Peter Derk's Reviews > Steal Like an Artist: 10 Things Nobody Told You About Being Creative

Steal Like an Artist by Austin Kleon
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These kind of books are like candy. They make me feel better in the moment, but ultimately don't do much towards building a full picture of happiness.

The inherent problem in any book that's a how-to for something artistic, whether it be writing or painting or making music or the artistry in tailoring a custom Voltron costume, the problem with the how-to book is that when you're reading the how-to book you're not doing the actual thing you're being taught to do. In other words, a book ABOUT writing is probably less helpful to a writer than a book that's just plain good. A how-to book about painting is probably of less use than a book of paintings you enjoy.

I'm not saying there's no place for these types of books, and this one is smart because it's a quick read and it sticks pretty well to the motivational side of things as opposed to the nuts and bolts. It's good to read motivational stuff, especially because creating art can be a pretty lonely process. It's just hard to pack away the awareness that while you're reading about creating art, you could spend that time creating art.
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Reading Progress

November 26, 2012 – Shelved
Started Reading
February 11, 2013 – Finished Reading

Comments Showing 1-28 of 28 (28 new)

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message 1: by Jamie (last edited Feb 11, 2013 12:54PM) (new) - rated it 3 stars

Jamie pretty much nailed it. i also kept thinking that now, this guy will be best known for a how-to book and he just blew his 15 minutes.


Peggy I agree - but like eating candy, it's fun while you're doing it and we all enjoy a little diversion every now and then!


Alan Lynda Barry has some excellent practical steps for navigating through this difficulty.
1) Be kind to yourself while you *do* the artwork, and
2) Try an old Zen practice: make art that *includes* your personal "100 demons."
Becoming more aware of your own demons by giving them some space within your art can be very therapeutic. You don’t have to obsess about them - just give them some space.
Art is a vast space. It’s larger than *all* experiences.


Joshua Pitzalis I disagree, if you would rather do things than read about them then why are you reading books. First off, Steal like an artist is not a how to book, it advice that kleon would give to his younger self. General advice, and lessons learnt is not the same as instructions. Secondly, if you looking for instructions there are plenty of useful, instructional, reference books out there. For example, if you want to build a trebuchet? This might help http://www.amazon.com/Backyard-Ballis...


Peter Derk Peggy wrote: "I agree - but like eating candy, it's fun while you're doing it and we all enjoy a little diversion every now and then!"

Totally agree.


Peter Derk Alan wrote: "Lynda Barry has some excellent practical steps for navigating through this difficulty.
1) Be kind to yourself while you *do* the artwork, and
2) Try an old Zen practice: make art that *includes* yo..."


I really want to read her newest book. She seems like a sharp lady.


Peter Derk Joshua wrote: "I disagree, if you would rather do things than read about them then why are you reading books. First off, Steal like an artist is not a how to book, it advice that kleon would give to his younger s..."

I feel like you're taking my interpretation of being middle-of-the-road on this book and other books of a similar type, I feel like you're interpreting that as me saying, "I don't want to read about things, I want to do them!"

For me, someone who wants to write, reading and doing are the same. When I read something, I look at what works for me, what doesn't. When a book really works, I feel swept away, and it's a feeling I try to fight so I can understand better what's happening. It's doing something, believe me.

To me, this isn't a book that can be taken apart that way. I don't mean to badmouth the book, I was entertained, but taking it apart, it's closer to taking apart a manual than it is taking apart a novel. So really, what I'm left with is the enjoyment I had while reading and whatever I take away.

I guess I feel like you're questioning my reading of this because I didn't get a step-by-step on how to make art. That's certainly not what I was looking for. I don't know that I had a super-specific agenda going in. And whatever that agenda might have been going in, I just felt like I came out a little empty-handed.

I don't think it's wrong or stupid to read books like this. I read it. I gave it 3 stars, in fact.

But I think that, like candy, too many consecutive books of this kind are going to leave you unhappy before too long.


Joshua Pitzalis Interesting. I'm kind of with but I don't fully understand. So what would be an example of a 5 star book. Not just a book you enjoyed, I mean an example of what you are talking about.

I am genuinely interested. You have clearly spent a lot of time reading. I would love to know what you mean.


Peter Derk Along the lines of this type of book, I think Neil Gaiman's 'Make Good Art' is a 5-star work. You can also watch it for free (https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ikAb-...).

The difference, what he said stuck with me. I still remember the three things a freelancer should do. And that you only really need to do 2 of them. That video seriously brought a tear to my eye.

Why does this work better for me? It's a matter of taste. But for me, Gaiman's mix of the practical and theoretical rings very true to my own experiences. He takes into account the practicality of making art in the real world. He talks about disappointments. And as far as he's gone in life, he's not afraid to admit that he still feels like a fraud, which is sort of incredible.

Tom Spanbauer is a great writer and a great teacher. He says every story should make you laugh, teach you something, and break your heart. Gaiman told a story, and he nailed it. Kleon wrote a fine book, but for me, he didn't hit all those points.


Joshua Pitzalis Thank you.


message 11: by Mia (new)

Mia "In other words, a book ABOUT writing is probably less helpful to a writer than a book that's just plain good." Could not agree more.


Michael K I disagree in the classification of the how-to, because that teaching method isn't included. As a student, I read a lot of how-to books they market under the guise of 'textbooks'--but this one is strictly a coffee-table motivator (which you hit on mid-review, and to which I throughly agree).


