Good Day Yall, hope today your day was as good as mine, I read a book took a challenge and got my car speakers fixed. Each one of those tasks paid positive dividends, so I wanna share my positive vibes with all of you. Well I don’t really have any main reason I chose this podcast to analyse, only one I could think of is that it was a book I recently read which I enjoyed. Never heard him being interviewed and I saw this while perusing my sources for pod casts and I chose it from His name Austin Kleon author of steal like an artist, which focuses on using techniques such as creating creative tree of all the people you admire, using their works as inspiration and to copy and emulate them into something of your own. Don’t quote me totally on what I just said I remember some of the things but for me to regurgitate it to you to understand word for word is not that easy. I really enjoyed the book quick entertaining read that I will go back to as a refresher. Maybe I can get more information when I actually hear him speak on the topic.

Here is the link to the podcast

  • Austin Kleon Background till now -1:33
  • Should you quit your day job? – 4:54
  • Childhood influences – 6:58
  • His thoughts on the education system – 10:57
  • How people deal with audiences – 19:23
  • Playing with what exists and putting in a twist – 24:30
  • Back to the topic, how he deals with an audience – 26:21
  • Green day as an example – 29:41 
  • Controlling his mouth around his audience – 30:44
  • Becoming self-aware kills your childlike ambitions – 35:28
  • Blackout poems workshops – 39:18
  • Incorporating the steal like an artist concepts into your work – 41:57
  • Filtering cultural influence to make great work – 45:05
  • The Screen printing Nun – 47:52
  • Definition for Creativity 50:07
  • What do you think makes someone or something unmistakable – 51:20

Key Points taken

Austin Kleon Background till now -1:33
Austin was one of those kids who loved drawing and writing but never stopped, he wanted to be and author but had low expectations for it ever happening. When he reached in college the teachers didn’t make him feel any different because the shared the same sentiments, giving advice such as “get a day job, while you work on your stuff.” Moved on from college to being a librarian, to web designer then a copywriter at an ad agency. While there he was blogging and writing and drawing and just sharing content on the web, till he put out an art poetry book in 2010 named newspaper blackout. The concept was taking a newspaper and blacking out the text and leaving only the words that made up the poetry behind. What really changed it for him was when he gave a talk at a community college about stealing like an artist and that went viral, which lead to him putting it in book form and going on tour talking about it. He has a follow-up to steal like an artist named show your work.

Should you quit your day job? – 4:54
Before you do what you love, you gotta make sure of what loves you back and whatever is overlapping between the two is probably what you can make a living with. His advice is keep your day job and build a prototype of the job you love and keep it as a side hustle. Once that side hustle takes off then you can make that into your day job, also note once you change your passion into a profession you always have a day job.

Childhood influences – 6:58
His mom was one of his big influences as she was always into education due to her jobs (home education teacher, guidance counsellor, high school principal). His mom always had him doing arts and craft style activities at scheduled times, which got him into a habit of still doing that till this date. His analogy for it now is his studio is their kitchen table, the time (his mother’s scheduled arts and craft time) is whatever he’s got in the day and the refrigerator (where his mom put is creations) is his blog or instagram. Another influence is the library where he went often to get an influx of books, as he got older he went to the mall with his mom and she would get him a book each time they went.

His thoughts on the education system – 10:57
School system as it stands was pretty suitable to Austin, since he was very good at retaining information and spitting back out so tests were a breeze. valedictorian of his high school, went to college on a scholarship but ended up being a box checker in life (no not actually checking boxes), he became one of those who were achieving in order to please the authority figures in his life. This made him realize that people were either being paid to read his writing like his professors or were paying to read it like his colleagues. When he left school he discovered drawing again and started back doing blackout poems and when he posted them to his blog people immediately responded to them, which encouraged him to continue making them. The lesson in this story is that once he left the structured confinement that was school, only then he started doing great work.

How people deal with audiences – 19:23
He has a tumblr account and has a tag named audience, strange enough as an artist there is this perception that artists, what ever they release to the public is good in their eyes, they don’t care what others think. As examples of this point Radio head and Nirvana were two bands who put out music which was only supposed to appeal to the true fans and in Nirvana’s case it turned out that the mainstream embraced it. Later they released In Utero which was supposed to be a middle finger to the mainstream so that they lose that audience. Which made an editor of rolling stone make this quote “Holy Crap people are actually paying attention to this, lets pretend like they’re not and move forward.” As for Austin he is very accepting to the audience he wants to see what the public thinks about his contributions. For example steal like an artist has ended up in the hands of people he never expected to from priests to army captains and some people even see it as a self-help book. This was when he decided to do show your work, which is was him playing with the concept of self-help.

Playing with what exists and putting in a twist – 24:30
Speaking about self-help books Tiny Beautiful Things: Advice on Love and Life from Dear Sugar by Cheryl Strayed, which is not really a typical self-help book, ITS A MEMOIR MASQUERADING AS AN ADVICE COLUMN made into a book. This is one of the techniques Austin tries to help people in implementing in their creative lives, taking something that exists and just tweaking it and making it your own.

