Book Review: Steal Like an Artist and Show Your Work! by Austin Kleon


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Book Review:

Steal Like an Artist and Show Your Work! by Austin Kleon


Reviewed By

Erin M. Hartshorn

Copyright © 2015, Erin M. Hartshorn, All Rights Reserved


This pair of books takes a very practical approach to living a creative life, whether that’s as a visual artist, a writer, or a musician. The first book, Steal Like an Artist, talks about drawing inspiration from everywhere, and the value in tracing back the roots of what inspires you. For example, because I enjoyed these books by Kleon, it would behoove me to look at the books he cites (both at the end for further reading and throughout the books as he makes various points) to see what else I can learn from the same sources he drew from -- and then look at where those authors drew their inspiration from and see if there’s more there that I can learn. (Yes, this has exponentially increased my already huge TBR pile, but that’s not a bad thing. It gives me more material to steal from.)

Kleon also discusses starting before you think you’re ready so you can learn what it is you need to learn, the importance of hobbies and side projects, and why we should make an effort to be nice (which one would hope most of us learned before now, but it’s never bad to be reminded). He talks about Impostor Syndrome, faking it till you make it, and the value of being obscure enough to experiment without people staring at you.

Then he takes one of the topics from Steal Like an Artist (“Do good work and share it with people”) and expands it into its own book with Show Your Work! The item that stuck with me most from this book was “Share something small every day.” That can be on a blog, on Twitter, on Tumblr, on YouTube, or whatever way you like to connect to the world. It can be a snippet from a work in progress, it can be something interesting from research and background reading, it can be an artist who has inspired you to create, it can be what you’re reading or listening to, or if you have a bunch of stuff already out in the world, it can be about how something that’s been out for a while is doing.

What’s the point of doing this? People like stories. They want to know about how you came to create a particular work, they want to feel they know you, they want to know who and why and how. They want to feel they have a personal connection with you, and providing this background helps them to make that emotional investment, which is why he also has chapters called “Open up your cabinet of curiosities” and “Tell good stories.”

Neither of these books promises to make you rich, famous, or successful. “You can’t plan on anything; you can only go about your work...You can’t count on success; you can only leave open the possibility for it, and be ready to jump on and take the ride when it comes for you.”

I wholeheartedly recommend these books to anyone who lives a creative life.


Steal Like an Artist: 10 Things Nobody Told You About Being Creative

Workman Publishing



Show Your Work! 10 Ways to Share Your Creativity and Get Discovered

Workman Publishing