel much happier and more satisfied.

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