Steal Something

Every good artist will balk at that statement. Every great artist will admit to it. Artists collect everything that they see, read, watch, observe, learn. It’s in our nature to collect everything, internalize it, and then save it for later. Sometimes it’s in the form of ideas. Sometimes they’re more tangible – like the file of 1,000+ photos I have saved on my hard drive, methodically divided into groups, like Print & Packaging, Color Combinations, Web, etc. If I like it, I’ll save it. Even worse is my collection of quotes, but that’s something for another post.

The best thing I ever did with those files, however, was steal an idea. I discovered Austin Kleon’s blog, which is beautiful and illustrated and I wanted to do something just like it.

So I did. I started illustrating articles when I read them. I took notes, used a combination of four colored Sharpie pens, and then drew pictures.

It was a little like being back in high school again. You know, where you drew pictures in the margins, wrote words and outlined them over and over and over again until you accidentally ripped a hole in the paper with your pen.

And it was soothing. I used this opportunity to experiment with typography, sketching, different types of lettering, color combinations, contrast, and hierarchy. Sure, it took me three times longer to read an entire article, but I felt like I was involving myself in the process. I wasn’t skimming over words while my mind wandered.

And to think, it was all because I stole an idea.

Now, to be fair, it wasn’t exactly what Austin was doing over on his own blog. He drew comics and posted them, he had lots of black backgrounds and white text. I was all about the sketch-style lettering, grids, and hierarchy.

Do I feel like a better artist because of it?

Absolutely. I kept myself immersed in my craft in two ways – I was reading articles about my craft and I was actively pursuing it.

And even better, it helped me solve one of my biggest problems – not making anything. In the past, I would read articles – which helped me learn great things, mind you – but I wasn’t practicing what they were preaching.

Which kind of defeated the purpose.

And while this work that I’m making is definitely not worthy of publishing, definitely not going into my portfolio, I secretly adore looking back at it. I think it’s pretty awesome if I do say so myself.