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April 12, 2022

Book notes on Steal like an artist (12/12)


Author’s Recommendations

  • What it is - Lynda Barry

    • How do objects summon memories? What do real images feel like? For decades, these types of questions have permeated the pages of Lynda Barry’s compositions. 

    • What It Is demonstrates a tried-and-true creative method that is playful, powerful, and accessible to anyone with an inquisitive wish to write or to remember. “The ordinary is extraordinary.”

  • Ignore Everybody - Hugh Macleod

    • How do new ideas emerge in a cynical, risk-averse world? Where does inspiration come from? What does it take to make a living as a creative person? 

    • Ignore Everybody expands on MacLeod's sharpest insights, wittiest cartoons, and most useful advice. After learning MacLeod's forty keys to creativity, you will be ready to unlock your own brilliance and unleash it on the world.

  • Rework - Jason Fried, David Heinemeine Hanson

    • Rework shows you a better, faster, easier way to succeed in business. Read it and you'll know why plans are actually harmful, and why you're better off ignoring the competition. The truth is, you need less than you think. What you really need to do is stop talking and start working. You'll learn how to be more productive, and tons more counterintuitive ideas that will inspire and provoke you.

    • With its straightforward language and easy-is-better approach, Rework is the perfect playbook for anyone who’s ever dreamed of doing it on their own. Hardcore entrepreneurs, small-business owners, people stuck in day jobs they hate, victims of "downsizing," and artists who don’t want to starve anymore will all find valuable guidance in these pages.

  • The Gift - Lewis Hyde

    • “A manifesto of sorts for anyone who makes art [and] cares for it.” —Zadie Smith

    • “The best book I know of for talented but unacknowledged creators. . . . A masterpiece.” —Margaret Atwood

    • “No one who is invested in any kind of art . . . can read The Gift and remain unchanged.” —David Foster Wallace

    • By now a modern classic, The Gift is a brilliantly orchestrated defense of the value of creativity and of its importance in a culture increasingly governed by money and overrun with commodities. This book is even more necessary today than when it first appeared.

    • An illuminating and transformative book, and completely original in its view of the world, The Gift is cherished by artists, writers, musicians, and thinkers. It is in itself a gift to all who discover the classic wisdom found in its pages.

  • The Ecstasy of Influence - Jonathan Lethem

    • What’s a novelist supposed to do with contemporary culture? And what’s contemporary culture sup­posed to do with novelists? In The Ecstasy of Influence, Jonathan Lethem, tangling with what he calls the “white elephant” role of the writer as public intellectual, arrives at an astonishing range of answers.

    • A constellation of previously published pieces and new essays as provocative and idiosyncratic as any he’s written, this volume sheds light on an array of topics from sex in cinema to drugs, graffiti, Bob Dylan, cyberculture, 9/11, book touring, and Marlon Brando, as well as on a shelf’s worth of his literary models and contemporaries: Norman Mailer, Paula Fox, Bret Easton Ellis, James Wood, and oth­ers. 

  • Reality Hunger - David Shields

    • An open call for new literary and other art forms to match the complexities of the twenty-first century.

    • Reality TV dominates broadband. YouTube and Facebook dominate the web. In Reality Hunger: A Manifesto, his landmark new book, David Shields (author of the New York Times best seller The Thing About Life Is That One Day You’ll Be Dead) argues that our culture is obsessed with “reality” precisely because we hardly experience any.

    • Drawing on myriad sources, Shields takes an audacious stance on issues that are being fought over now and will be fought over far into the future. People will either love or hate this book. Its converts will see it as a rallying cry; its detractors will view it as an occasion for defending the status quo. It is certain to be one of the most controversial and talked-about books of the year.

  • Understanding Comics - Scott McCloud

    • This book is a seminal examination of comics art: its rich history, surprising technical components, and major cultural significance. Explore the secret world between the panels, through the lines, and within the hidden symbols of a powerful but misunderstood art form.