Peter Derk @ Mia: :)

@Kay: Coffee Table Motivator is a great genre label that I've never heard, and if it doesn't already exist I think you should put some serious effort into coining the phrase. It's a tidy descriptor of this book and some others that I struggle to classify.


message 14: by [deleted user] (new)

Precise review: the book doesn't do much by itself, but it's definitely entertaining to read once in a while...


message 15: by Joy (new) - rated it 5 stars

Joy Medalla I love all his books


message 16: by Calamit (new) - added it

Calamit rceps Its magnificent


message 17: by Ruby (new)

Ruby Modesto A quick read; very entertaining


Serena This.

And "coffee table motivator".

:)


Michael K I aim to please ahhaha, it's been an apt description of quite a few hype-books that hit bookstore ends. 🤙🏻 Feel free to carry its torch, words are fun like that!


message 20: by Phyllis (new) - added it

Phyllis A Peter Derk, I can understand how you relate with his words..."He takes into account the practicality of making art in the real world. He talks about disappointments. And as far as he's gone in life, he's not afraid to admit that he still feels like a fraud, which is sort of incredible."


Sorin Dinco I guess people have said about this: story teller is as good as it seems to each of us. There might be only one of you all to like him or her and the vice-versa. Enough for the teller to get back in the crowd and say to each on their own I've done my job here. Let's move on, lads and gents


Brittni That's a perfect description for this type of book.


message 23: by Tristany (new)

Tristany Lafleur This resonates with me right now at this moment in my life. I’m a furniture redesigner/artist(my canvas-worn/outdated furniture) and I am beginning to build a website and blog. I have a hard time keeping my blinders on when going online to get it done and start painting again! I mean, look! Here I am “needing” to respond to a 7 yr old comment!😂😂😂 I read so much about anything that’s even closely related to the task at hand, just hoping for guidance and inspiration. Instead, I’m stuck sitting on my ass ALL DAY! I need to get back to doing the thing I started all this for, creating beautiful pieces and, fingers crossed, making some $!
Haha


Nando Ferrándiz I disagree. I'm an amateur music producer that in the last few months has started taking it seriously, showing up at the studio everyday - no matter what. I have had to juggle a few bits of my life to find the time to read books like this, or watch that tutorial online, or listen to music for inspiration. I might have woken up earlier in the morning, or cancelled that beer with my colleague after work, so i could do these things. The rule of thumb is that I don't let these other endeavours affect my time at the studio writing music. That bit of my day is sacred, and if at some point I have to chose between reading or writing music, I will always go for the second.

But I do not believe that: 1) a person doesn't have enough time to do both and has to chose between doing that one creative activity he/she wants to nail and reading a book, and 2) that every available minute should be spent in doing that one creative activity. Give it a time ratio of 4/1, even 6/1 if you want, being the higher number the time you spend in your creative studio and the lower number the time you spend reading watching a tutorial, finding inspiration somewhere else. But there's always time to do both, *if you really want to*. And this last bit is important.

The most prolific people are those whose time is most limited.


Peter Derk Hi @Nando!
to disagree, politely:
1. I don't think the issue I have is that a person can't do both, I just think that a person could find a book that's more nourishing. It doesn't have to be specific to the artistic work. One of my favorite albums is based on a Cormac McCarthy novel. If the artist hadn't read that novel, we wouldn't have that album. I think inspiration comes from other art more often than it does from how-to/inspirational material. I wouldn't tell someone they can't read this book. I just find myself more fulfilled by things that aren't necessarily intended to motivate me, and I think others do, too.
2. I agree, you can't do the thing every minute of the day. However, I think artists should do the thing, and then when they're not doing the thing, they should truly rest. Runners who are "resting" shouldn't be taking long walks on their rest day. They should be doing something else. I think the same thing applies to art, and finding inspiration isn't a restful activity, it's an artistic one. Additionally, I think that inspiration can also come from the mind at rest, working on a problem like a rock tumbler in the background.

I really don't have a problem with this book. I just feel, personally, that it doesn't work for me and my style, and I think other echo that sentiment. I'm not saying this is a bad book or that someone is a bad artist if they feel motivated by it. I'm saying it's just a matter of differing styles.


Nando Ferrándiz Hey @PeterDerk,

Fair enough, pal, fair enough. Sorry if my comment came across as a bit harsh, I did not mean for it to sound like that.

I guess it's down to everyone's style, as you mention. I find these sort of reads still allow me to rest, in a more fulfilling way than just switching on the PlayStation. Not that this is my only way of resting, at times a good old 'proper' rest and total disconnection is needed. But many times, this kind of activity is enough and, while resting, still brings something else onto the table to chew on.


message 27: by Deirdre (new)

Deirdre Bronchick But a book about writing is exactly that, a book about writing, what’s bad about that? If I’m a writer, painter or musician how can i get in their head other than reading about their process? It’s likely not meant to be a how to guide, but a guide or inspiration.


Peter Derk Deirdre wrote: "But a book about writing is exactly that, a book about writing, what’s bad about that? If I’m a writer, painter or musician how can i get in their head other than reading about their process? It’s ..."

I was all set to reply, but after looking, I think you and I say almost the same thing. I don't want to accuse anyone of commenting without reading. So I won't.


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