‘Steal Like an Artist’

During class last week something triggered a memory I have about a book I remember my friend buying one time as we were out shopping in the city. After a quick phone call, she put me onto Austin Kleaton’s book ‘Steal like an artist: 10 things nobody told you about being creative’. The book is a kind of manifesto to the creative, and emphasises the point that no idea or work is ever completely original. Influence is inevitable, should the artist erect roadblocks in effort to prevent unoriginality, they would ironically be smothering the creative process.


After searching Kleon online looking for material to include in this blog post, I came across a talk he performed to some American students which went viral and is oh so relevant (see below).

“Nothing is original. Steal from anywhere that resonates with inspiration or fuels your imagination. Devour old films, new films, music, books, paintings, photographs, poems, dreams, random conversations, architecture, bridges, street signs, trees, clouds, bodies of water, light and shadows. Select only things to steal from that speak directly to your soul. If you do this, your work (and theft) will be authentic. Authenticity is invaluable; originality is non-existent. And don’t bother concealing your thievery – celebrate it if you feel like it. In any case, always remember what Jean-Luc Godard said: “It’s not where you take things from – it’s where you take them to.”

– Jim Jarmusch’s ‘Golden Rules of Filming’

Noteworthy director Jim Jarmusch is prominently about celebrating the culture of the world. This is reflected not only from within his works, but in his philosophy.

The world is shared, so why not embrace diversity and similarity as one? The new grows from the old, and the old from the new, neither able to exist without the other. Co-dependant. Likewise a film is the result of a combining of efforts, efforts from those who contributed to its production, as well as efforts of those who inspired ideas. So. How could one person/company simply say they ‘own’ the work?

I put ‘A film by’ as a protection of my rights, but I don’t really believe it. It’s important for me to have a final cut, and I do for every film. So I’m in the editing room every day, I’m the navigator of the ship, but I’m not the captain, I can’t do it without everyone’s equally valuable input. For me it’s phases where I’m very solitary, writing, and then I’m preparing, getting the money, and then I’m with the crew and on a ship and it’s amazing and exhausting and exhilarating, and then I’m alone with the editor again … I’ve said it before, it’s like seduction, wild sex, and then pregnancy in the editing room. That’s how it feels for me.

– Jim Jarmusch



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