  • Bird by Bird - Anne Lamot

    • “Thirty years ago my older brother, who was ten years old at the time, was trying to get a report on birds written that he’d had three months to write. It was due the next day. We were out at our family cabin in Bolinas, and he was at the kitchen table close to tears, surrounded by binder paper and pencils and unopened books on birds, immobilized by the hugeness of the task ahead. Then my father sat down beside him, put his arm around my brother’s shoulder, and said, ‘Bird by bird, buddy. Just take it bird by bird.’”

  • Flow - Mihaly Csikszentmihalyi

    • Pronounced “me-hi * chick-sent-me-hi-ee”

    • What makes a good life? Is it money? An important job? Leisure time? Mihaly Csikszentmihalyi believes our obsessive focus on such measures has led us astray. Work fills our days with anxiety and pressure, so that during our free time, we tend to live in boredom, watching TV or absorbed by our phones.

    • What are we missing? To answer this question, Csikszentmihalyi studied thousands of people, and he found the key. People are happiest when they challenge themselves with tasks that demand a high degree of skill and commitment, and which are undertaken for their own sake. Instead of watching television, play the piano. Take a routine chore and figure out how to do it better, faster, more efficiently. In short, learn the hidden power of complete engagement, a psychological state the author calls flow. Though they appear simple, the lessons in Finding Flow are life-changing. 

  • Make a World - Ed Emberly

    • Emberley shows young artists how drawing simple shapes can lead to more complex renderings of objects in the world around them.

April 11, 2022

Book notes on Steal like an artist (part 11/12)

 What now?

  • Go on a walk
    • I go on the treadmill five days a week. Some days I’ll watch a tv show, movie, or video. Other times I will listen to music and daydream while watching art videos or browsing my art collection for creative inspiration.
    • During the nice months I try to go on outside walks, especially in wooded areas. I’ll listen to my favorite music and daydream while enjoying the scenery and atmosphere. Now that we have the modern conveniences of camera phones, I can take photos of anything that happens to inspire me.
    • Go to the library
    • I am making an active effort to always have a book checked out from the library. There are many things I want to learn about and when I read a book I take notes on it for later so I can retain what I learned. 
  • Write in a notebook
    • I keep a notebook for note-keeping and general writing, as well as a consistent daily log that goes back to 2016. 
    • I enjoy writing about my ideas and things that inspire me. It adds more depth to my work and changes how I perceive the world around me.
  • Get a calendar
    • I do not keep a calendar right now. If I did, how would I use it? 
    • Self-imposed goals and deadlines
    • Write the most important thing/s that happened that day
  • Start an activity log
    • As part of my effort to escape this slog, I need to get back into my habit of keeping daily to-do lists. At the very least, I do keep an activity log, as mentioned above. 
  • Tell someone about this book
    • In my senior thesis class, we were all issued a copy of this book to borrow. I took these notes at the last second before I had to give it back.
  • Start a blog
    • I have my art tumblr but it would be cool to bring back an old-school internet style blog with articles and journal entries. I’m willing to share at least some of the stuff on my mind. Feeling nostalgic for FC2 and Livejournal days.
  • Take a nap
    • I wish I could nap at work. How come kindergarteners get nap time but we don’t? I need a nap more than they do.

April 10, 2022

Book notes on Steal like an artist (part 10/12)

 Chapter 10: Creativity is subtraction

  • We live in the age of an information flood. Too much useless information
  • Choose what to leave out and concentrate on what’s most important
  • Nothing is more paralyzing than the idea of limitless possibilities
  • Get over art block by placing constraints on yourself
    • See list of improvisatory art challenges. I’m looking for new ways to limit what I have to work with. Only use one type of brush, limit it to 3 colors, etc. 
    • I am especially fascinated by older video games and computer technology because of all the hardware limitations. It forced the developers to be more creative with their solutions, which produced interesting results.
  • Don’t make excuses! Make things with what you have now. 
    • You don’t need the fanciest tools to make something good. The mark of a good artist is making the best of what’s available, even if it’s crayons in your grandma’s basement.
  • Don’t save it for a special occasion that may never come
    • This ties back into an earlier note: if you wait until you’re ready, you’ll never start.
    • You must allow yourself to fail
  • What the artist chooses to leave out is what makes the art interesting
    • Lately, this is what my art has been all about. I am very interested in how I can apply this philosophy to my work. See document on Super Mario 64

