Austin Kleon of newspaper-blackout-poem fame recently stopped by the Penn Bookstore to discuss his new book, Steal Like an Artist: 10 Things Nobody Told You About Being Creative. With one of his 20×200 prints hanging on my wall, I couldn’t resist hearing what he had to say.
Calling it a “picture book for adults,” Kleon said Steal Like an Artist began with a speech he gave about the things he wished he’d known when he started out. He ultimately decided to turn that advice into a book for budding artists. Here are some of the main points from his visit to Penn, including a post-talk Q&A:
- You are a mashup of what you let into your life. In other words, artists are collectors.
- Your inspiration shouldn’t be limited to living artists. “The great thing about dead or remote masters is they can’t refuse you as an apprentice.”
- Keep a “swipe file,” either digitally or on paper, of works you see that are “worth stealing.” Then, when you’re in search of inspiration, simply open up your swipe file to find some.
- “Creativity is subtraction.” Figure out what to leave out of a given work so you can concentrate on what’s most important.
- Assigning constraints can lead to some of your best work. For instance, Dr. Seuss’s editor bet him that he couldn’t write a book that used only 50 words. The beloved children’s book author wound up creating Green Eggs and Ham.
- For those whose jobs require creativity, it can be challenging to summon still more creativity at the end of the day for independent artistic pursuits. Become a morning person and use your greatest stores of creativity on your own art before the workday begins.