Sunday, June 17, 2012

Steal Like an Artist

This week, I'm allowing Arthur Kleon, artist and writer, to hold court on my blog.

Austin Kleon is a writer, artist, speaker, and New York Times best-selling author. He’s written two books: Steal Like An Artist, an illustrated manifesto for creativity in the digital age, and Newspaper Blackout, a collection of poetry made by redacting newspaper articles with a permanent marker. 

I came across Austin just this week, after one of my subscribers commented that my current obsession, The Sunrise Project, reminded her of a photographer she knows who takes a photo of the sunrise for clients celebrating a special day. I began considering how artists share ideas.

Arthur's video sparked a lively discussion in my Drawing I class at Florida State College. My students were excited to be given permission to reach for the things that they're passionate about and link them to the work of other artists in a way that honors both the passion and the artist.

The students brainstormed the things that they love - music and dance -  beginning to see how they could incorporate those passions into their artwork. For artists just starting out, this is heady stuff!

"Bad artists copy. Good artists steal"

Stealing ideas from one other is a great way to
learn and grow. We are inspired and allow that spark of inspiration to ignite a new way of thinking and creating our own work.

We transform what we appropriated with our personality and point of view and we are transformed in the process.

 Perhaps our work will then inspire someone to steal from us.

This is why I take students to visit museums and galleries to study the art and artists that came before us. We don't learn in a vacuum, people. (Oops, that was my art teacher voice coming out.)

How amazing is this? 
We have the opportunity to pick only the best from all the things offered to us in this magnificent life. We are free to select the world's greatest artists, writers, musicians and thinkers as our teachers.

Who have you stolen from lately? How have you transformed what you took? How has it transformed you?


  1. very good points! I had a teacher that pushed us to find our "ancestors in art". I have never forgotten that, as I feel it is important to be aware of where you are getting ideas from. I experiment with alot of things, lately fire and gunpowder. I went to an opening this weekend and the work was done on metal, beautiful landscapes with the reflections in the water that made the work almost abstract. What was interesting is the way the rust became part of the image, and I had a long talk with the artist about that, so I'm stealing something, but not the images. Steal, but make it your own!

  2. Isn't it great to see what others are doing? Talking to the artist is always even more enlightening.

    It creates momentum and synergy for both artists.

    Thanks for chiming in, Vickie!

  3. Great post Jaime.

    Thanks for sharing that video. It really resonates with what's going on with me now. For about 4 years I've been working on some oil and wax abstracts but I could not finish them. Earlier this year I came across an artist name Brian Rutenberg.. He has a studio visit series on You Tube....He is AWESOME. He has achieved what I have been trying for all I have been listening to him and studying his work almost everyday. Actually yesterday, something clicked and while in the studio I was really able to start make it happen on the canvases....

    Funny in his video series, Rutenberg talks a lot about the artists that have influenced him. Those he has "stolen" from to realize his art.

    I like what the speaker said about a "genealogy of ideas"...

    We are building this world on the shoulders of others and the least we can do is to try and push it FORWARD.

  4. Hi Princess,
    This is great that this resonates with you and what you're trying to achieve. I want to see Rutenberg's work now to see what inspired you and I want to see some images of your work, inspired by him.
    Are you going to post them on your blog?
    Yes, I agree, let's push Forward!
    Best, Jaime

  5. Jaime ... I have just discovered your blog via Alyson Stanfield's ... and will work my way through to the beginning. Both this entry and the perfectionist entry have hit me over the head with weighty bricks ... I am at a total artists block (perfectionism) and your ideas and examples have shaken something loose for me. Thank you! I also really like the premise of your blog ... or at least what I've read so far ... reflection of the artist mind and some introductions to artists I would never dig up on my own.

    1. Hi Colleen,
      Thanks for contacting me. I really appreciate knowing that my thoughts about perfectionism shook something loose for you.

      I write about the challenges I run into as I do my own work, hoping to start a discussion with other artists who might be having the same kinds of challenges.

      What kind of steps will you take or have you taken to get out of that difficult place?

      Thanks for sharing. I hope to hear from you again.


  6. Thank you Jaime! I was actually looking at this book a few days ago.It's so true, at least for me, that I study art for what I can use of it in my own work.

  7. Hi Theresa,

    I don't like the idea of "stealing," so
    we're not stealing, just borrowing from other artists who've gone before us. Or as you put it, just "using" the ideas.

    Whose art has resonated with you and what did you borrow from it? What ideas have you been able to use in your work?

    Best, Jaime