April 9, 2022

Book notes on Steal like an artist (part 9/12)

Chapter 9: Be boring

  • Being boring is the only way to get work done.
  • Be regular and orderly in your life so that you may be violent and original in your work
  • Take care of your well-being
    • It takes a lot of energy to be creative. Conserve your energy for it
    • I used to neglect my health in the form of staying up until 3am every night. Now, I keep a healthy sleep schedule. Still tired all the time tho.
  • Stay out of debt
    • Make a budget
    • Say no to consumption culture
    • Save as much as you can
  • Keep your day job until you can do art full-time
    • Provides financial security
    • Puts you in the path of other human beings
    • Learning new skills that can be used for art, such as research, selling, and web design
    • I don’t want to do art as a full-time career. After lots of soul searching I have decided I’m happier keeping my art as a hobby. I enjoy the freedom of doing art on my own terms, instead of toiling for somebody else’s dream.
  • Establishing a routine is more important than having a lot of free time
    • How much time can I set aside for art?
    • Get a calendar and plan work with concrete goals
    • Get a streak going
    • I need to get back into making to-do lists. I should also make better use of the calendar and impose deadlines on myself to improve discipline
    • I am currently thinking about how I can allot more time for art in my schedule. It’s been almost completely pushed out of my life without me realizing. It’s no wonder I’ve been in a rut. 
  • Keep a log book
    • List what you do every day. Small details remember you remember the big details
    • I keep multiple notebooks for writing and record-keeping.  I have been able to stay committed to this habit for multiple years and I am proud of that. It has come in handy many times.
  • What’s the best thing that happened today?
    • Encourages a more positive perspective
    • Better than the automatic negative bias
    • How did I challenge myself today?
  • Marry well; a good partner will keep you grounded.
    • Not limited to just romantic partners. It can be family, friends, or roommates. The right person, regardless of their role in your life, will hold you accountable.

April 8, 2022

Book notes on Steal like an artist (part 8/12)

 Chapter 8: Be nice. The world is a small town

  • Make friends and ignore enemies
    • For the love of god, don’t engage haters! If you get a rude comment, don’t give them the satisfaction of acknowledging it. You win by ignoring them.
  • If you talk about someone online, they will find out eventually. Just be nice
  • You can judge a person’s character by the company they keep. I.e. you’re only as good as the people you surround yourself with
    • Who are your friends IRL and online? What do you talk about when you’re together? Do you focus on fun and productive activities, or do you gossip and bring others down?
  • Follow the best people online
    • Better, smarter, more successful than you
    • People doing something interesting
    • Pay attention to what these people are doing and talking about
  • Find the most talented person in the room, and if it’s not you, go stand next to them. Hang out with them and try to be helpful
    • I wish I could hang out with Erin Hanson and watch her work. At the very least, maybe someday I can visit California and see her gallery, or even meet her. Now that would be awesome.
    • Fantasy: What if I could go back in time to meet Louis Wain and learn more about his creative works. That would be so awesome! 
  • Quit picking fights on Twitter and go make something. Channel your anger into your work if needed.
    • Quit Twitter altogether! The less time I spend on social media the better. It’s such a toilet fire these days it’s not even worth going online anymore.
  • Complain about the way other people do XYZ by making your own XYZ.
    • I hate that generic main character design they use in every anime. They all look. EXACTLY. THE. SAME.
    • When characters are shown in a flashback and they look literally exactly the same but with child’s proportions. I want to know more about what the character was like back then.
    • Lazy gender bending art. You're essentially drawing a different character with a different name. Do more than changing their chest and hair length. Please
    • Queerbaiting in stories. I’m tired of getting my hopes up only for the writers to chicken out by saying, “Just kidding they’re straight, you’re stupid for reading too much into this!” A recent show I loved, Our Flag Means Death, is one giant middle finger to big-time offenders like Supernatural and Sherlock.
  • Write fan letters to artists you admire
    • This is a good creative exercise. It could be literally any artist, ever. I’ll write a letter to Louis Wain. That would be fun.
    • What other artists would I want to write to?
      • Erin Hanson
      • Yuu Watase
      • Mia Ikumi (RIP)
  • The best way to get approval is to not need it. Don’t seek external validation
    • This is way easier said than done. External validation is a human need that’s hardwired into our brains since prehistoric times since it was necessary for survival. But it is possible to find some degree of validation within yourself. It’s a slow process of resilience and self-growth.
    • You have little to no control over how people will react to your work
    • Keep a text file filled with external praise for times you’re feeling discouraged
      • This reminds me of Tiger & Bunny season 2 x 13 when Magical Cat opened up the good luck pouch she received from Dragon Kid. It wasn’t a magical macguffin but a handwritten letter encouraging her. I thought that was very sweet and it demonstrated how empowering it can be when someone else believes in you.
    • But don’t rely on it all the time. Can be effective in a pinch.
  • Modern art = “I could make that!” + “Yeah, but you didn’t!”
    • It’s worth noting that many people have attempted to imitate Jackson Pollock’s famous splatter paintings, but you can always tell which ones are actually his. Abstract art is more nuanced than people think.
    • My Kid Could Paint That: turns out they can’t. Dad was doing all the work.

