Steal Like an Artist: 10 Things Nobody Told You About Being Creative by Austin Kleon is a wonderful little book that is designed for anyone who is ever has had a desire to create something amazing, but doesn’t know where to start.
All of us, when we were first starting out with a new creative venture, have felt inadequate – like whatever we would create could never compare well to what masters of the art form have produced. But you don’t need to be a genius, you just need to be yourself. That’s the central message of Steal Like an Artist. Just start creating, taking inspiration from those who have gone before you – you’ll get better with practice.
In this excellent book, Kleon makes the distinction between “stealing” and plagiarism: Imitating the style and mindset of the artists that you admire is OK; copying their works is not. In diverse artistic endeavors like painting, photography, writing and music there are very few totally new to the world creations. We are all inspired by the work that others in our art or profession have done, and they have a strong influence over our early work until we get better and develop our own unique style. While this is not a new concept, Kleon does a great job of explaining it and adding his own interesting stories to the mix.
As I read Steal Like an Artist, I found myself comparing what has was describing to my own experience as an amateur photographer. Inspired by some of the amazing photographers on Google+, I have been stretching my photographic horizons during the last year in the areas of night and high dynamic range photography – for which I have great passion and enthusiasm. Their work has opened up new possibilities to me, which I’m having a wonderful time exploring – interpreting their techniques and thinking in the context of the images I’m shooting and processing.
Thanks to the web and social media, it is now easier than ever to find communities of interest around even obscure topics, where you can find novices and experts alike inspiring and pushing each other to do and share great creative work. It’s also a marvelous place to conduct research for your creative endeavors as well as to test, validate and improve your ideas. Ironically, these social channels have created their own new challenge for creative people – you need to force yourself to step away from them and spend time focused on creating great work!
Steal Like an Artist is full of practical tips that you can adopt. Its friendly, conversational tone is inspiring yet informative, and the book is punctuated with illustrations, quotes and even some of Kleon’s “newspaper cutout” poems. There’s even a section at the end of the book entitled “What Now?”, in which Kleon provides you a list of things you can do right now to prime your creative pump and get creating.
But don’t get the wrong idea: Steal Like an Artist isn’t just for artistic people. If you ever wanted to start something new, but didn’t feel confident enough to give it a go, then you must pick up this book, Steal Like an Artist is inspiring, informative and a great, quick read – I highly recommend it!