Book Review: Steal Like An Artist

If you’re an artist who is stuck in artistic block as tough to break as a Carbonite Han Solo or if you just aren’t quite outputting as much creative work as you want to be, stop moping and dig into Austin Kleon’s Steal Like an Artist: 10 Things Nobody Told You About Being Creative with all due speed. Kleon has created a book that’s breeze to read and peppered with practical information that’s firmly grounded in the realities of creating art.


Steal Like An Artist does an excellent job of demystifying the process without taking any of the magic away. The constant prescription in the book is simple: do the work. Anything that gets in the way of that process from disorganization to hedonism is politely but firmly rebuffed as antithetical to your productivity.

The ‘stealing’ that Steal Like An Artist admonishes you to start practicing is the kind that every artist actually does and Kleon suggests that embracing that theft is the best way to produce something worthwhile without the angst.

You can get a smidgeon of Kleon’s senabilites in this TED talk:

There’s plenty of actionable information on different topics ranging from getting inspired to creating a ‘log book’ of your accomplishments that will put you on a more productive path. One idea that I implemented right away is the concept of an analog desk.  The idea is straightforward; since so many artists today work off of their laptops and other digital gear, Kleon suggests creating a workspace in your studio for drawing, folding, and other ‘play’. Kleon says should have “nothing but markers, pens, pencils. paper, index cards and newspaper. Nothing electronic is allowed on that desk.”

As a big booster of digital technology for artists, I found myself resistant to this idea – which is exactly why it’s the first thing from the book that I implemented.

This analog approach was actually used to create Steal Like An Artist.  Kleon put the book together using index cards that laid out his ideas through drawings and scribbled notes. One fun part of the book is an addendum of ‘outtakes that Kleon includes a number of index cards that didn’t actually make it into the book. These cards are included without extra notes, either — just the raw cards with hand drawn aphorphisms like “I moved to leaving your imagination a jumping off point.

Steal Like An Artist talks about the process of making art without prescribing what kind of art you’re going to make. The ideas inside are applicable to writers, musicians, filmmakers or sculptors. It’s a quick read that should have some immediate effects on your work.

Here it is at Amazon > Steal Like an Artist: 10 Things Nobody Told You About Being Creative

Austin Kleon’s website


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