April 7, 2022

Book notes on Steal like an artist (part 7/12)

 Chapter 7: Geography is no longer our master

  • Most art related fellowship is online these days
    • But since the time of this book, social media has totally changed from how it used to be. I’ll hold myself back from ranting, but it’s not a great place for artists these days.
  • Create your own inner world
    • People have always said I live in my own little world. Introvert for life!
  • Distance and difference are the secret tonic of creativity. When we get home, home is still the same. But something in our mind has changed, and that changes everything.
    • You should leave home at least once.
    • I wrote in my notes for How to do Nothing by Jenny Odell: When we experience new things, as ideas of people and places become a palpable reality, our home no longer (at least temporarily) feels like the center of reality. That’s why it feels weird coming home after spending the night somewhere else.
  • Travel makes the world look new, making our brains work harder
  • Live and work around interesting people. They don’t necessarily have to be doing the same things as you.
    • It’s more interesting that way anyway. Everyone has a different story, something to teach, something to learn. You won't get that if you’re always hanging around the same people as yourself.

April 6, 2022

Book notes on Steal like an artist (part 6/12)

 Chapter 6: Do good work and share it with others

  • Post your work online. What can I fill my website with?
    • Show glimpses of the process
    • Teasers
    • Share tips
    • Links to interesting articles etc
    • Recommend books
  • Obscurity is a blessing when you’re starting your journey
    • I’m sure it’s awesome being a popular artist online but I really enjoy working in obscurity. I don’t feel obligated to dance for other people. I just do what I want, when I want. It’s pretty great.
  • People aren’t mean or cruel, just busy with their own lives.
  • When you’re unknown, you have more creative freedom to do what you want.
    • No pressure to please others
    • Nothing to distract you from getting better
  • Wonder at something and invite others to wonder with you.
    • When brainstorming an idea, I always start with what the idea means to me. When I post the art, I try to propose a question or food for thought to promote conversation. It’s a fun way to connect with others.
  • Give your secrets away and teach your unique art methods
    • Open up your process and invite people in
    • You will both learn new things and it becomes a creative conversation.
    • I want other people to learn my stained glass art style so I don’t have to do it anymore. It’s tedious work.
    • Some historical examples of creative conversation: How Disney cartoons influenced anime; or how ukiyo-e inspired art nouveau. In both these cases, the style went back and forth until it developed into the many unique styles we know of today.
  • When posting online, you’re only as good as your last post
    • This doesn’t help me overcome my perfectionism. 

