How to steal like an Artist

How to steal… Now there’s a title that stands out.

Stealing is bad right?  Well, yes, but there’s more to it, says Austin Kleon – award winning book author. His book “Steal like an Artist” is a New York Times Bestseller, and has inspired millions of artists worldwide.  Filled with fun doodles and quirky diagrams, this small book is a fairly quick read, but with a lasting impact. It will provide you with tools and insights that will stick with you throughout your entire creative journey.

While we feel like this book is an absolutely must-read for every creative person (from visual artists to writers, and more), we will try and touch on our most important take away from it – the general premise of the book: stealing like an artist.


The book explains that ‘stealing’ creatively does not entail copying verbatim, but rather reinterpreting.  In this new world, almost nothing is original, and instead of fight
ing it, you should take advantage of it.  Copying another artist’s work is considered plagiarism, and is a big no-no, but if you are influenced by many artists and combine all your favourite aspects of their works into a single piece and build on top of it, it will create something completely new.

You can even apply it to modern day inventions.  Think about the smartphone.  The smartphone was built on the idea of a traditional cellphone with added features from computers, gaming consoles and the internet.  Traditional cellphones were built off of the idea of normal landline phones.  Landline phones were an answer to writing letters and sending messages with morse code, which could even be linked back to carrier pigeons and smoke signals.  I’m sure you can see where we’re going with this.

We might be getting a little off topic, but consider this as an artistic example.  You want to create an original art style?  Why not combine striking design elements of art deco posters with the fun style of modern day cartoons, and then use traditional oil paint as your medium.  Or creating an entire comic book in Picasso’s cubism style, but using watercolour as your medium.  Would it be appealing?  Maybe, maybe not, but I’m sure we can all agree that it would be considered fairly ‘original’, right?  Right.

The idea is to study the works of many-many different artists and art movements that you like, and to combine them to create something new.  This will dilute your influences so much that it will not be considered copying anymore, but rather a reinterpretation or, if you’re lucky, a totally original art style.


Breaking the fourth wall for a second.  During my design degree at college, my first year lecturers presented us with an illustration assignment.  The assignment asked that we create an illustration by combining the works of three different artists that we love.  The catch was that every artist had to have a vastly different style from the others, as well as a different medium, and our task was to throw all three into a blender and see what would happen – almost as if all three artists were to collaborate on a single piece.  If I remember correctly, my chosen artists at the time were Keaton Henson, Hydro74, and Alphonse Mucha.  I’d go as far as to say this was really where my early art style originated from, and over years and years I’ve been building on, and evolving it into what it is today.  Moving on!

Reinterpretation is such a strong approach.  Adding something new into the mix can yield incredibly results.  If you think about it, people must have been making vanilla cake for decades until someone said “maybe we should add some cocoa”, and we’re sure they didn’t realise the impact that, that would have.

‘Stealing’ can come in many forms.  Whether it picking apart and recombining different art styles, ‘borrowing’ a composition or character pose from an art piece you love, or even something subtle, like drawing character noses in the same style as your favourite artist.  As long as you are not leaning on any one particular artist’s work so much that people recognise your work as that artist’s work, you should be golden. Always tread lightly and and keep adding new influences into the mix as you progress and you will find your own artistic voice before you know it.

This just touches the surface of the content of the book, so we definitely recommend reading it!

Start today – create the art that YOU want to see!

For more on this book visit

Leave a Reply