Steal Like An Artist

Tobiloba Adejumo
Tobiloba Adejumo

🎨 Impressions

I started reading this book for two good reasons. For the first reason, I needed a good distraction from research work. I also needed a book I could read and complete at a stretch without breaks or pauses and this book made that happen.  While reading this book, I realized that I had practiced most of the principles it contained by closely observing the work of the people I love. Still, this is a book I will always refer to whenever I need some creative juice!

🚀 The Book in 3 Sentences

  1. Everything that needs to be said has already been said. But, since no one was listening, everything must be said again.
  2. The great thing about dead or remote masters is that they can’t refuse you as an apprentice. You can learn whatever you want from them. They left their lesson plans in their work.`
  3. Nobody is born with a style or a voice. We don’t come out of the womb knowing who we are. In the beginning, we learn by pretending to be others. We learn by copying.

Extra point:  Chew on one thinker—writer, artist, activist, role model—you really love. Study everything there is to know about that thinker. Then find three people that thinker loved, and find out everything about them. Repeat this as many times as you can.

Who Should Read It?

  • If you’ve not read a book in a long time, I suggest you start with this. All examples in it are completely relatable.
  • If you enjoy creating stuff and you feel overwhelmed and under a lot of pressure, Austin Kleon wrote this book for you.

☘️ How the Book Changed Me

  • “If you try to devour the history of your discipline all at once, you’ll choke. Chew on one thinker—writer, artist, activist, role model—you really love. Study everything there is to know about that thinker. Then find three people that thinker loved, and find out everything about them. Repeat this as many times as you can.” This book made me even more deliberate about what and who I need to focus on per time.
  • It made me generally more comfortable asking for help and review.
  • After reading this book, I started using my hands more whenever I needed to be in a creative zone rather than my keyboard.
  • It made me comfortable having a side hobby and project. I know this because grad school is demanding enough not to have a side hobby or project. But the truth is this: Ideas generally develop from these side projects. On the long run, these ideas may be helpful in research.  In Austin’s word: practice productive procrastination.

✍️ My Top 3 Quotes

  1. 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.
  2. It is better to take what does not belong to you than to let it lie around neglected.
  3. Start copying what you love. Copy copy copy copy. At the end of the copy you will find your self.

Tobiloba Adejumo

Doctoral Student, Research Assistant at The University of Illinois Chicago | Biomedical Optics and Functional Imaging Lab