I picked up Steal Like an Artist at the Delray Beach Library for a buck and read it over a few hours.
Written prior to Show Your Work, but like his other book, Austin Kleon work is filled with practical insights for approaching the creative process, examples of the advice in action and techniques for getting a better understanding of one’s own position in relation to one’s chosen family of creators and other issues of practical concern to a creative.
One such instructional section that I like particularly related to homage and inspiration in relation to one’s creative work and process.
Creation as Curation
All great artists are voracious consumers of cultural products.
I’ve spent more money on my personal reading library than is really sensible given my financial conditions – but the sense of joy that they haven give me, of being able to look back at notes that I left for myself or seeing which passages thought were important at the time and so underlined them amuses me to no end so I feel that it is worth it.
Then there’s the smell of books…
Anyway, Kleon’s advice is to make an assessment of where it is that you’re taking from, to ask yourself why, to really determine how the pieces of what you read gets more or less mixed within your self and how it makes it’s way into your art.
You know who really killed it on this mission before Kleon ever wrote about it? Henry Miller. His works The Books in My Life, The Time of the Assassins, not to mention sections throughout his oeuvre, all do this and help world build him as someone equally worthy in status to those he names.
Theft and Art
Emerging from historic, symbolic culture – all art is theft.
Technology certainly changes society and the realm of the possibility, but at a fundamental level, nothing is new under the sun.
For instance my favorite novel by Milan Kundera is The Unbearable Lightness of Being. This is literally an updated, inverted Anna Karenina. Star Wars is based on numbers myths from antiquity. I’m living my life largely based on Henry Miller’s and the goal of my creative work is to turn Dostoyevsky on his head. The list goes on, the take away being that the quest for excessive novelty can lead to bad art and that transformation rather than mere imitation of work – as in the above – is new and ought be viewed as such.
The “Rules” for Creativity
In my preparations to move out of the country I went through a number of old boxes that contained documents of works that I’d written when in my late teens. Reading them 15 years later was amusing, not just because of the vast divide in perspective that has developed since then but also as I realized that I was not waiting for something external to validate my creative journey but that I just did it.
I also came across the 1930’s type writer I’d purchased for myself and a number of notebooks that I collected my various art compositions in. Seeing these made me recall my college days and how much I loved working with a small group of friends to make collages, drawings, paintings, and performance poetry.
It’s these sorts of experience, Kleon says and from experience I concur with, that help build up a more holistic approach to art.
The book is a quick read and cheap so I highly recommend it to all.
And if you have the time watch this Tedx Talk by Austin, it’s worth it.