So there’s this book. It’s called “Steal Like An Artist” and it may be the most amazing book I have ever read. It isn’t actually about stealing. It’s about the creative process and how we learn, how we are inspired by other artists around us and how we can learn a great deal from emulating their techniques – or at least, trying to.
There’s a lot of reverse engineering in art. You see something cool and you think, “Wow, hey, how’d they do that?” and then you try to make it happen in your own studio.
The point is not to copy. The point is not to make a work that looks like the other artist’s work, or at least, it shouldn’t be and if it is, you should probably check yourself. So let’s be clear that when I say “Steal Like An Artist” I do not mean “Take someone’s work, design or copy, change one or two words or elements, and then pass it off as your own.” Because that’s shitty and also literally taking bread out of someone’s mouth.
5/19 ETA: I just plugged that link in from Erica’s blog, because it really struck me as a needed counterpoint to this whole post and I thought, ‘Yeah hey there’s a distinction worth highlighting.”
Don’t steal shit to steal it. I can’t speak for writers, only as a visual and jewelry artist, but to me, “stealing like an artist” means going through that process of reverse engineering, of trying to unlock a technique because you want to learn. You will, if you keep at it, develop your own tools for your own artistic toolbox. You will apply what you discover to your own work in a way that is unique to you, from the depths of your own creative heart. The object here is mastery, not mimicry.
It’s also perfectly acceptable to leave a nice comment on the blog of your favorite artistic inspiration to let them know they are rocking your artistic universe. Or drop them a polite email and you know, ask if they teach, ask if there are resources they recommend, and generally give them a little love in a non-creepy not-stalkery please-don’t-email-them-repeatedly-if-they-don’t-write-back kind of way.
So right now, I’m spending a lot of time over on Dion Dior’s blog and I am reveling in her colorplay. It is inspiring. Take this piece, for instance. The color is amazing. The style and skill are simply stunning. I loved the energy and the general feel of it. So today, when I was painting, I thought of this image and I decided to play around and see if I could create something based on what I remembered of the original. The result is above. I didn’t use the original as a visual reference, just went off memory, and that’s pretty obvious. But I got a lot out of the exercise.
Maybe the most important thing I got out of this particular exercise in memory and painting was, “Take more ginko biloba.”
Ok so maybe the most amazing thing I have learned from Dion’s videos and blog so far? Using a charcoal pencil to add shadows to the finished painting. *facepalm* It makes it jump off the page. How did I not know this?
This is why you steal like an artist. Because you learn about things like using !@#$ charcoal over watercolors.
I’m entirely self taught. And by self taught I mean, I watch a lot of YouTube, use Google excessively, and buy a lot of books. If I want to learn something, I either find it for free on the web or I take an e-course or I get obsessive about tutorials for a while.
Right now I’m digging on mandalas and flowers, on these new mica infused watercolors and maybe painting the Buddha. I’d like to master poppies. I’m not interested in realism, but I definitely love fantastically real-inspired fantasy versions of things. So I’m running around trying to hack some artistic code and level up my own stuff.
Steal like an Artist. You can get a paper copy or find it on Kindle or Nook. You want to check it out.