Back to the topic, how he deals with an audience – 26:21
When you get an audience you have 3 choices
1) Pretend they don’t exist.
2) Try to alienate them so they go away. Nirvana Approach.
3) Pander to them, which equates to artistic death.

Austin’s way is a balance of pretending they’re not there and playing with them.
(Book suggested Die Empty by Todd Henry)
Pushing the limits of what people think you are to see how they react, here I am more or less saying this in terms of Austin is considered to be in the self-help genre. He doesn’t want to really be in this genre but he goes to the point of bending and breaking the typical rules that come with self-help books to be unique. In the end you don’t really pick your audience, you do what you like and people join and some of the followers are not what you expect.

Green day as an example – 29:41
They are a punk band and made pop music out of it, which is hard to pull off but the audience they pull is huge. How can you be as ambitious as you can and push all the limits, with your core taste in tact and still pull an audience?

Controlling his mouth around his audience – 30:44
Austin has a potty mouth and his audience has reached out the christian community since steal like an artist was released, so he reduced the amount of vulgarity in his work. compromise is the name of the game when you start making a bit of waves and start having a following. Because of this he often thought of having a pseudonym so that he can have separate persona’s to help rectify he vulgarity.

Becoming self-aware kills your childlike ambitions – 35:28
School he claims to be the factor in which a lot of people stopped drawing after a certain age, he gives the example of if you ask a child that is 4 or 5 to draw you a picture, they will immediately do it then throw it away, they don’t really care. But ask a 13 or 14-year-old to do it, some would do it but the majority would respond and say well im not good at drawing. You ego starts to show up even more now and starts to provide second thoughts in your head as to say “hey you not good enough, this sucks.” Lynda Barry and Dan Roam who are both cartoonist are trying to bring back adults into drawing. Drawing is a very powerful thinking tool, as it a way to put things that you can’t really explain with words, you doodle it out, helps with giving your brain something to work with to better process an idea.

Blackout poems workshops – 39:18
He does these public workshops with adults and he says something interesting happens when adults are given a chance to draw. The results are amazing, you get to see the concentration on their faces they look like kids again, note the concentration mentioned here is one of serious playing. It proves that you need once in a while to be in a relaxed moment where the strain on you is not great, it’s just a time to be fun, no one is judging your actions.

Incorporating the steal like an artist concepts into your work – 41:57
Its natural instinct, seek out things that respond to you or you respond to and wrap it up in your mind. Be intentional with your influences, be a creative kleptomaniac, look for things that peak you interest and steal them.
Phillip Pullman of the golden compass series says when he’s reading he’s looking for stuff to steal, the difference between me and you is that im on the look out for stuff, you’re not looking for it. The point of Steal like an artist is to get people in that mode of actively looking for influence analysing it and then thinking what from this influence can I take and how can I tweak it and how can I combine it with other influences and transformed it into my own work. Also how can you add or subtract from it. “If you rip off one author its plagiarism if you rip of 100 authors its research.”

Filtering cultural influence to make great work – 45:05
Pay attention to what is making your gut string vibrate, also as he says to dig deeper and find influences that no one else is really focusing on. An example of someone who has been able to filter and combine what he wants to create is Film maker Quentin Tarantino, he worked in a video rental store and watch movies intently. Tarantino has been quoted as saying: “When people ask me if I went to film school I tell them ‘no, I went to films.’ So he makes movies for the mainstream audience but sneakily puts out work with references to themes that usually aren’t on the radar as being popular. Seek other avenues and ways to acquire interesting influences, like just going to library and checking stacks of books that no one ever goes to, traveling somewhere new, looking at material which seems a little bit odd to be used as art.

The Screen printing Nun – 47:52
Corita Kent Screen print artist used to take types and slogans and re-tweak them in a religious context. For example using “wonder” bread as a way to show the religious side to bread as its portrayed in the bible. First see where everybody else is looking and then go they other way to discover your niche.

Definition for Creativity 50:07
You take things in the world and you put them together and make things that previously didn’t exist.

What do you think makes someone or something unmistakable – 51:20
“Style is self plagiarism.” Hitchcock
Wes Anderson –
You become unmistakable when the world doesn’t need you anymore.

Whew that was a tough one to go through, a number of key moments and long-winded answers. Indeed at times I felt a bit bored but coming down to the end Austin really made some great points and added some interesting references to intriguing people of today and yesteryear. We got information on how he grew up all the way through how he ended up an artist. He now has a varied audience which has made him a self-help guru with a lowered vulgar vocabulary. He showed how adults can regain their creativity, also how to incorporate the concepts in Steal like an artist to become more creative. As I close I got a little more clarity on how to get more out of my creative well and I hope to begin inventing things that are more than just tweaks from existing influences. Thanks again for reading.