I took a short, much needed, break from working on my project recently to read through Austin Kleon‘s Steal Like an Artist. I’ve seen the book numerous times, and have always been curious, but didn’t really get to it until now. I really enjoyed the short read (I think it took me about an hour and a half to read, and definitely less than two) and really enjoyed how simple and clear Kleon kept the writing – making abstract ideas very easy to understand. Here’s some thoughts that stuck with me (as paraphrased and understood by me) (also, as stolen from Kleon’s book):
We are all a culmination of our experiences- this is something that I’ve always believed with all my heart. I’ve always found ‘labels’ incredibly limiting, as they never truly encompass the complexity of who one is. We are shaped and molded by every experience we have, every second of our life, we are changing. I am an artist, but I am also a sister, a daughter, an animal lover, a babysitter, an information seeker, an explorer, an avid music, literature and theater lover, a risk taker, a procrastinator and a runner on hiatus. I play all these roles to some extent or another, some more than others, but they all shape me, they all affect me. Kleon called it a mashup, and it really is. This is the same for artists. I am not a bookbinder, I am not a painter, I am not an illustrator – I am a little bit of each and with every project, I am also a little bit of something new.
Nothing is original- We learn by observing and copying. Ideas do not just come out of nowhere, but instead, they are a culmination of what we see and experience. No one was ever born great, we become great by learning from others and then creating something new out of the information we were given. This is not to say that we all copy, but rather that we take little bits of information from multiple sources and create something new with it. Kleon points out, even the Beatles started off as a cover band and there is not a musician or athlete who did not have someone they looked up to, someone they imitated and ‘stole’ from in one way or another.
And lastly (I’m not sure if this was directly taken from the book or if it was just inspired by what I read, since I was at the point of reading sleep deprived and at the point of writing this, also very sleep deprived. Let’s assume this is what Kleon said) but the idea that none of us really know what we’re doing. I think we always have this image of public figures or entertainers, or experts being strong minded, confident people who have no doubts about their abilities. And I think that at many moments, yes that is the case. But I also think that we tend to forget that they are in many ways not that different from ourselves. They feel fear, anxiety, excitement. Whether we like it or not, we like the approval of others. This ‘others’ may refer to our friends, our families or simple people we respect and admire. Every time we try something new, there will be a slight anxiety in how it will be received. Every time an author publishes a new book or a musician releases a new album or even a politician makes a statement (despite how cocky their jobs require them appear to be), there is anxiety to a certain degree. The driving force behind all this is that there is no right or wrong way of thinking, of doing things. We just do things the way we best know how. And at this point, I could be talking about anything, artwork, certainly, but also relationships with others, our jobs, our health, etc.
Next, I will be reading (or writing) “How to survive on no sleep, too much caffeine, limited social interaction, minimal physical movement and still create something you hope will be worth looking at”.