“I want to be an artist!” It’s a bold statement and this can mean that you want to sing/make music, write, act, pursue visual art, animate, dance, etc. You will get flack and compliments. You will be told that there are rules and people may ask “how dare you break the rules?!” Art can be a confusing world if you believe that you are limited, but Austin Kleon’s Steal Like An Artist says otherwise.
Austin Kleon is a writer and artist that lives in Austin, Texas and is the author of Newspaper Blackout, a redacted poetry collection. His work has been featured on NPR’s Morning Edition, The New York Times, and Wall Street Journal. Kleon says at the start that this advice is what he would have given his younger creative self. No matter what your age, experience is a good teacher, but it can be a hard one, so readers have a prime opportunity to learn before potentially getting burned and/or confused. Kleon lists his 10 pieces of creative advice on the back of the book, so you may believe this is the whole package. However, Kleon delves into each piece of advice with more subcategories of advice.
Steal Like An Artist is quite a forward title and it is the first piece of advice that Kleon gives. He points out the difference between appreciation and appropriation, or a means of transformation versus mere imitation. Kleon starts with these ideas because he wants people to remember that nothing is original. Every creative work is a variation or a shift. As soon as we realize that, it takes off the pressure of thinking that we have to make an idea out of thin air and it allows for the creative process to begin. Kleon emphasizes looking at masters of crafts and asking how could someone else have done it or what would this master do if he collaborated with this master? Kleon is telling readers that ideas do not just pop out of thin air. It is a hybrid of conversation, calculation, research, and then you may feel that you got hit with what appears to be “random inspiration.”
Kleon goes on to tell readers how to feed the creative beast and it seems that the overarching theme is balance. Know when to type on the computer and when to write in a journal. Know when to be at the easel and when to be at the tablet. Know when to stimulate yourself and when to have a lazy day. Know when to stay in the room and when to leave the room. EVEN, know when to stay in your town and when to leave your town! This is not Kleon’s advice verbatim, but the idea is to know which way to bend, so that you reach the sunshine and keep growing. The theme of balance has led me to see that this one of the best books I have read about being a creator. Kleon emphasizes that there is no magic spell to unlocking creativity, but proper balance and decision-making certainly brings you closer to unlocking creativity.
In essence, I would wholeheartedly recommend this book and I would recommend that you go to Austin Kleon’s website to look at his other works.