Book Review: Steal Like An Artist by Austin Kleon

Hi, folks. Today I'm reviewing a good little book I finished up a couple of weeks ago, which was...

Steal Like An Artist
by Austin Kleon.
(Disclosure: I'm an Amazon Associate. All opinions are my own. Blah blah blah.)

I can't remember who it was, but someone online (Goodreads? One of the blogs I read?) recommended this book, and I thought it looked interesting, so I ordered it online without having ever seen it in person.

When it first arrived, I was a little disappointed. I was expecting it to be a "real" book discussing the creative process in depth, but it's more like one of those little "life's little instruction books," or a gift book with about half the pages dedicated to pithy one-liners and artsy illustrations. However, once I got over my initial disappointment in what it was going to be, I did find some useful ideas and tips in it.

The book is broken up into ten little chapters, or ten bits of advice for artists. They include pointers like, "Don't wait until you know who you are to get started," "Write the book you want to read," "Side projects and hobbies are important," "Be nice," and "Be boring."

I almost didn't order it simply because of the title: I didn't like the reference to stealing; however, he's not talking about burglary or plagiarism here. Rather, he says that you (and consequently your art or other creative work) are the sum total of all the things you allow into your life to influence you. Artists get their ideas from a combination of many people, ideas, places, and things. You're influenced by the artists who inspire you, the music you listen to, the books you read, the places you've been, etc. His version of "stealing" is simply that you should take the best ideas that you gather from many different sources of inspiration, and then take them to the next level and make them your own in the process. I liked his recommendation of being mindful of what you're allowing to influence you and his warning of "garbage in, garbage out."

I also appreciated what he had to say about discipline. While common conceptions of "creative" types may label artsy people as "wild," "free-spirited," "bohemian," etc., Kleon recommends avoiding that kind of lifestyle. Being successful in any field, including art, takes lots of discipline, hard work, organization, and time. He gives some good, practical advice about keeping a regular schedule, taking care of yourself (eating right, getting plenty of sleep and exercise, etc.), marrying well (to someone who will support you AND crack the whip on you if you start slacking), and keeping track of goals and accomplishments.

The only thing I didn't really care for were a few of the quotes from other people that he included. The names weren't familiar to me, but they sounded like rappers or something, and that's hardly where I would go for good advice. Anyway....

Overall, I enjoyed the book, and I think any creative person could glean some useful advice from reading it. Have you read it yet? What did you think?


What are YOU reading?


  1. The book sounds like essential reading for all art students...the lecturers i had, forgot to mention...the discipline and hard work..or maybe i was not listening...;)

    1. Haha, yes... sadly, even artists who wish to be successful have to just hunker down and do the work - something I'm still learning myself! :o)

  2. I've read SO many books of this sort but will probably read this one, too. My problem is that I like to read about art more than make it. Not that I don't like making it, I do, it's just easier to read about it. So I'm trying to stop reading and start painting. But I'll get to this one soon.

    I'm reading Queen Lucia by E.F. Benson. If you're going to read it, watch the Netflix series Mapp and Lucia first. They're so very English and so funny!

    1. Yes, I know what you mean. (And considering the popularity of Pinterest, I'd say a lot of other people do too!) It's definitely easier to look for endless sources of inspiration than to just sit down and get to work sometimes... Fortunately, this book is a quick read and emphasizes the need for discipline, so it does nudge you in the right direction... but I can definitely relate. :o)

      Thanks for the Netflix and book recommendation. I just finished watching "Foyle's War" on Netflix (it was SO good!) and have been looking for something new to watch.... I may have to add the book to my reading list too. Thanks!


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