Steal like an Artist

Steal like an Artist

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I thought it only fitting that my first official blog post on my site should be to share the work of a writer who’s work helped inspire me to actually build ( or I should say finish) my site. I came across Austin Kleon’s book, Steal Like an Artist the old fashion way, by accident while browsing in the book store. I was searching for a book on the topic of confidence. You see I have been making art for as long as I can remember, but I feel like I fell into this rut about 3 or 4 years ago where I could not come up with good project ideas, kind of a photographer’s version of writers block. I kept coming up with these ideas that seemed amazing in the moment, but I would quickly start second guessing them or finding fault with what I came up with, sometimes even before I could write the idea down. I felt like I couldn’t come up and anything that was truly original which made all my ideas terrible. As a result, I produced very little art I was actually proud of in the last few years, hence the trip to the bookstore.

Searching through the shelves I came across this small, square book entitled Steal Like an Artist. After thumbing through it I realized this was just the book I needed, I purchased it and read the entire thing that night. Austin Kleon’s book explains why it is ok to steal as an artist. He writes about how all artists steal, we see something, whether that be another artist’s work or anything, and we use that to inspire us to create something new out of it. Artists have been doing that for years. There are no truly new original ideas, everyone’s work always builds off that of other people’s. Vik Muniz is an amazing photographer who has recreated famous photographs from Life magazine by drawing them in different mediums, such as chocolate sauce, and then takes photos of them.

When I read that it made perfect sense to me. As a teacher I have been taught to steal since I was back in school. If you see a good idea, take it. If you see a lesson you like, steal it, If you see a seating chart that works well, copy it. I have been stealing my entire teaching career, in fact I doubt I have had a completely original idea since I have been an educator. It is never simply stealing, as a teacher you are always taking what you see and changing it, adapting it to fit the needs of your students. That is when I realized that is what I need to do as an art. It is okay to take what I see others doing, to change it, to adapt it to fit my needs, and to create something new out of it. After reading that book I felt I could finally start creating again.

Kleon goes on to give many tips on how to find your creativity. He talks about everything from making sure you step away from your computer and actually work with your hands every once in a while, to being nice to others, and even the importance of being boring. This book is a fantastic read for anyone who does anything they consider creative, and yes my teacher friends I do consider teaching creative.  Do yourself a favor and head over to Austin Kleon’s website and check his stuff out. Besides his book mentioned here is writes what he calls newspaper blackouts, a very cool form of poetry, worth checking out.

You can see Austin Kleon’s work and read all about him at his website www.austinkleon.com