Austin Kleon: Why Great Artists Steal
Cheers to the first Thursday of the month of February. This past month was extremely productive and enjoyable for me personally, I hope the same for you. We've had quite a start to 2018-- most pointing fingers at the final chapter of the "Supermoon Trilogy" we got to witness last night. Whatever it is, keep it rolling because the energy is on full flow and momentum is building. Pat yourself on the back for your future successes and hard work paid off. Today I decided to post another Chase Jarvis podcast but with a cool twist. Today we meet Texas' own Austin Kleon who speaks on why "stealing is awesome". Please share this blog, pay it forward and let 'em know! I'm in the business of spreading knowledge and a weekly dose of 'go get it' every Thursday morning.
Austin Kleon is a writer who draws. New York Times bestselling author of three published books; Steal Like An Artist, Newspaper Blackout, and Show Your Work! and The Steal Like An Artist Journal: A Notebook For Creative Kleptomaniacs.
His work has been translated into over twenty languages and featured on NPR’s Morning Edition, PBS Newshour, and in The New York Times and The Wall Street Journal. New York Magazine called his work “brilliant,”
Positively one of the most interesting people on the Internet, he speaks about creativity in the digital age for organizations such as Pixar, Google, SXSW, TEDx, and The Economist. Known as "the Quote Factory" by Chase Jarvis, Austin explains why stealing from great artists is crucial to your individual success, when done right.
Watching and listening to this session, I have summarized some great points for this post. As an added bonus, I've included some things that I've stolen from some of my mentors that I feel will prove useful to you and dictating your creative path.
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Okay, get your pencils and notepads ready, time to clock in.
His 2 Cents...
(Click anywhere on the bar to rewind/fast-forward. You're welcome.)
My Take Away..
Mastering The Process Of Extracting Inspiration:
Boring life leads to the best art. Boring in the sense of sitting in the same place everyday at the same time and doing the work. Having the time, space and materials aid in conditioning the brain to induce the creative process.
When I have to choreograph or work on a project as a creative director or movement coach--I used to stress over how I'd get the work done. Trying to hack my mind and trigger the creative process by taking a walk, working out, free styling just never helped. A really good friend, brother and mentor Tre Preston has worked with KidzBop as the Principal Choreographer/Creative Director for the better part of 4 years--in my beginning stages I figured I'd ask him about how he triggers his process and continues to put together shows year after year in a short period of time. Summarizing that conversation, he mentioned confining himself to his living room, cutting off his phone, getting up in the middle of the night and often sitting on the floor in a way of bribing sleep as reward for the almighty creative flow. I've stolen quite a few of his techniques; here's my creative flow and advice to hone in on yours.
Find your ritual. I finally found my process and it's always the same. I will listen to the certain song I'm working with or the music of the artist I'm coaching. When I say listen, I mean 100 plus times over. Headphones in, eyes closed and soaking in the feeling of the music. I watch interviews, stalk Instagram feeds, youtube videos, whatever I can get my hands on to absorb the essence of that person. The more you can become one with the artist, landscape, architecture, painting, song, etc. the more anything you create becomes an extension. To be a true artist is to connect with your subject and create something that is just as much a part of you as it is them.
Always go with what feels right. Trust what comes to you organically and only refine that which naturally occurs. If you have to force it--it dosen't fit. The main misconception is that artists look to create what looks "Good". That's a relative term depending on people's interpretation of the word. People naturally accept what others accept and that pattern is initiated by confidence in one's work. It's the classic fear of missing out (FOMO) that plagues our generation--use it to your advantage. For example, have you ever gone to a restaurant for the first time for dinner and ask the waiter or waitress how a certain item is and their response is "umm, well..it's okay..." followed by a shoulder shrug, no eye contact and head scratching? These are definite signs to me that the cook in the back has been blowing his nose and sneezing over EVERYTHING--I'll just have the salad instead. Now on the other hand, this waiter or waitress can be energetic; hitting me with great adjectives and mouth-watering visualization and excitement for this item--I'm a steak guy so lets go with a rib eye. Well on that same day, with a lot more confidence and enthusiasm, I'd be fork and knife deep in tender, marbled heaven and congested and suffering from cold chills by bedtime. It's not about delivering what you think they want or what's "in", it's all about selling what you know they need--you. Short and sweet; people will eat what you serve them. Be confident in your dishes.
Remixing The Stolen Process of Art
You’re only half of the equation. It’s an interaction between you and the person who is experiencing your work. That person is bringing just as much to it and just as important as you are. If you aren’t making work and sharing it, you are missing out on 50% of the experience. Transparency is the differentiator—make your work a very experiential process.
You want people to see YOU. I mean, isn't that the reason why you create in the first place? I hear so many friends and peers talk about "I just want people to see me and see my work" or "I have an identity--no one knows the real me". You're right, no one knows the real you and most of the time, it's your own fault.
I do it too. I ramble about how the dance industry, in my opinion, is so produced and manipulated due to the fact that real income can be made. I constantly explain that I don't take class regularly because all that's taught nowadays is how to keep up energy behind a select group of dancers when instructors film class, when you pay expecting to actually learn and grow. I also harp on how I think some dancers take too much class, focusing on exposure and never really building self-identity leading to the inability to tell their story when they move.
But let's be honest--it's a one-sided opinion and none of that has anything to do with me not posting content and putting myself out there by duplicating the model with a different mindset.
These artists have discovered a process that works and are copying the foundation to build their own successes. If it isn't broken, don't fix it but instead, look to locate people who have what you have or are doing what you want to do and copy their methods to craft into your own.
Talk less, share more. Sharing your work helps you to refine your craft by learning to take in creative criticism and is a tool to attract more people who are interested in what you’re interested in. Your work will never be perfect. You will never be satisfied with the end result. Your work is not original nor completely your own. If you are a serious creative, you will continue to seek the next milestone in your craft. These are the facts attached to being an artist. Whether you share your work or not, these facts will never go away. The point of stealing from great artists is to start strong with a solid foundation, understand what they missed and how you can improve. Just know that the more you expose your work, and ship out your art, the most important fact will always be on your side--Your skill only improves when you execute.
I'm Stealing like aN artist. what now
Are you verb-ing you noun?
A noun is who you are: Painter, Dancer, Singer, Producer, Actor, Writer, Musician, etc.
A verb is what you do. Here's a question- do you spend the majority of your free time:
If the answer is no, you aren't the noun you claim to be. Stop wanting the pay or the acclaim, the title or the rewards associated with your noun if you aren't willing to do the verb. You now have to apply the information that you've stolen and create you own path. Learn from your mentors, their mistakes and their successes--use the experiences and lessons that they've gathered to gain an advantage over your competition to hopefully set a standard for them to steal from. The winner makes the rules, the ones who get there first gets to set the standard; never make second place.