Unlock your Creativity | Start Copying
As I explore creativity in my own life, I have been reading Steal Like an Artist: 10 Things Nobody Told You about Being Creative by Austin Kleon. In this book, Kleon isn’t suggesting that we plagiarize or break the law, but he does give us permission to look at the work of others for inspiration and education.
“All creative work builds on what came before. Nothing is completely original.“(pg.7)
We learn by copying. Educate yourself by copying the work of your favourite artists. Discover what they were thinking, start to see things from their perspective. Surround yourself with things that inspire you. Mashup and reimagine the work of several artists to discover your own path.
Choosing our Essential Words
At the same time I’ve been attending Andrea Bird’s Connect and Create Sessions, the same group of artists meet once a month. Andrea sends us a monthly focus that guides our discussions before and after we paint.
Andrea had us choose our essential list (read Andrea’s post about this exercise here). I’ve done this exercise before to find a list of salient words to speak to my inner critic. But this time I found it difficult to narrow down my list without a focus.
Self-imposed Creative Constraints
“It seems contradictory, but when it comes to creative work, limitations mean freedom.” (pg 137)
Before choosing my essential words I decided to constrain my focus. I created a Pinterest board and then compiled my list of words by looking at that board. Why did I pin that painting? What drew my eye? What inspires me? What do I want to steal?
(If you aren’t familiar with Pinterest read What is Pinterest? and Why You Should use it.)
Pinterest Inspiration Board
“The artist is a collector…. artists collect selectively. They only collect things that they really love… You’re only going to be as good as the stuff you surround yourself with.” (pg 13)
“Keep a swipe file. See something worth stealing? Put it in the swipe file. Need a little inspiration? Open up the swipe file.” (pg 22)
I created a private Pinterest board called Steal Like an Artist. When you Pin an image Pinterest suggests other similar images that you may also want to pin. Before I knew it I had a very narrow focus. I had pinned abstract landscapes and seascapes (see the renamed and now public board here). As I then looked at the board and analyzed why I had pinned the image, it was very easy to select my essential words from the provided list.
My Essentials List
- Interplay of Light/Dark
- Juxtaposition of diverse elements
Below is the painting I completed during the open studio following this exercise
I invite you to try this creativity exercise yourself:
- Create a Pinterest board of paintings that inspire you.
- Ask yourself—Why did I pin that painting? What drew my eye? What inspires me? What do I want to steal?
- Create a list of ten words and rank them in order of importance
- Now look at your own art and compare it to what inspires you. Can you strengthen any of these qualities that you admire in your own encaustic paintings?
- Now go and make art.
You’ll find that as you paint you aren’t copying one single painting but you are creating something that is your own work.
Please add a comment. I would love to hear if this creativity exercise was helpful for you. And pick up a copy of Steal Like an Artist: 10 Things Nobody Told You about Being Creative by Austin Kleon.
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- Artist Conversation with Andrea Bird - May 23, 2021
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- Yes, You Can Paint with Encaustic on Plexiglass - December 13, 2020
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