Monday, November 20, 2017

Steal Like An Artist - Austin Kleon

I love this book. Truly love this book.

It is Steal Like an Artist by Austin Kleon. It's an adorable format: 6-inch x 6-inch size with lots of doodles and drawings and tips. There are 10 chapters based on 10 tips to 'unlock your creativity'. My absolute favourite chapter is #4: Use Your Hands.

Kleon has two desks in his office. One is analog and one is digital. The analog desk is not allowed to have anything electronic on it. Instead, it is filled with markers, paper, newspaper, index cards. The digital desk has his electronics.

He says that "The computer brings out the uptight perfectionist in us -- we start editing ideas before we have them" and suggests that we create first, and then bring our pieces to the computer for editing and finishing.

This idea really resonates with me. Not to mention that once I get on the computer, I seem to get sucked into facebook and every thought of mine that needs to instantly be researched. Not terribly productive.

At the end of the book, he has a "What Now?" section where he suggests that you give a copy of his book away. I can't do it. This is the third time I've read it (it's a pretty quick read - 140 half pages, many of which are lists or drawings) and I get something out of it each time.

I recently listened to his TEDx Talk KC about this topic and gleaned a few more nuggets from that.

He believes that nothing is original. "Every new idea is just a remix or a mashup of 1 or 2 previous ideas." Takes the pressure off of having to come up with something nobody has done or seen before, doesn't it? He goes on to list some of the sources of ideas: friends, books, music, movies, cities you visit. On and on.


You cannot, however, rehash previous ideas without first paying attention to them and collecting them. Kleon suggests carrying around a notebook (digital or paper) to record everything that appeals to you: phrases, photos, lyrics, thoughts, conversations, doodles, whatever. Only by compiling a library of potential tidbits, can you bring those thoughts together in new ways and into new art.

"It comes down to trying to expose yourself to the best things that humans have done and then try to bring those things in to what you're doing." Steve Jobs

And finally, he suggests when stealing from other artists, "take something from them but bring it back to your desk, take it back to where you do your work, combine it with your own ideas and your thoughts, transfer and form it into something completely new and then put it out into the world, so we can steal from you."

As Kleon suggests on his webpage, this blurb is copied and pasted from his website:

Austin Kleon is the New York Times bestselling author of three illustrated books: Steal Like An ArtistNewspaper Blackout, and Show Your Work! His latest release is The Steal Like An Artist Journal: A Notebook For Creative Kleptomaniacs. His work has been translated into over twenty languages and featured on NPR’s Morning Edition, PBS Newshour, and in The New York Times and The Wall Street JournalNew York Magazine called his work “brilliant,” The Atlantic called him “positively one of the most interesting people on the Internet,” and The New Yorkersaid his poems “resurrect the newspaper when everybody else is declaring it dead.” He speaks about creativity in the digital age for organizations such as Pixar, Google, SXSW, TEDx, and The Economist. He grew up in the cornfields of Ohio, but now he lives in Austin, Texas, with his wife and sons. Visit him online at