Review: Steal Like an Artist

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Writer and artist Austin Kleon’s New York Times Best Seller certainly is what it promises to be – a creative manifesto for the digital age. Filled with quotable quotes from not just Kleon but other very famous names including Mark Twain, Steal Like An Artist is overflowing with inspiring anecdotes and interesting methodology. 


The book also draws you in visually with corroborating imagery and illustrations to clearly demonstrate 10 transformative principles fleshed out as individual chapters.


It’s a candid unpackaging of the irrefutable fact that nothing really is original and is illustrated through Kleon’s own insight and work ethic to help readers discover or further their artistic side. 


It’s not just for artists and creatives either, the book can speak to a wide audience and may resonate at various points depending on what floats your boat. 


For instance, we love the tip ‘Go make that stuff’ which quite simply tells you to ‘do the work you want to see done.’ There’s also the intriguing chapter entitled ‘Use your hands’ which recommends stepping away from the screen and bringing analog tools back into the process of generating great ideas. 


Kleon even does away with the hackneyed ‘write what you know’ adage for writers, and instead urges to ‘write what you like’ seeing that what moves and inspires you is what ultimately leads to great work. 


He then asks a compelling question: when we love an appreciate a great piece of writing, a movie or even a piece of music, why not channel that desire into something productive? 


There’s plenty of similar bookmark worthy moments to make you want to stop and reflect (and refer back to).   


He even offers positive spins on common negative perceptions on life and work. 

For instance, leading a boring life means that you can spare energy for your creativity, and if you are yet to be discovered, stop feeling the dejection of being unknown, instead ‘enjoy your obscurity while it lasts. Use it.’ Here Kleon recognises that once people start paying attention, the freedom to create with no distractions becomes a luxury. 


Steal Like An Artist urges us to understand that there’s no need to reinvent the wheel, and feel free to emulate the masters that inspire you. The art is in how you go about doing it. 

Emma Bartlett