Steal Like an Artist

“A wonderful flaw about human beings is that we’re incapable of making perfect copies. Our failure to copy our heroes is where we discover where our own thing lives. That is how we evolve.

“So: Copy your heroes. Examine where you fall short. What’s in there that makes you different? That’s what you should amplify and transform into your work.

“In the end, merely imitating your heroes is not flattering them. Transforming their work into something of your own is how you flatter them. Adding something to the world that only you can add.”

Steal Like an Artist

Steal Like an Artist

Steal Like an Artist

Published by Workman Publishing in February 2012, you can buy a copy of Steal Like an Artist here:


A few more good books.


September 5, 2012


Awww Poor Milo. He looks so cute and dumb!

This is something I find I do inherently when it comes to musical influence. The uniqueness, as mentioned, is the blending inside your own essence and pouring it back out :) I would mention the artist name Elliot smith or Dave Matthews if I feel their influence when writing.

I was teaching my old man about blogging last night and used your website as an example. He was mightly impressed with your work.

Hope your well.


Long time reader, first time commenter. This article reminds me of a story which you might know already. It talks of two highly respected artists called in front of the King and asked to create a perfect wall mural.

Both went to work furiously to make what would be the most beautiful painting worthy of the great King. When they finished the King was brought to his knees when he saw the first painting. But he turned to see the other wall to find what he perceived to be even better. The wall was washed, cleaned and thoroughly polished, reflecting quite magically, the painting on the opposite side.

I’ve never really checked if this story comes from a true source but still is inspiring. Perhaps it might be seen as if the other artist didn’t do any work; depends on how one sees reality I suppose.

Great site and great work David.

Best regards.

I too have been seeing this title pop up again and again, seems worth the time to read indeed!

A thing that really hits home for me is the “A willingness to look stupid”. If we never try we’ll never have the chance to succeed, more true than ever for all us young folks out there trying to get into the business that is design/art.

A good story about is the architect that was tasked with building a library, he accounted for everything (or so he thought) and the library was built, magnificent indeed, but he forgot to account for the weight of the books! The library crumbled. We can’t go our whole lifes thinking “What if I didn’t account for the books” or we will be stuck on square one forever.

This is so weird. I saw the picture for this post on your webpage since it’s been posted but never read it (didn’t even read the title). Today I went to the bookstore and saw it and thought it looked great (and inexpensive) so I picked it up. 3/4 of the way through the book I was like “I KNOW THAT PICTURE!” Sure enough, I go to your blog, and it was the same page I was on and the post was about the book. Weird.

Glad he liked what he saw, Ian, and nice choice of example.

I love a good fable, Thomas. Thanks for leaving your first comment.

I’ve not seen the TED talk, Josten. One to watch.

Cheers everyone.

I think I might get this one! I troll around design blogs a lot, and read a lot on design, so I have “many” to copy from….including you. I’d like to learn more about that…

I just finished reading this book, I really enjoyed, fun reading and great advice, I will totally recommend this book.

This little fragment of chapter one (steal like an artist) got me thinking.

Nothing is original:
What a good artist understands is that nothing comes from nowhere. All creative work builds on what came before.
Nothing is completely original.

It’s right there in the bible: “There is nothing new under the sun.” (Ecclesiastes 1:9)

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