Steal like an artist

Some of my thoughts


Steal like an artist

Have you ever found a book that speaks your language? I am not saying that you agree with every word, but when you read it you find yourself thinking, " I say this all the time," or "I have tried to communicate this for a while." You find a printed piece that puts it in better words than you could have imagined. As an artist, designer, film maker, and a detailed, organized planner, this book is 100% me. Steal Like an Artist, by Austin Kleon, is one of my new favorites. You can check out his website here:

This book has made its way to the top of my favorites due to its simple format, creative pictures, diagrams and short read. It has interesting stories and studies, but it gets straight to the point. So, what is it about? Well, I am not going to break down the whole book, because you have to pay this guy to read it. But, it is worth it and he deserves every penny. I will, however, point out some of my favorite parts and how it describes who I am.

What a good artist understands is that nothing comes from nowhere. All creative work builds on what came before. Nothing is completely original. - Austin Kleon

I often hear people say "its just not original" or "I would rather it come from my own creativity." I usually walk away frustrated because I know I most likely won’t be able to work with them. Why? I would expand a little here. They are already too far gone. Too far gone from what? I am a naturally inclusive, but have had a hard time trying to get those mindsets to come back from the dark side.

Have you ever heard “there is nothing new under the sun”? Think about it. Anything you can possibly think of has already been done. It may not have been done in the same way, but inevitably it has already been done. I tell people at church, we are just doing what Jesus did. We may have changed the details a bit to work best with today's times, but its still the same message and outcome. So this leads me to what I am professional at - stealing other people’s work.

I heard something once that stuck in my head - God gave you eyes, so plagiarize. Now I am not saying to copy and paste copywrited material or even non-copywrited material. What I am saying is stop trying to do it all by yourself. 99.9% of the time you try and do things by yourself, it doesn’t work. It, pardon my text, but it sucks. Anything worth doing is done better with others and stealing ideas from the best out there.

I am all about saving time as well, because we really don’t have a ton of it laying around, especially if you have any desire to succeed. It's hard to find time, so I have to cut corners where I can and save it. Here is a real life example:

I started my current job three and a half years ago. It was just me as the “media director”, and I was doing all the work. I realized I could not build a team and focus on creating a strong structure that works outside of me if I was spending countless hours creating original designs. This applied mainly to the sermon series graphics and videos because they update constantly. I pulled graphic ideas from a few of the top churches in America that had free resources pages, and then matched up and tweaked them a bit to work for our current series. Why? Because I had big plans for the future that did not involve me taking a lot of time on things that would have a short shelf life. I value growing your skills and learning how to merry your work with the branding of your organization, but not at the expense of growing your future self.

So what happened as the result?

I am now leading a media team of four employees, an intern and numerous volunteers. As the creative director, I am able to do the tasks in my department that I enjoy the most. The elements I "stole" from the other churches were an intricate part of my team’s growth as they allowed me to spend more time focusing on, shaping and growing my team and less time creating new graphics every week. We still use some of them periodically to help out when the work load is heavy. We have seen numerous salvations and people specifically connected to the church through our marketing and design. I love it!


Who to copy is easy. You copy your heroes—the people you love, the people you’re inspired by, the people you want to be. The songwriter Nick Lowe says, “You start out by rewriting your hero’s catalog.” And you don’t just steal from one of your heroes, you steal from all of them. The writer Wilson Mizner said if you copy from one author, it’s plagiarism, but if you copy from many, it’s research. I once heard the cartoonist Gary Panter say, “If you have one person you’re influenced by, everyone will say you’re the next whoever. But if you rip off a hundred people, everyone will say you’re so original! - Austin Kleon

I have grown quickly and excelled by finding people that are better at what I am trying to do; taking what I like from them along with favorite parts from others and combining them to work best with what I am trying to accomplish.

I promise you that most people who give all of their knowledge and work away end up more successful than most. I have a problem with the non-profit arena. I work full-time for a church and have plenty of other churches as connections, but it irks me when they want to be recognized for their work and won’t share it with others. Are we not all in this together? What if something you have created could help improve another church, and that in turn creates a connection to Christ or helps someone develop as a follower of Jesus? Do we not all want that? Now I am getting on a “passionate” topic of mine, and I know this doesn’t relate to everyone that is trying to make a profit from their work, but even then I would challenge it. But that’s another blog in the future. The end result should not be trying to make yourself known. If your focus is on helping others succeed by sharing your work, the result will be you becoming known without you even trying.

What are you focused on? Do you have people you pull from? Where are you going in the future and how do you plan to get there? In my opinion, one thing that will help is reading Steal Like an Artist, and then do what it says. That is all.

Stay creative my friends.

P.S. - I stole the picture at the top of the page from @musicbed instagram. Thanks guys.

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