Wednesday, November 28, 2012

Steal Like an Artist

The day I realized I wanted to become an artist was the day I started blogging, approximately 3 years ago. It wasn’t so much the writing that got to me. Honestly I didn’t write all that much back then. It was the blogs that I had stumbled across. I felt like I uncovered some deep dark secret treasure. I couldn’t believe how many young and contemporary artists were out there! I’ve always liked art, and have always been inclined to it as a kid, but I never knew many artists. And the art I knew were along the lines of drawing basically, and coloring, and crafts. In here, I saw quite clearly for the first time, color and patterns and design and illustration and just mind-blowing art. I would spend my nights in front of my laptop, poring over art blogs one after the other, admiring different works from different artists. Some from professionals, some from mere amateurs, which were all the more intriguing. I was so amazed by it all. I thought, wow! How clever they must be to think up such unique ideas. I was seeing them for the first time, so to me, they were downright brilliant, and original. And then I wondered. The Earth has a human population of about 7 billion, out of which, (I’m just guessing here) probably about 10% are artists. And I’m not just referring to professional ones who make a living by creating expensive aesthetic pieces that get shown on galleries. I mean illustrators, web designers, graphic designers, interior decorators, costume designers, even amateurs and students. These people think of new ideas everyday. And so I thought, will there come a time, when everyone has finally run out of ideas to come up with? When there isn’t a single design that no one has ever thought of before? And if that happens, then what?

I suppose my question then was largely on originality. Of course, this was a question from a person who has had no experience whatsoever, and who has absolutely no clue on what she was doing.

Fast forward to today. Me, just as frustrated as ever, beginning to get the hang of this art thing, nonetheless frustrated. I was browsing through Brain Pickings when I read about Austin Kleon’s book, Steal Like an Artist. The title is intriguing enough, so I head over to his blog and watch a video of his talk with some students, and voila! I found the answer to a question I asked myself 3 years ago that I have almost forgotten.

It’s funny how I never realized it before. I’ve always wondered about it as a future possibility, I’ve never thought of it as currently occurring. Everything those artists I came across in the beginning had made, had probably been done before, more than once I bet. But done in a different way. Because that’s just how it works. Nothing comes from nothing. People have to get ideas somewhere. Those new ideas, they aren’t actually new. They have been thought of before.

Back then, whenever I saw something I really liked, like a picture or a painting or a design, I would want to express it in my own way. So, I’d sit in my desk, open my watercolor pad, and try my hardest to paint something as nice as the thing I saw. And I would just try to come up with something from the top of my head. I would stop myself from opening my laptop and going through the internet for fear that I might ‘copy’ what I would see. I wanted to create something ‘original’. I guess you can see that I never really understood the word.

Often times, I end up staring at my blank pad for 20 minutes before closing it again. And then I’d wonder (out loud often), where do other artists get inspiration?

Silly me.

Austin Kleon hit the bull’s eye when he said, ”Steal!” Woody Allen has said it, David Bowie has said it, even Steve Jobs has said it. I guess I need not worry about those great ideas running out then, since there are plenty to steal from. Great artists steal. And so shall I! ^^,

With that said, I’m “ripping off” Austin Kleon and made my own black out poem. Taking my cue from his blog, here’s what I’ve come up with.

Philosophy enables eternity.
Embrace fresh movement.
Take faith,
courageous champions!

I didn't use newspaper. I used study material from one of our Buddhist study meetings, thus the philosophical-y output :-)

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