Authored by a bestselling “writer who draws,” Austin Kleon is the creator of ‘Steal like an Artist, amongst other novels. Born in Ohio, Kleon acquired a Bachelor of Philosophy in interdisciplinary studies from Miami University. Residing in Austin, Texas, along with his family, Kleon delivers verbal engagements at various companies, including but not limited to Google, Pixar, TEDx, and The Economist. Additionally, his previous professional experiences include web design, copywriting advertisements, and being a librarian. Described as “one of the most interesting individuals on the internet,” Kleon has appeared on National Public Radio (NPR), PBS News, The New York Times, and The Wall Street Journal. His bestselling trifecta consists of Steal Like an Artist, Show your work!, and Keep Going – novels about creativity in today’s modern, digital era – with over a million prints sold globally. And this article will review one of them.
Steal like an Artist: 10 things nobody told you about being creative is a succinct, self-help guide for anyone belonging to the artistic industry. The novel’s concept was born in 2011 when Kleon was invited to address a community college. For this speech, he concocted a ten-item checklist of things he wished he was aware of when his artistic path initiated. The content of Kleon’s presentation circulated quickly and widely, and a year later, Kleon released it to readers as a bestselling novel. The book suggests various concepts to unlock one’s creativity. Some of these can be inferred as the following: steal creatively, use analogue and monotonous methods, create work that indulges you, maintain hobbies and side projects, do not procrastinate until you discover yourself, disregard geography, be polite and share your work with others.
The book can be skimmed through or thoroughly read in just a few hours, even at a leisurely pace. While the content of the book is nothing outwardly, it reiterates and emphasizes concepts that are universally known yet forgotten by individuals. The book reads like a social media feed, and the format includes images of newspaper clippings with words blackened out, quotations, anecdotes, and short, easy-to-absorb paragraphs. Steal like an Artist is an easy segue for individuals looking to explore the self-help genre. It is an appealing read for those who enjoy ‘comic-quote-art’ and face time constraints. However, the book might prove dull and redundant to someone who is an avid reader of guidance books and prefers in-depth, challenging, and long readings.
A manifesto for all creatives in the digital age, Steal Like an Artist urges its readers to imitate their influences. “Your job is to collect good ideas. The more good ideas you collect, the more you can choose from to be influenced by.” Creators are aware that no work of art is unique in its entirety. It is not just an observation but rather a fact that all artwork is a reiteration of previous forms and all supposedly new ideas are a synthesis of existing notions. Kleon urges us to accept this notion and rid ourselves of the belief that all concepts must be original. He suggests that individuals stop fearing inspiration and start allowing themselves to be impacted by other creatives. As an artist, our prime responsibility is to filter the concepts we wish to be influenced over. While an artist is a collector, not all recommendations deserve recognition.
Kleon also explores the concept of maintaining multiple passion projects, nurturing them, and allowing them to harmonize with and enhance each other. One must not be too focused on rationalizing every aspect of life. Additionally, one must also accept the stimulating nature of seclusion, or as Austin Kleon refers to it, “temporary imprisonment.” While the first phase of any task is comparatively difficult to begin, Kleon suggests that individuals should start immediately. The takeaway for readers is to initiate work right away and keep the fine-tuning for later; while practice may make perfect, practice makes professionals too.
A motivational speaker named Jim Rohn claimed that “you are the average of the five people you spend the most time with.” This brings me to another subject explored in Steal Like an Artist, namely – the diversity of social circles. Diversity allows individuals to evolve and be exposed to various customs, cultures, connotations, and concepts. Kleon suggests associating with a diverse group of people, not necessarily belong to the same professional field. This proves beneficial in generating fresh influences and perspectives.
These were just brief overviews of Kleon’s novel, and for extended analogies, I recommend you try the book. In my opinion, Steal like an Artist confirms and reinforces the creative process that we already suppose. The best method to discover your path is to welcome influence and educate oneself through the original and iterations of others’ works. If you are inclined to indulge in some light reading of this illustrated articulation and further your workflow, grab a copy!
- Austin Kleon. (n.d.). About Austin Kleon. [online] Available at: https://austinkleon.com/about/.
- Chung, K. (2015). Steal Like an Artist by Austin Kleon Book Review & Highlights. [online] Marketing Your Art the Right Way. Available at: http://marketingtrw.com/blog/steal-like-artist-austin-kleon-book-review-highlights/.
- Kleon, A. (2012). Steal like an artist : 10 things nobody told you about being creative. New York: Workman Publishing Company.
- Makhlouf, H. (2021). How ‘Steal Like an Artist’ Changed My Perspective on Creativity. [online] Medium. Available at: https://baos.pub/how-steal-like-an-artist-changed-my-perspective-on-creativity-cbce2c3354a6.
- Udavant, S. (2022). An Honest Review Of A Book That Reads Like A Social Media Feed: Steal Like An Artist By Austin…. [online] Fanfare. Available at: https://medium.com/fan-fare/an-honest-review-of-a-book-that-reads-like-a-social-media-feed-steal-like-an-artist-by-austin-ff62f57a77be.