Book “Steal like an Artist” notes

I have been reading again the book “Steal like an Artist”by Austin Kleon and have decided this time to make some relevant notes for myself.

  • Nothing is original  – if we are free from trying to be completely original we can embrace influence instead of running away from it
  • Collect good ideas – the more good ideas the more you can choose to be influenced by
  • Climb your own family tree – look at one artist really love and study then find three people that artist loved and find out everything about them and repeat as many times as can. Once you build your tree time to start own branch! Have work of favourite artist in Studio (I have work by some well known textile artists) you can kind of be their apprentice you can learn from them the lesson plan is in their work.
  • School yourself – google, look up references, go deeper than anybody else.  Always be reading, go to Library, collect books (even if you do not plan on reading them right away.  Nothing is more important than an unread library. Search
  • Carry a notebook and pen everywhere and record. Keep a ‘swipe’ file of stuff you like either digitally or in a scrapbook. Use it as an inspiration/ideas file.
  • Start copying – do not steal the style steal the thinking behind the style. Steal to get a glimpse into their minds.  Need to understand where they are coming from or work will never be more than a just a copy. Look at many artist; credit; transform; remix; honour; study.  What is it that makes you different? Amplify this and transform into your own work.
  • Practice productive procrastination – play; have lots of projects going at once so can bounce between them (I sure do this).  Need time to sit and do nothing too.
  • Do not throw any of yourself away – if you have two or three real passions do not feel like you have to choose between them.  It is so important to have a hobby – something that is creative just for you maybe only you see it. “What unifies your work is the fact that you made it”.
  • Make stuff every day – put stuff on the internet.
  • Build your own world – surround yourself with books objects that really like and tape things on the wall – create your own world without leaving home.  Enjoy alone time if  travelling for example.
  • Stand next to talent – follow the best people online
  • Get a Calendar – plan, have concrete goals and stay on track – break work down to daily chunks.  Fill the boxes.
  • Keep a log book – list the things you do every day – ask yourself what is the BEST thing that happened today
  • Choose what to leave out – place some constraints on yourself – make things with the time, space and materials you have right now.

Sketchbook notes

Aide Memoir

I am reading Gwen Hedley’s book ‘Draw to Stitch'(2010) and noted Gwen’s comments on sketchbooks. Gwen says (p9) that drawing from close observation enables us to get to know the design reference thoroughly, to appreciate its characteristics and to understand every little detail of the qualities of its line, texture and form.

I also noted that Gwen uses several sketchbooks at the one time:

  1. a small one for the bag
  2. a hard backed square format
  3. larger spiral bound A3 book (to stick things into, draw, write descriptions or ideas.

I liked the idea too that she opens out and writes on old envelopes which she then sticks into the A3 book.  She may take an idea from the small notebook and develop further in the A3 book with more drawings from photographs.  She also says to look really well at the colours and takes notes in the small book in terms of the actual yellow, is it lime/yellow, buttercup etc and to think about making small patches of colour to accompany the notes.

The comment Gwen says that it is important to remember that the aim of drawing is not to  reproduce line exactly (like a camera) but to interpret it, to find its essence, sometimes exaggerating its characteristics I found really helpful to remember.


Gwen Hedley, 2010, “Drawn to Stitch”, Interweave, Loveland, CO

Further Reflection – Feedback Part 1

Following on from my looking at the UTube references provided by my tutor and others I have been reading Maslen and Southern’s book “Drawing Projects: an exploration of the language of drawing” and doing a simple course on techniques for better drawing. In the course I have learnt more about hatching and crosshatching, composition line, blocking, contour line, structural drawing, value and form.   I have spent lots of time practicing (I am in Indonesia and my partner is working sometimes in another part of Java)drawing trying to come to terms particularly with shading and types of mark making.  I have looked at drawings by different artists in the Maslen and Southern book and online resources and drawing magazines and tried to practice these different approaches to understand better the drawing techniques used.

I then read further the first ‘Text’ section of the Maslen and Southern’s book concerning Drawing, Drawings, Concepts and Precepts, Making Drawings, Marks and mark making, Lines and edges, Tone and light, Negative space, being selective, Sketchbooks and Doodles.  I have selected those parts of the book that resonated with me and for me to review as I am working through the rest of the course.

