How to be an artist in the new age
In the past two days, I introduced you to two people who made a profound impact on me by changing my perception of what art is and we all could be artists. Today I am going to introduce you to the third person who gave me actual know-how of being an artist.
If you have been reading my previous posts, he is no stranger. His name is Austin Kleon. He has written four books and calls himself “a writer who can draw.” I believe his biggest achievement is that he has cracked the code of how to “be” an artist. He shares that knowledge freely through his blog and his books. I have picked three of his insights which have impacted me the most to share with you.
1. Art is theft
Austin came to fame with his second book How to Steal Like an Artist in which he shared all the knowledge he gained about becoming an artist. He demonstrated how it could be done through the book. The whole book is based on lessons learned from other artists. The artists who encouraged to imitate, copy and steal so that new artists can learn. That is how they learned.
We want you to take from us. We want you, at first, to steal from us, because can’t steal. You will take what we give you and you will put it in your own voice and that is how you will find your voice. And that is how you begin. And then one day someone will steal from you.Francis Ford Coppola, Source: How to Steal Like an Artist
Steal from anywhere that resonates with inspiration or fuels your imagination. Devour old films, new films, music, books, paintings, photographs, poems, dreams, random conversations, architecture, bridges, street signs, trees, clouds, bodies of water, light and shadows, Select only thing to steal from that speak directly to your soul. If you do this, your work (and theft) will be authentic.Jim Jarmusch, Source: How to Steal Like an Artist
The mistake the new artists make is that they think they need to make something original. The experienced artist knows that nothing comes from nowhere. All creative work builds on what came before. The writer Jonathan Lethem has said that when people call something “original,” nine out of ten times they just don’t know the references or the original sources involved.
“Art is theft,” said Pablo Picasso.
“There is nothing new under the sun.” (Bible, Ecclesiastes 1:9)
Austin writes many people find this idea depressing, but it fills him with hope. French writer Andre Gide, “Everything that needs to be said has already been said, but since no one was listening, everything must be said again.”
This is a very reassuring and novel approach to invoke creativity. It takes away the pressure of being original and to make something out of nothing. As Austin says we can embrace influence instead of running away from it.
“What is originality? Undetected plagiarism.” – William Ralph Inge.
But there is a caveat. You can’t copy without giving attribution, it will hurt you badly.
You can imitate to learn, as imitation is the best-known way to learn any skill.
When you steal you have a responsibility to turn it into something better or at least different. As the famous poet T. S. Eliot puts it:
Immature poets imitate; mature poets steal; bad poets deface what they take, and good poets make it into something better, or at least something different. The good poet welds his theft into a whole of feeling which is unique, utterly different from that from which it was torn.T. S. Eliot
Show Your Work
The second most important thing you ought to know to be an artist other than to “produce good work” is to “share your work.”
It used to be very hard to share your work ten years ago or so. You have to hold exhibitions, you have to find a publisher to publish your book. But nowadays it is very easy. The Internet has provided a platform for anyone who wants to share their work.
When you open up your process and invite people in, you learn. You don’t put yourself online only because you have something to say – you can put yourself online to find something to say. The internet can be more than just a resting place to publish your finished ideas – it can also be an incubator for ideas that aren’t fully formed, a birthing center for developing work that you haven’t started yet.Austin Kloen How to Steal Like an Artist
Have nothing to share this how you can start, suggests Austin:
“Step 1: Wonder at something. Step 2: Invite others to wonder with your. You should wonder at things nobody else is wondering about. If everybody is wondering about apples; go wonder about oranges. The more open you are about sharing your passions, the closer people will feel to your work. Artist’s aren’t magicians. There is no plenty for revealing your secrets.
Be a Scenius
Most of the time we think an artist is some sort of a “genius” who is born with special talents. This is a myth. This “lone genius myth” has dissuaded my promising artists from realizing their full potential.
If you believe in the lone genius myth, creativity is an antisocial act, performed by a few great figures – mostly dead men with names like Mozart, Einstein, or Picasso. The rest of us are left to stand around and gawk in awe at their achievements.Austin Kleon Show Your Work
Austin introduces a healthier way of thinking about creativity referred to by musician Brian Eno as “scenius.” A scenius is a group of creative individuals – artists, curators, thinkers, theorists, and other tastemakers – who make up an “ecology of talent” – who generate and nurture great ideas.
According to Austin If we look back closely at history, many of the people who we think of as lone geniuses were actually part of “a whole scene of people who were supporting each other, looking at each other’s work, copying from each other, stealing ideas, and contributing ideas.”
Scenius doesn’t take away from the achievements of those great individuals; it just acknowledges that the good work isn’t created in a vacuum and that creativity is always, in some sense, a collaboration, the result of a mind connected to other minds.
“What is great about the idea of scenius,” writes Austin, “is that it makes room in the story of creativity for the rest of us: the people who don’t consider ourselves geniuses. It is not about how talented and how smart you are it is about what you have to contribute, the idea you can share, the quality of connections you can make and conversations you start.”
If we can forget about the geniuses and concentrate on how we can nurture and contribute to a scenius we can lean and grow much faster. Internet is basically is a bunch of seniuses. Blogs, social media sites, email groups and discussion board forums are the platforms where people hang out and talk about things they care about and share ideas.
Needless to say, I am implementing many of Austin Kleon’s suggestions.
Tomorrow I will introduce you to one such scenius who has helped me a great deal in starting with this blog.