April 5, 2022

Book notes on Steal like an artist (part 5/12)

Chapter 5: Side projects and hobbies are important

  • The work you do while procrastinating is what you should be doing for the rest of your life.
    • The problem for me is I go through obsessive phases every several months. I went through a marker phase, then I went through a file cleanup phase, now I’m in a PDF writing phase. I get bored doing the same thing consistently.
  • Practice productive procrastination
    • Some of my phases are more productive than others. File cleanup, scanning, or typing up written documents are good. Other times I’m obsessed with a video game or napping.
  • It’s side projects that really take off- things that were born out of messing around.
    • Get lost and let yourself wander. You never know where it’ll take you
    • Good ideas stem from being bored
    • Improvisation creates beautiful things. As of writing these personal responses to the notes, I’m creating a list of interesting ways to improvise with my art.
  • Alternate between projects
    • This really helps keep the ball rolling. If I finish a project and have nothing to work on, it’s hard to get started on something new. It also gives me something to look forward to, and keeps me from getting burnt out on the same project.
  • Avoiding work is the way to focus my mind
  • Your passions are not mutually exclusive. You can have more than one.
    • Don’t throw any of yourself away
    • I have many different art-related interests, like digital art, croquis, markers, and painting.
  • Don’t leave your longings unattended
  • Don’t worry about unity from piece to piece. What matters is that you made all of it.
    • I think that eventually your work will become consistent in some way or another. It’s important to keep learning and experimenting.
  • Let your hobbies talk to each other. It creates new connections in your head.
    • What I learn from one medium will carry over to others. For example, traditional mediums like markers and oil painting changed the way I approach coloring digitally, and vice versa.

April 4, 2022

Book notes on Steal like an artist (part 4/12)

 Chapter 4: Use your hands

  • Make art that exists in a physical space. It’s a very different experience from working with digital. It involves more physical movement.
  • When I took the notes on this chapter I was suuuuuper salty. I took it as a personal attack because I liked digital more than traditional. I was probably also mad because I didn’t make it into the senior thesis exhibition. All of my work was digital.
  • I’ve changed my mind now and really enjoy working with traditional mediums. I realize now that it wasn’t saying digital art is bad- it just means to expand your horizons and see how your different experiences talk to each other.

April 3, 2022

Book notes on Steal like an artist (Part 3/12)

 Chapter 3: Write the book you want to read

  • Like creating fan works, but something original
  • Think about your heroes
    • What didn’t they make?
    • What could they have done better?
    • What do I want to borrow from them?
  • If your favorite artists all collaborated with you as the director, what would be made? Now go and make that!
    • Director: Me
    • Cat artist: Louis Wain
    • Background artist: Erin Hanson
    • Character designers (XX): Ethel Hays, Yuu Watase
    • Character designers (XY): Tadashi Hiramatsu
    • Story: This is a good one, lemme think on that
    • Music: Akiko Shikata
  • I’m going to keep myself from overthinking this staff roll. It deserves its own document so I could think about it more in depth. This is just a starter.
  • It would be fun to make a list of other “staff members” to rotate through. I can’t pick just one.

April 2, 2022

Book notes on Steal like an artist (Part 2/12)


Chapter 2: Good theft, bad theft

  • Don’t wait until you know who you are to get started

    • You are ready now. 

    • Start making stuff now.

    • Imagine the protagonist of your favorite story if they waited until they were ready.
      You would never get to have that story.

  • Fake it until you make it

    • Everyone is winging it, even the pros.

    • Pretend you’re successful until you actually are.

    • Pretend to make something til you actually make something

    • Dress for the job you want, not the job you have

  • Start copying; it’s how we learn

    • Many anime artists started with Sailor Moon. For me, it was Fushigi Yuugi,
      Tokyo Mew Mew, and Inuyasha.

    • Copying isn’t plagiarism, it’s reverse engineering

  • Those who don't imitate anything, produce nothing.

