Tuesday, February 3, 2015

Steal Like an Artist

Saturday was the first day in a long time where I took a procrastination day. Every day has it's moments, but a whole, delicious morning of relaxation was an incredible treat.

Austin Kleon's Steal Like An Artist made it even more incredible.

The Book 
Steal Like An Artist gives ten suggestions to unlock the joy of the artistic process. Full of common sense and optimism, I resonated with all of them:

1. Steal Like An Artist.
2. Don't Wait Until You Know Who You Are to Get Started.
3. Write the Book You Want to Read.
4. Use Your Hands.
5. Side Projects and Hobbies Are Important.
6. The Secret: Do Good Work and Share It With People.
7. Geography is No Longer Our Master.
8. Be Nice. (The World is a Small Town.)
9. Be Boring. (It's the Only Way to Get Work Done.)
10. Creativity is Subtraction.

This book isn't just for writers, either. It's for an artist of any sort. My guess is that if you're reading this blog you're either a writer or a reader of some kind. But if your personal art form is painting or quilting or macrame or pottery, then Steal Like An Artist is for you, too.

It's for anyone who likes to make art--with their pen, with their hands, with their head. Anyone who has imagination. Anyone who wants to know how an artist thinks.

Best thing about it? I was expecting a fairly short book that would take me a few days to get through--but Kleon's little volume is a 6x6 square of inspirational paragraphs and Sharpie illustrations. You can read it all in a morning.

What kind of book is better than that?

My Thoughts 
When I picked up Steal Like An Artist, I was in an artistic murk of anonymity, enjoying my art itself, but detesting a lot of the side demands that art creates. I emerged with faith revitalized (or at least, faith in Austin's book, which is a step in the right direction.) I just laid on the couch and ate up all the inspiration in its pages, and laughed, and read bits to my mom, and finished it in an excited glow of inspiration and creativity. It was a breath of fresh air.

Before we go further, I know some of you are probably scratching your heads over the 'steal' idea. While it may not be the most biblical term, the idea behind it is sound: Kleon explains the principle that there is nothing new under the sun, and in everything we create, we are using a conglomeration of ideas and plot devices that we have enjoyed in other author's works. It's true. Look at your Pinterest boards: they're full of quotes from movies and books and pictures of actors and actresses. You're taking plots and character personalities you've loved as a child and creating something out of them.

Stealing Like An Artist could be termed as "standing on the shoulders of those who have gone before". It's ok not to be original. It's ok to borrow ideas from other people. Just so long as you put your own stamp on it to avoid plagiarism and give credit where credit is due.

Steal Like An Artist explains productive procrastination, a good balance between digital art and hands-on creation, and how to find yourself in your art. There is so much to love about this book. It's funny. It's simple. It's reassuring. Kleon encourages a creative life: to take up some messy hobby not because it's going to make you money and make you famous, but simply to refresh and revitalize your own brain. And I think that fits with the life of a Christian rejoicing in being like our Creator-Father.

Kleon's book is not Christian, per say. You'll find a couple of slang terms I don't like. There were a couple of ideological points where I disagreed with him, just because he's not encouraging writers to produce their art for the glory of God and a higher purpose. But on the whole I was tracking with him spot-on, and this is a book well worth reading if you're a creative artist.

I enjoyed it. And I have it on my list to read again.

What art are you making today? I want to hear about it!



  1. It sounds like a really good book! I just added it to my 'to-read' list. :)
    By the way, I've only just started following your blog, but I have to say I really enjoy your posts, and the whole bookish flavour of everything. :)
    God bless!

    1. A warm welcome to you, Jessica! Thank-you for following, and I hope you continue to find lots of bookish delight here! :D

  2. I would definitely like to read this one (so glad I was the one who checked it out from the library!). I really enjoyed the snippets you read aloud.

    When I was growing up, I didn't think much about the creative process. I couldn't understand why paintings and other pieces (as opposed to artistic things like concerts, etc) were so expensive. I have a better understanding of that now.

    I love the passages in Exodus and 1 Kings which speak to the building of the tabernacle and the temple, respectively. In both places, the Lord mentions the appointed artist/artisan by name. The scripture says that He had filled them with His spirit to "devise artistic designs" (Exodus 31: 3-4). What a thrill, and what an immense and weighty responsibility. They must have had insight into protecting and nurturing that ability which the Lord had given them.

    My projects? Well, we Spoke At Lunch about those today. :) Most of my big creative projects these days are bag-related; they give me a lot to think about--pleasing colors, fabrics that will hold up well, functionality, winsome style, etc. all of which I desire to blend together to produce something that gives glory to the Lord by reflecting His beauty and order and brings enjoyment to those who carry them.

    1. I must say, I have greatly enjoyed our many conversations about art, social media, creativity, and how that all fits into the Christian life. Our art forms look different, but they have many points in common, and I've appreciated trading ideas with you. It has doubled the delight. :) Love you!

  3. Just added this book to my Amazon wish list. Thanks for the overview. (I love your posts!)

  4. Wow, I had heard about this book before, but I've never read it. I think I really want to now. :)
    And it's very funny, because this post especially resonated with me this week. My art that I am involved in right now is very much the creative/steal-like-an-artist sort, and I found this post very inspiring and encouraging. ;)
    Thanks for the great review!
    -E.H. ;)

    1. I hope you're able to read this book someday! I think it would be just your cup of tea, and I would love to talk about it with you. :) Have a great day!


  5. It's already on order from the library. ;)
    -E.H. ;)

  6. This looks like such a fun book! Maybe we girls can read it out-loud together! :D And it's good it helped you relax too! ;)


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