by Simone Dutra
For a brief moment I held my breath.
My head started spinning…
As an artist, I got terrified when I read this.
I found it depressing.
It got stuck in my head for a long time.
It almost made me give up.
If I cannot create anything original, then why bother trying?
This sentence is on page seven of the book Steal Like an Artist, from Austin Kleon.
A small book filled with terrifying yet mind-opening truths. Bellow are just small pieces of it, hope you get the taste.
So… if nothing is original as even the Bible suggests on Ecclesiastes 1:9:
“There is nothing new under the sun”
What should I do? How will I create work that resonates my own voice?
The honest answer is: You will steal them!
Well… good news is: Even Pablo Picasso said: “Art is a theft”.
And if you think you are not stealing is because you “don’t know the references or the original sources involved.” It’s because you have not researched enough nor studied enough. You need to study, to research and more important, you need to collect.
“You job is to collect good ideas. The more good ideas you collect, the more you can choose from to be influenced by”.
The more you will have to steal from. Make a journal, keep a file, whatever works for you, but always “Save your thefts for Later”.
DO NOT collect trash! Remember that Garbage in = Garbage out.
“Steal from anywhere that resonates with inspiration or fuels your imagination. Devour old films, new films, music, books, paintings, photographs, poems, dreams, random conversations, architecture, bridges, street signs, trees, clouds, bodies of water, light and shadows. Select only things to steal from that speak directly to your soul. If you do this, your work (and theft) will be authentic. Authenticity is invaluable; originality is non-existent. And don’t bother concealing your thievery - celebrate it if you feel like it. In any case, always remember what Jean-Luc Godard said: “It’s not where you take things from - it’s where you take them to."
Do not imitate. “Imitation is not flattery”. Be the good thief. Not the bad one.
As I’ve said on the beginning, I found the idea of Nothing-being-original depressing.
(Not that I haven’t changed my mind by the end of the book).
As for the author, he declared that it filled him with hope.
“As the French writer André Gide put in, “Everything that needs to be said has already been said. But, since no one was listening, everything must be said again.”
Depress or hope? How do YOU feel?