“Good artists copy, great artists steal,” Picasso as quoted from “Real Artists Don’t Starve” by Jeff Goins
A couple of weeks ago, I was standing around in a FedEx Office store waiting for the computer guy to finish my project when in the distance I spotted the word, “Artists” in the title of a book on the rack where there are usually books on sales and other business type information. “Artists” is never a featured word in the title of sales and business books. It just isn’t done. Artists aren’t considered business types. We’re too flakey, or whatever, to be taken seriously by the business world. I moved in for a closer look.
And guess what??? It was a business book, believe it or not, for artists! Oh Glory! I couldn’t believe my eyes. Of course I had to buy it! Not just because it was for the business of artists, the title was so intriguing too! The book is called, “Real Artists Don’t Starve,” and even better, it is written by fellow Nashvillian, Jeff Goins. So far it is a red meat book for all artists. I haven’t gone far in the book because I am caught up in Chapter Two. Most likely, I will re-read this chapter a few times before progressing to Chapter Three, because it is so good. Chapter Two encourages artists to steal from other artists.
Stealing??? I’m shocked! Scare bleu! (To steal a phrase from Agatha Christie’s Hercule Poirot.) A deeper dive into the second chapter and I find I have been stealing since my very first painting when I was eight years old. That first painting was stolen from Van Gogh and I have been stealing ever since. After Van Gogh, I have stolen from my other idols like Degas, Bonnard, Wolf Khan and Georgia O’Keefe. And that’s just for starters! The list gets really long, when it moves to today’s contemporary artists.
Goins point is, as he quotes from the bible, “There is nothing new under the sun.” And he’s right. There isn’t. The wise artist sees that. According to Goins, we spend a lot of wasted time trying to be original without realizing who we are as artists is original! Unless you are a forger, most likely you are not copying exactly but are taking pieces from another artist, or artists, to create something new. We learn from those who have gone before. We honor those who inspire us when we spend time copying from them. More than that, when you follow a teacher’s direction, you are stealing ideas and techniques from that teacher. And that’s a good thing!
This New Year, I am resolving to do more stealing!
Happy stealing, to you, for the coming year!!