The authors comment (p.11) that most adults drawing skills have not developed beyond those of adolescents who gave up drawing!  They talk about our whole personality being involved in the making of analytic and aesthetic decisions and our personal preferences that form the basis for work that should always be an expression of our individuality. The authors go on to stress that following one’s feelings and the use of intuitive judgement are essential in the organic development of drawing.  Information is taken in by the eyes and other senses, considered and restructured in the language and materials of the activity of drawing.  We are given the opportunity to examine the forms structure, spaces and surfaces in our world and gain a greater understanding to them.  We can then express our own personal point of view.

“This examination of appearances, through the drawing process, forms the backbone to all the traditionally valued activities of the artist, and is the essential base upon which all visual art is formed”(Maslen and Southern, p14).  You draw with feeling or spontaneous thoughts.  A drawing can be viewed as an act of theatre.  So it is essential to drawing that one learns to see and that continues with each drawing.  I like the thought that drawing can be viewed as the process of seeing made visible.

Maslen and Southern comment that our drawing language skills increase with arctic as we extend our vocabulary of marks, materials and approaches.

‘I merely draw what I see.

I draw what, I feel in my body’  Barbara Hepworth

I found it interesting in the book when the authors say that “the drawing is as much about the artist as it is about what is being drawn, and it may on occasions tell you more about the artists’ state of mind, level of understand, etc than it does about the subject matter”(p.20).  The comment made me really think much more deeply about what is drawing.

The section in the book on ‘Marks and mark-making’ resonated with me too:

‘Drawing is the simplest way of establishing a picture vocabulary because it is an instant, personal declaration of what is important and what is not’ Betty Goodwin quoted on p.28

Marks can be viewed as the form of words, the elements and how the drawing is made. Everyone makes their own unique set of marks and every medium has its own particular quality of mark.  Similar to handwriting.  For good mark making one needs to think about:

  • is the mark the right one for the job
  • ‘alive and express the ‘life energy’ of the artist
  • communicate the qualities of light and the form, volume and surface of the subject of the drawing
  • show changes in pace and rhythm that add interest and variety
  • think about medium as different medium helps to determine the sort of marks to make
  • size of mark to be made e.g. for a smaller drawing, or a larger drawing

For me to think about is the rigidity of my drawing or too little control. To change the way I hold the drawing instrument has provided a new and interesting choice in the language of drawing.  To know what are the right marks to make is fundamental to learning how to draw. This relates to ‘feeling the mark’ as it is made on the paper e.g. lighter, darker, bold, curved.  So practice, practice, practice drawing so that the skills of looking, feeling, discerning and responding in marks can be made in one action – my drawing instrument is an extension of my brain, heart, eyes, arm and hand.  This makes me feel challenged, excited and vulnerable!!

I really feel that I want to keep drawing and try to improve greatly.  I have also started the Projects in Maslen and Southern and find them really helpful.

However, I have to return to my coursework and Part 2 of the Assignment but will continue to do Maslen and Southern projects and any other opportunities to undertake drawing classes.





Reflection – Feedback on Part 1 – Projects 1, 2 and 3

My tutor has commented to me that I need to develop my drawing skills to a higher standard.  She has suggested some on-line links and the book  by Maslen and Southern “Drawing Projects: an exploration of the language of drawing”.  I felt disheartened at first because in some ways I did not understand what that really meant and what I should be aiming for in terms of good drawing.  I struggle in my head with the process of developing classic drawing skills as opposed to innovative contemporary drawing.

But I have now looked at the online videos and can see a mixture (in my eyes) of both that I need to improve on.  I have a copy of the book referenced by the tutor and am taking it with me to Indonesia and will go through it. As well as practice, practice and more practice of my drawing.  I really appreciate that drawing is an integral part of art and design. I may be able to find some appropriate drawing classes too.

Major Reflection

I have been away from formally proceeding with my work on Assignment Two for far too long.  I have had some issues with illness and I have been travelling overseas and I find it hard to establish a routine.  The other problem I have is that I think I love research, reading books on Artists, finding examples of their work, concepts but this is not translating into practical work.  I have also not been as enthusiastic to get into the drawing required but I have been trying out different approaches to making marks that bear no resemblance to reality. New for me! I feel that this has helped me.

So I have gone back to my corporate roots and produced a Project Plan with timelines to achieve completion of Assignment Two by 11 April.  I hope this is satisfactory to my Tutor. I will submit to her today. In writing up the Project Plan I understood better how much I had concentrated on Research Points researching UK painters new to me and going off on this tangent whilst very interesting not helping me get the Assignment fini.