I love “Steal Like an Artist,” by Austin Kleon.
What an eye-opener this book was. We often get stuck in the idea that our art must be entirely original, that everything we create has to be something never before seen. So not true!
The problem with that is if we deny ourselves the opportunity to borrow ideas from other artists, we deny ourselves the chance to fully explore our own artistic style.
As Kleon points out, part of learning to be an artist is to look at other peoples’ work, find what you like, figure out how they did it and move on to the next thing. It’s not until you fill your own library with ideas that you begin to build a vocabulary that you can draw on (so to speak) for your own work. If you want to read more about Kleon’s idea, check out 25 Quotes to Help You Steal Like an Artist.
Once I realized that ‘stealing like an artist’ was a thing, I was able to relax and really get analytical about what I was seeing around me, not only in other artists work, but in the ‘real life’ world as well.
In Zentangle terms, I began to look at tiles other people had posted and instead of simply envying their creativity, I started to ask myself what I liked about a particular tile, or how they had drawn a particular tangle. Then I began to fill my sketchbook with ‘studies’ – trying to reproduce an effect, and deciding whether it was something that spoke to me. I have never, ever, reproduced a tile and then called it my own, apart from following tutorials which invite you to do just that. But like many art students before me, I do study what I like, and as Austin Kleon puts it, I ‘steal’ what works for me and move on to the next thing. And a great side benefit was that my inner critic was too busy analyzing to make me feel doubtful about my own efforts – I guess it got distracted!
Here’s another way that art can imitate art. Julia Cameron talks about the importance of Artist Dates. Taking the time to explore something that interests you, artistic or not, because “they feed our creative work by replenishing our inner well of images and inspiration.” This is like ‘stealing like an artist’ subconsciously – just getting in there and soaking up life around you. Here’s more information about Artist Dates from Julia Cameron.
How does ‘stealing like an artist’ relate when it comes to actually drawing in Zentangle fashion? Think about the Zentangle Method and the importance of being spontaneous with your string, with embracing unplanned outcomes in tangle choices, and in unintended pen strokes – and the ‘no mistakes in Zentangle’ philosophy. When you are drawing using the Zentangle approach, you are following your instincts. And all those things you’ve stored in your memory banks, the images, the ideas, the overall looks, come into play. If you’ve tried to reproduce a particular image, you’ll know how to create that sparkle effect, the auraed line, the shadowed orb – whatever comes to your mind.
And of course you know from class mosaics that everyone can be using the same string and tangles and come out with a completely different tile all your own. That’s the beauty of art and the magic of Zentangle.
Art can and does imitate art! So go ahead and fill your brain with all kinds of images, parse out the things that you find interesting, drink in all the sights and sounds around you. And let all of that come back out in your own art.
I liked what Maria did in one of the Project Pack 5 videos – it ended up as the border for this tile.
I saw a tile with a floppy looking Ixorus and thought it looked cool. The Sand Swirl came about because one of the lines went astray, so I remembered a tile with irregularly wide and narrow lines. Stole that idea. Threw in a few stray Diva Dance lines thanks to the concept of not entirely completing a pattern to fill in a space. Voila – an original tile!
What’s a prompt or challenge but an invitation to steal an idea? This tile comes from a Full Moon Mosaic challenge – same string and the same three tangles, but we give it our own twist.
Labyrinth done following Melinda Barlow’s Inkidoodle tutorials