Steven’s Book Club: Steal Like an Artist and Show Your Work
I made a resolution at the end of 2015 to read at least one book for fun each month in 2016. Because of my job as a book designer, I read a lot of them (or at least parts) pretty regularly, but they’re not often ones I’m all that interested in. So I wanted to spend this year with more books that I actually wanted to read. I fell short pretty quickly when January turned to February and I was only halfway through Tracey Stewart’s Do Unto Animals. I was really enjoying this book and definitely want to go back to it. But for whatever reason, I put it aside and moved on. Luckily, I was able to catch up in February by reading two titles, both by the inspirational creative, Austin Kleon.
The books, Steal Like an Artist and Show Your Work, are instructional manuals for becoming better at, and more successful with, your art. In the former, Kleon encourages readers to find an artist and devour their work, try to replicate their work, and then learn whose work they devoured and tried to replicate. This lineage of inspiration is important in the evolution of your own style.
“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 reason to copy your heroes and their style is so that you might somehow get a glimpse into their minds. That’s what you really want – to internalize their way of looking at the world.”
Steal Like an Artist also gives great tips on how to make your procrastination productive, the necessity of having a routine, and how it’s imperative that you surround yourself with people who will inspire you and support your dreams. All great lessons that I think are essential to being a better artist. I know following the things in the book have helped me to focus a lot better on my own work over the past month, so I’m a big supporter of what Kleon says here.
Show Your Work is a logical follow-up to Steal Like an Artist. It’s about putting your work out into the world regularly, sharing your process, and engaging a community that can help your work grow. Warts and all, it’s important to show the world what you’re working on, how you’re working on it, and through this you’ll find your voice—and your audience.
“The worst troll is the one that lives in your head.”
Both of these books were incredibly helpful to me. I’ve been looking for a lot of guidance over the past few months, and along with a lot of other things, Steal Like an Artist and Show Your World have really helped to get me on track. If you’re an artist looking to find your own perspective (and maybe a job or two), I highly recommend reading both. And follow Austin Kleon’s blog and Twitter feed, too. He’s constantly showing his work.