“Good artists copy; great artists steal”

johnalcorn copy
Copying John Alcorn, inTreasured Southern Family Recipes 5.27.15

That’s what Picasso said, and it has a nice ring to it. But what does it mean?

This has been a hot topic among artists, and there are too many perspectives to summarize.  So I’ll just give you my conclusions, based on their knowledge and my experience.

johnalcorn copy 2_edited-1
Copying John Alcorn, Treasured Southern Family Recipes 5.27.15

Copying is a good way to learn. By copying your heroes, you learn about their process and how they arrived at the results you admire. And it’s all good, as long as you don’t try to pass it off as your own.

That’s a relief, because I’ve spent a lot of this week copying the work of John Alcorn, a mid-century artist/illustrator I admire. You can see the results in my sketches.

Stealing is about transforming others’ ideas into your own. The thinking here is that there is no such thing as an original idea; everything is a juxtaposition.

That’s okay, because when you put existing ideas together and add yourself, you turn the work into something else: art.

You can do this. If you’re wanting to create and don’t know what to do, Austin Kleon has a suggestion. “Think of your work as a collage. Steal two or more ideas from your favorite artists and start juxtaposing them.”

Better yet, read his five-star book, Steal Like an Artist.