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Steal Like an Artist

10 Things Nobody Told You About Being Creative

By Austin Kleon
12-minute read
Audio available
Steal Like an Artist: 10 Things Nobody Told You About Being Creative by Austin Kleon

Steal Like an Artist (2012) will help you unlock the secret to creating great art: theft. No artist creates their work in a vacuum: all art is influenced by the art that came before it. Steal Like an Artist teaches you how to “steal” from the work of your heroes, and use it to create something new and unique. It also provides important advice on using the internet to launch your career, so others can enjoy your creativity!

  • Artists or other creative types
  • Anyone struggling to find inspiration
  • Any artist who needs advice on launching their career

Austin Kleon is an artist, writer and poet. His work has been featured in the Wall Street Journal and Morning Edition, and he recently published a book of poetry entitled Newspaper Blackout.

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Steal Like an Artist

10 Things Nobody Told You About Being Creative

By Austin Kleon
  • Read in 12 minutes
  • Audio & text available
  • Contains 7 key ideas
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Steal Like an Artist: 10 Things Nobody Told You About Being Creative by Austin Kleon
Synopsis

Steal Like an Artist (2012) will help you unlock the secret to creating great art: theft. No artist creates their work in a vacuum: all art is influenced by the art that came before it. Steal Like an Artist teaches you how to “steal” from the work of your heroes, and use it to create something new and unique. It also provides important advice on using the internet to launch your career, so others can enjoy your creativity!

Key idea 1 of 7

There’s no such thing as completely original art.

What makes great art great? Many people assume that originality is what defines greatness: art can only be brilliant if it’s something nobody’s seen before.

This can push artists into a struggle to make completely original art. No matter how hard they try, however, they’ll always fail. No art or artist is completely original – not Picasso, Dali, or W. B. Yeats.

All art is a product of the artist’s influences. Artists aren’t original at all – they take (or steal!) what others have done, then take it another step.

The Beatles, for example, started as a cover band. They only started writing their own songs after they’d mastered the work of their heroes.

Artistic influences are sort of like genetics. Every child is a mix of their parents’ genes. A person’s DNA isn’t new or original, but the specific output of it is.

This means that artistic work begins when you find the right art to steal or build upon. So surround yourself with art that’s worth stealing!

A good way to do this is to create your own artistic family tree. First, find an artist or other creative person whose work you deeply admire. Then immerse yourself in their world: put their pictures on your wall, figure out what made them tick, and learn the strategies they used to create the work you love.

Next, you can learn about three people who influenced the person whose work you love, and repeat the process with them. You can keep going with this as far as you like. The more your tree branches out, the more ideas you’ll be able to incorporate into your own work.

Ultimately, you should view yourself as the latest branch on the tree. When you feel connected to the legacy of great artists, you’ll be even more inspired to go out and create!

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