Monday, May 21, 2012

steal like an artist?....

so how does that work?

I first saw this poster and idea here ...

which lead me to the book  (and the flickr site where indeed I was allowed to steal that thar image ^^^)

'Steal like an artist' is a best selling book by Austin Kleon.... and aside from the strategically provocative title and implication, the book appears to contain snappy platitudes regarding creativity (and noice grafix) -  Kleon seems to be serving up a well known dish - (which perhaps unsurprisingly has little to do with 'stealing'.... but I'll get back to that in a minute...)

first - a confession - I don't have and haven't read the book - I've just glimpsed some excerpts so I may have everything totally wrong

In some of the book's earlier pages Kleon writes:

Every artist gets asked the question -
'where do you get your ideas?'
The honest artist answers - 
'I steal them'

I don't know about you, but my first response was - 'WTF?.... speak for yourself Austin baby! - I don't steal nothing!!

that's because the 'S' word really gets up my arty nose.

When you 'steal' something  there's an implication that something is taken away from its lawful owner... burglary, car theft, plagiarism, copyright infringement are all examples of stealing..... but Kleon is not really talking about 'stealing' ... its more like 'be inspired' ..... but 'take inspiration like an artist' doesn't sound anywhere near as sexy 'steal' eh?

(ps I note in Kleon's bio that he's an ex-advertising copywriter..... hmmmmmmm.... yep 'steal like an artist' sounds like something an adman would pen!)

I think all artists (visual artists, writers, musicians....) take inspiration from everything, everywhere, all the time. They... WE...  take it all in,  mix it up, digest, add seasoning, continue to refine  - adding and subtracting... until the moment that we have something fresh, and all our own. I'm NOT a fan of post modernism that huffs and puffs that there's nothing new under the sun..... For me - every day is new and fresh... every minute is a moment that has never existed before and will not come again. But a moment is not isolated - it does not emerge from nothingness... instead it exists as part of a continuum..... and creativity is just the same. No, I'm not a world-weary, post-mod gal... and I don't think that real artists 'steal' (that's an activity for charlatans and con-artists) - rather they 'take inspiration'......

what do you think? has anyone read the book?

(anyone stolen it? no... don't tell me!)

*ps - the 'S' word aside - I really like some of the other points - especially #8 - Be Nice  (the world is a small town) .......
I dare you to try stealing something in a small town - oh boy - not nice!



  1. Great blog Ronnie. I love it. Its so truthful. If we think for one minute that our ideas are unique then we're fooling ourselves. We always take inspiration from all that is around us, and as you say, fine tune it to make it unique. What DOES make it unique however, is our own energetic imprint that we stamp onto each and every art work that can make it so incredibly different to the viewer. I think i might keep an eye out for the book. ps I love number 9, being boring can also make for a very gentle, harmonious and nurturing environment which make the work so much better ♥

  2. Maybe it should be retitled "Share like an artist". That's what we really do, isn't it?

  3. I guess if you take someone else's concept, and rework it, then that might be called stealing. But isn't much of our inspiration derived from viewing all the images out there? It's a confusing issue alright.

  4. any creative act borrows (i like that word better-remember kleon was in advertising) from's what drives the "new". someone in the old testament said there's nothing new under the sun. when something new happens it's built on lots of old news. (i think)

  5. Worth musing on Ronnie...

    Inspiration I think comes from all over but taking time to find one's own voice and reflect a vision of one's own making, with all its nuances and character, brings something authentic and means one does not need to rob from the hard work of another and simply create product!

    ...others unfortunately copy and appropriate over and over and over, never honouring their influences or the things that have shaped them. That diminishes... setting up unpleasant scenarios... the thief surely fails to engage with the richness of the journey and has a shallow product to show for it... even if some are fooled.

    Then there are traditions all around the world... I'm thinking Icon Painting and Embroidery traditions etc... where people share the common visual language and methods.

    Yet even when one considers say Indigenous art in this country ... there are painters who work from traditional
    or more contemporary material but do it in a way that is replicating what is known and has cultural value and can be sold and so on. Then there are the artists who emerge onto a world stage and who's unique seeing means they become household names virtually.
    And then there is the tourist trade in other countries producing copies of aboriginal work to makes some bucks.

    Its a broad spectrum as I see it... and worth fully considering that various aspects of this spectrum.

  6. stunningly put sophie - thanks for sharing


thanks for all your lovely comments - your words are greatly appreciated xx