BOOK REVIEW

BY SUE WILD

"Steal Like an Artist" by Austin Kleon

A young writer and poet throws out a fresh, energetic blast on creativity in the digital age. He offers 10 points about invigorating yourself and establishing a successful artist’s work ethic in a global world. His advice in a speech to school-leavers morphed into a brief, lively book. Using hand-drawn graphics and quotations from a range of poets, writers and artists over several centuries, he pours forth advice. Published in 2012, the book has become a New York Times bestseller.

Trawl the Internet, as well as life and nature, for ideas. Wear clothes with pockets that take a sketchbook like David Hockney. Populate it daily. Everything is up for grabs. Kleon quotes Steve Jobs: “Expose yourself to the best things humans have done and bring those things into your work.” Picasso: “Good artists copy. Great artists steal.” Kleon: “Copying one = plagiarism; copying many = research”, but anyway, “Try to be like Sargent and you’ll end up being yourself.” So foster your own points of difference. Don’t wait until you produce a masterpiece. Paint and share it, wrinkles and all – it’s where you’re at. Take and give - give back honest appreciation. As we say in New Zealand - “Just do it!”

What’s in this for watercolour artists of New Zealand? 18 years ago I was training teachers to use computers. Two things prodded progress: the requirement to produce school reports via a keyboard and personal email. Now, as organiser of the Gordon Harris Online Competition, I see members nudged into using digital camera, digital editing and digital sharing in order to enter competitions and exhibitions. The Society moves forward. We get visits to our website and ‘likes’ on our Facebook from all over the world. Members’ work is being shared globally. Where to next?

Austin Kleon: “Take a nugget of something that resonates with you, combine it with your own ideas, transform it into something new and share it, so that others can steal from you!” Mark Twain: “It’s better to take what does not belong to you than to let it lie around neglected.” Borrow ‘Steal Like An Artist’ from your digital library and read it on kindle, tablet or iPad.

I hear you mumbling “But I’m happy that Watercolour New Zealand posts out physical newsletters, so I can mull over wonderful watercolours in bed!”




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