Book Review: ‘Steal Like An Artist’ by Austin Kleon

Book: Steal Like an Artist by Austin Kleon
Reviewed by: Nolan

I hate to say it, but I’m skeptical about the ‘Creativity’ section at our store.  When I think of the books in there what comes to mind are books full of exercises, which are great for getting the juices flowing, but I see them represented as “These are the steps to take to be an artist.” Do the exercises and, VOILA, you’re an artist. Now go hang your afternoon exercise masterpiece up in a bar on the east side and ask for $400 for the undeniable talent that you learned in a book and sit back as the praise comes flowing from the heavens about the unicorn on a bicycle that shows what a unique visionary you are. But I digress.

Art is hard. Really, really hard. And what makes it worth while as a form of expression is, in fact, how hard it is. Austin Kleon, author of the new book Steal Like an Artist, understands this. In his book, Kleon talks about the pressures that creatives face day in and day out. He understands and preaches what every creative type dreads to hear when it comes to the question of “how does one make it in the art world?” You have to actually work. His actually-doing instead of talking-about-doing approach to working towards creative endeavors is a beacon of light to the color-by-numbers art guides that are out there. Don’t believe him? Just ask the legendary creatives he quotes throughout the book: Jay-Z, Jim Jarmusch, Brian Eno, Kurt Vonnegut, Steve Jobs, and Mark Twain. They all have their unique insights, but they all go back to one central theme: you gotta work hard.

The title stems from Kleon’s and his quoted resources’ belief that there is no such thing as being original and that originality probably hasn’t happened in centuries. What he does argue for, however, is a breath of fresh air. Be influenced by your heroes. Do what they do and slowly but surely you’ll do it with your own unique voice, just like your art heroes tried to become their art heroes. Steal Like an Artist is a quick read, chalk full of daily reminders that what you are doing is a long, hard journey, but that that’s what makes the journey worth taking and how you become yourself and your art becomes your own. It also allows you to be human in the modern age, telling you to take breaks, do nothing, and network online because we need our down time if we want our active time to be any good.

This book is great. It’s good for yourself if you just need a little boost of encouragement, and it’s a perfect gift for a friend or family member who is fighting the creative fight. It’s great to just read and pass along. Steal Like an Artist is not telling you to reinvent the wheel, but to keep building your wheel and one day it will look like something beautiful and new.

One thought on “Book Review: ‘Steal Like An Artist’ by Austin Kleon

  1. This sounds fantastic. This is exactly the sort of thing I need to hear right now. I’m struggling with my own book, and while I know that every writer/artist goes through pains to create the work they feel inside them, it helps so much to hear this sort of thing. It mirrors so closely my own doubts and worries as a writer that I can’t help but be relieved. This is definitely something I’ll check out. Thanks for the review!

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