Book Summaries

Book Summary: Steal Like an Artist by Austin Kleon

Book Summary - Steal Like an Artist by Austin Kleon

When it comes to 3D work, Blender is not my favorite tool. Matter of fact, I probably forgot most of what I learned. However, I still follow Andrew Price, the self-proclaimed “Blender Guru.” Andrew is awesome in his own ways, and he always recommended his audience to read the book, “Steal Like an Artist” by Austin Kleon. So, I just had to check it out and turns out, this book is actually quite good. You certainly will learn more if you read the full text but here are some of my notes.


Austin Kleon, the author of “Steal Like an Artist,” argues that there is no such thing as original art. Throughout the years all the artist we have known or looked up to as our idols were not only geniuses in their own right, but they also took ideas from other artists and their heroes. Note, the author never said that they blatantly stole something and claimed it as their own, they merely took the inspiration, technique or a particular feature and added their knowledge and experience to make it more unique and useful.

Original Art is a Myth

In our society, people tend to encourage others to create something original, as in, it’s never been seen before. In reality, though, everything is derived from someone that was already done or thought of in the past. So, whether it’s Picasso or some other top artists in the modern world, they all took something from other artists! The author argues that the end product an artist creates is usually inspired by someone else. For example, The Beatles didn’t start to make something original, until they mastered everything their heroes already built.

So, to help you grasp the concept a bit more, think of art like a mix of the genes. When a man and a woman have a baby, the child is a combination of two people. Even though the child share genes from his parents, he is still perceived as a unique individual. Just like good genes has the potential to create a physically healthy individual, taking ideas from great art or artists can also boost your chances of producing a high-quality end product.

To make the most out of the heroes before you, the author suggests a very cool technique. He advises his readers to imagine yourself as the last branch of a tree. Now, branch back and see your heroes, and branch back a bit more to look at their heroes. The goal is to create a tree of great work of your heroes and their heroes and completely immerse yourself in their creations or inspirations. More you study their work, their influences or their thought process, better your own ideas and end products will become!

Imitate & Emulate Your Heros

By now you should be convinced that there is no such thing as original but only a mix bag of different ideas from different influencers. Obviously copying and pasting someone else’s work would be plagiarizing but mixing multiple sources of inspiration to create something unique wouldn’t get you into any kind of trouble. The author suggests that imitating your heroes or idols is a great way to start. However, you shouldn’t stop there. Sooner or later, you will realize that in some areas you cannot match your idols. In such cases, you can exploit those weak areas to add your unique touch.

For example, Conan O’Brien wanted to be like David Letterman. David Letterman wanted to be like Johnny Carson. Even though you will notice some blatant similarities, you will also see something different about all of them. The areas where they couldn’t match their idols, they exploited those weaknesses to surpass their idols, or it helped them establish their unique careers.

Don’t Abandon Your Hobbies

As you might know by now, art isn’t necessarily easy, and you have to commit a significant amount of time to create something you or other people will like. However, some people get caught up in the loop to pursue just one project and immerse themselves entirely in one project. The author argues that you might feel that you are making progress and even though you plow through when you hit a roadblock, you might not feel content.

The author suggests that you need to take a break and give your mind some space to relax. These relaxations could come in forms of your hobbies, procrastination, cycling multiple projects or going on a vacation. Austin found that when he was concentrating only on art and didn’t play the guitar like he used to, it affected his overall mood and it had a negative influence on his art. But when he started to play the guitar for fun, it made him feel full, and his artwork improved as well.

Both Obscurity & Fame are a Blessing and a Curse

More or less every artist wants to become famous or wants some kind of recognition for their work. The author argues that when you are famous, and people know you, they will scrutinize your work even more. So, you will always feel extra pressure to create something stunning or cool. However, when people don’t know you, as in you are obscure, you get more freedom to experiment with your work and make mistakes to learn from.

But either way, you need to share your work to get feedback from people because, in the end, that will also make you a better artist. Since, we have access to the internet, sharing our work has never been easier! If you are not doing it already, make sure you share your work, get feedback from people and learn from your mistakes.

Create an Inspiring Workspace

The author believes that your workspace and what you surround yourself dramatically influences your work, motivation and other areas of your life. Back in the day, people had to travel to distant miles to find their inspirations, but nowadays we can just use our computer or tablet to find references to great work. The author also suggests that having references or using software tools on your computer might not be enough to boost your creativity. You can achieve more creativity by working with things physically with your hands. So, instead of creating something only in digital format, play with real-world tools, clay, pencil or paper to push your creative limits.

Kleon also believes that staying in one place might make you complacent. So, if you move things around, travel or live in other countries, it can give you fresh perspectives and could change your life and career.

How to Deal With Your Critics

Kleon strongly recommends that you share your work online or with others to get their feedback. Odds are, you will be bombarded with both positive and negative feedback. If you are like most people, the negative critics will not feel sexy, and they might bring you down. However, the author suggests that you use those negative critics as a source of your strength.

For example, the author doesn’t read his negative critics throughout the day. But he reads them first thing in the morning. Reading all the negative comments early in the morning allows him to use his anger to create more outstanding work throughout the day. He also argues that when you give positive critics yourself, it can come back with good karma as well.

So, whether you are tweeting, blogging or making a video, praise your idols or their work and notice how much positivity comes back to you as well. Kleon suggests that you create a praise journal to store all the positive feedback you might’ve received so far. So, when you feel down or lack inspiration, reviewing those positive messages can help you to shift your mood.


So, basically, no art is original, and every great work is derived from someone else in some shape or form. Getting feedback from others is vital for an artist to improve his work, and if a negative criticism is received, it should become a source of inspiration or motivation rather than guilt or self-pity. Also, don’t become too obsessed with work or your projects, take a break, have hobbies and enjoy doing other things to allow your creative muscles relax a bit!

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