    • For the longest time I tried to produce art from imagination as much as possible.
      I thought using references was cheating and only used them sparingly.
      I robbed myself of so many learning opportunities by trying to act noble.

  • Figure out who and what to copy: Copy your heroes

    • Louis Wain: Cats

    • Erin Hanson: Scenery

    • Art deco: Women

    • Fanart: Men

      Compare and contrast between you and your heroes.
      Where do you fall short?
      Identify and amplify what makes you different from them.

    • You start by rewriting your hero’s catalog.

    • I want to revisit my favorite artists. I made collages for them already,
      but I would like to write an in-depth document so I can explore
      more about their work and what I like about it.

  • Stealing from 1 = Plagiarism. Stealing from 10 = Research

    • It’s very obvious when someone is only using one particular artist for inspiration.
      You don’t want to be a dollar store copy of your idol. It’s important to borrow
      bits and pieces from different sources.

  • Don’t just steal the style. 

    • Steal the thinking behind their style- get a glimpse into their minds.

    • Move from imitating them to emulating them

    • Learn more about their lives. Art process videos, articles, etc. What kind of
      philosophies or events in their lives profoundly affected their work?

  • You are not the same as your heroes. You need to adapt the practices you like
    and make those your own.

    • I am not a dollar store copy of Louis Wain, Erin Hanson, or Yuu Watase.
      But there are things I love about their art that I can incorporate into my work,
      making it my own but also acknowledging my creative heritage.

  • It is our failure to become our perceived ideal that ultimately defines us
    and makes us unique. It's not easy, but if you accept your misfortune
    and handle it right, your perceived failure can become a catalyst
    for profound reinvention
    - Conan O’Brien

    • I agree with this message: I don’t believe in labeling myself as anything
      whether it’s who I am or what I do. I can do whatever I want. In the
      words of Mob Psycho 100: Your life is your own.

  • Humans can never make a perfect copy; that’s where we discover our own style
    and how it evolves.

Good theft

Bad theft

  • Honor

  • Study

  • Steal from many

  • Credit

  • Transform

  • Remix

  • Degrade

  • Skim

  • Steal from one

  • Plagiarize

  • Imitate

  • Rip off

April 1, 2022

Book notes on Steal like an artist (Part 1 / 12)

Book notes on Steal like an artist, by Austin Kleon

 Notes: I originally took notes on this book in 2018. I typed them up in April of this year, adding personal reflections to my notes, displayed in orange.

Chapter 1: Creative Lineage

  • When people give advice, they’re talking to their past selves.
    • I wish I could go back in time and mentor myself. I had to learn many lessons the hard way because I didn’t seek much guidance from others.
  • Is it worth stealing? If not, then move on.
    • The only art I study is stuff I can steal from - David Bowie
    • While doing my file cleanup, I followed a set of rules I made for myself to determine which images were worth keeping.
    • What do I like about it? Does it spark any emotions?
    • Would I pay to keep this image?
    • Would I pay to have a physical copy of this image?
    • Does this image inspire me in some way?
    • Is there something I could learn from this image?
  • We are free from the burden of being 100% original. Nothing is original
    • You can’t create something out of a vacuum
    • Ideas are just mashups of other existing ideas
    • “What has been will be again, what has been done will be done again; there is nothing new under the sun.” - The Bible
    • One of my biggest regrets is trying to draw entirely from imagination. I didn’t get much done that way.
  • Collect and curate ideas to be influenced by- things that speak to your soul
    • Louis Wain’s artworks, especially those produced later in life which have a timeless quality. Colorful and cartoon-like, but also hints at the profound sadness and inner turmoil in his personal life
    • Erin Hanson’s colorful scenery paintings that shine like jewels. I have never seen colors that pop with such spectacular vibrance.
    • Stained glass: Beautiful, epic, and majestic. Its many colors and patterns glitter in the sunlight
    • Art deco: The perfect combination of simplicity, modern color and form. Cute tomboyish girls expressing their newfound social freedoms. Not only do I love the visual style, but to me it is a symbol of hope and radical social progress.