Steal Like an Artist

Austin Kleon

Inspiration through stealing

First of all, I have to say that I really enjoyed reading this book. Kleon has a way of writing that is both informative and entertaining, which makes it an easy and enjoyable read.

The premise of the book is that all artists steal, but the key is to steal the right way. Kleon argues that instead of copying someone else’s work directly, artists should take inspiration from a variety of sources and incorporate those ideas into their own unique work.

One of the things I appreciated about this book is that it’s not just for artists in the traditional sense. Kleon defines ‘art’ broadly and encourages anyone who creates anything, whether it’s writing, music, or even a business, to think like an artist and adopt the principles he outlines.

Examples and exercises

Another aspect of the book that I found helpful is that Kleon doesn’t just offer abstract ideas, he provides concrete examples and exercises that readers can use to put his advice into practice. For example, he suggests creating a ‘Swipe File of inspiration and regularly taking time to explore new ideas and artists in order to fuel your own creative output.


In 2015, Kleon published The Steal Like An Artist Journal with prompts to inspire you. In the back cover is a pocket to keep things for a ‘Swipe File’. Initially I found myself dipping in and out and choosing a prompt that suited my mood. More recently I have started working through the prompts sequentially. I like the challenge.

Kleon’s Journal instructions suggest that:

“By the time all these pages are full, you’ll have learned how to look at your influences and your everyday life as raw material for your work. You’ll be ready to take what you’ve stolen, turn it into work of your own, and release it back into the world, so we can steal from you.”

Overall, I found Steal Like an Artist a useful reminder to research other artists, look at the work of others and search out new ideas. I felt a renewed enthusiasm towards my sketch book and started using it as a place to store bits and pieces I found inspirational. Kleon’s writing style is engaging and approachable, and the principles he outlines are practical and easy to implement. Whether you’re an artist or just someone who wants to tap into your creative potential, this book is definitely worth a read.

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