Steal Responsibly

Steal Responsibly
August 23, 2016 Andrea Muhlbauer

Your mom always told you that stealing is bad. Then, you decide to become an artist and all of that good advice gets turned on its head. Somehow, stealing is a good thing in the world of art, despite what your mom told you. And now we get to the real question, ‘How do you steal as an artist?’

Of course, you want to maintain respect for the artist you’re stealing from, and you definitely don’t want to be a copycat. The first thing you have to recognize is the huge difference between stealing and copying; it makes the difference between a good artist and a bad artist.

Let’s say you’ve found a work of art that you love, and there’s one little section of it that you can’t get out of your head. If you were to just take that exact sequence of events from that section and plug it in your own work, that would be copying. Copying isn’t doing your job as an artist, and it definitely doesn’t help you grow as an artist.

Stealing, on the other hand, is one of the best ways for artists to grow independently. It’s when you take the same section of the same work of art, but instead of copying it, you dissect it. You start asking yourself questions. Why did that section resonate so well with you? You keep digging until you can figure out why the artist’s work had that effect on you. You boil the work down to the simplest thing that made a deep impact on your reaction. And most importantly, you figure out how to use that concept, that simple thing, in your own work. How can you make it your own? How can that idea help you tell a story?

That kind of stealing is going to make you a better artist. Why? It’s because you’re not taking the easy way out. It forces you to make those tough decisions about how to make your art better. It helps you to learn from another artist. Which, in turn, makes you a better artist.

So maybe you’re not in class right now. Or maybe you’re bored in class – I’m not here to judge. Wherever you are in your artistic career, remember what a great learning tool stealing can be. All you need is YouTube and an hour of your time, and you’re on your way to learning how to create – direct from the masters. So, grab your laptop, your phone, pause everything else for an hour and start stealing!


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