Some of my earliest memories are from the house I grew up in: a huge British bungalow surrounded by aged trees and inspiring wilderness (attributed to lack of any proper gardening). I was must have been in early elementary, sitting by one of the bright windows that thrust in the tropical sun, tracing the dotted lower case letters in a handwriting workbook: my father was teaching me the cursive hand, the norm, and expectation, back in the day. I’d trace each letter over and over until I could reproduce it independently on a 4-line notebook.
Why do I bring it up, here? Steal Like An Artist by Austin Kleon is all about tracing until you can reproduce it independently. Or something to that effect. The book is not about stealing per se, as much as it is about making a paradigm shift in how you see the world. It bursts the idealist bubble some of us create for ourselves (for the worse), only to realize that art builds on art, and there is nothing “original” as such in this world. Suddenly, you feel you are a part of this huge fraternity that is working with you; you are not lonely anymore, sitting by yourself in a cave trying hard to create something out of thin air! The small book is a compilation of friendly advice stippled with inspiring quotes and clever visuals. A quick fun read, and certainly recommended for business leaders, artists, writers, budding spiritualists and anyone who is trying to inject creativity into their life and work. “In other words: this book is for you”
Some quotes and thoughts I liked are below:
Pick Masters who inspire you, emulate them and try to see the world as they do/did; fake it till you make it. Don’t just steal the style, steal the thinking behind the style. You don’t want to look like your heroes, you want to see like your heroes.
The great thing about dead masters is that they cant refuse you as an apprentice. You can learn whatever you want from them. They left their lesson plans in their work.
You are going to be as good as the stuff you surround yourself with.
Embrace your limitation and keep moving.
There is nothing new under the sun. (Ecclesiastes 1:9)
Saul Steinberg: What we respond to in any work of art is the artist’s struggle against his or her limitations.