“The only art I’ll ever study is stuff that I can steal from.” - David Bowie
On the recommendations of many I recently blasted through Austin Kleon’s bestselling manifesto 'Steal like an Artist’. In the book he breaks down the nature of creative work, exploring how artists must build on what came before - we should embrace influence instead of trying to be ‘original’. Copy from many rather than imitate one, and your own thing will break through.
It was an quick, inspiring read (the kind that makes you feel good about yourself without having done much), but came at a perfect time. My past few weeks have been quiet. I haven’t taken any photos, and worse still, haven’t felt bad it. I feel unqualified to even call myself a photographer, and gripped in a professional identity crisis I’ve spent a lot of time thinking, journalling, and scheming. What do I want? What should I want? What actually drives me?
But I don’t think this break is bad thing. Moving from London to Sydney forced me into re-evaluation mode, studying artists I love to find elements of their ‘life recipes’ I can steal and remix into my own. I’m not trying to pass off all wasted time scrolling the internet as a search for ‘inspiration’ - I’m aware there’s a difference between being ‘inspired’ and actually doing something about it - but Kleon’s thoughts about the creative process and transforming what you consume forced me to take a closer look at the work I admire.
On creative stimulation, Kleon writes:
There's an economic theory out there that if you take the incomes of your five closest friends and average them, the resulting number will be pretty close to your own income.
I think the same thing is true of idea incomes. You're only going to be as good as the stuff you surround yourself with.
I’d like to think I’ve been surrounding myself with some good stuff, so to catalogue my inspiration here’s a list of people I’m stealing from as of November 2018. It’s not exhaustive, and I’ve left out bigger names (think Seth Godin, Casey Neistat, Joel Meyerowitz), but these are my efforts to break down what’s appealing about these young movers & shakers. P.S. click names to check out their work!
For years I’ve been drawn to Nicole’s consistent use of earthy colour palettes and her head for business (check out her studio). Her work is recognisable & timeless, qualities I strive to manifest in my own work.
What I’m stealing: her minimalist yet striking approach to photography & design.
Joe’s passion for street/all kinds of photography means he creates great work consistently. Seriously, check out his colours and compositions. I also believe he’s an enneagram 7, giving us other scattered excitable people hope that we too can knuckle down to create outstanding bodies of work.
What I’m stealing: his drive to grow & warm editing style.
I’ve only been familiar with her portrait work for a few months, but going forward I can see Rosie’s stuff having a huge influence on my own. Her use of natural light is spot on and she incredibly talented at capturing a person’s essence in a single frame.
What I’m stealing: her slower approach to photography by getting to know her subject first, letting them open up organically.
Creator of short, experimental films. You never want to look away from her work - and for that she has an impressive client list.
What I’m stealing: her willingness to be bold, innovate and make something different.
Australian designer, photographer, stylist, blogger - Jasmine is endlessly creative and makes beautiful work that is instantly recognisable. Her use of colour is gorgeous and her product shoots are mouth-watering.
What I’m stealing: openness with her audience through stories & blogs (perhaps the inspiration for this post..) as well as her self-motivated attitude. As I’m discovering, it’s not easy to work from home.
If I had to trace it back, Andrew would probably be THE photographer the inspired me to learn my DSLR and start taking photos. Portraits, landscapes, lifestyle - he knows his way around the PNW (and rest of the world) with a camera, works hard to get the shot, has motivating videos on his YouTube channel & is a skilled editor.
What I’m stealing: his drive for adventure, prioritising time in nature & willingness to take risks.
A proper boss-lady photographer with a solid head for business. She’s great at what she does and shares it, creating community and inspiring others while profiting from a successful YouTube channel & online resources she offers.
What I’m stealing: her marketing tactics and methods of passive income. I also find her hilarious!!
Free spirited photographer, creator of moving art. His abstract work is disarming, and through his captions he lets us into his creative process via philosophical musings. I really love his writing.
What I’m stealing: his willingness to create for himself, not for others. Stop caring what other people think, the right people will find your work eventually.
If you think landscape photography is overdone, please see Mel’s work. Such rich, golden colours and epic natural vistas from all over the world.
What I’m stealing: her positive attitude and love/concern for the environment that shows in her work. She’s also inspired me to try astro photography.
NYC-based fashion photography duo creating editorial work with whimsical, dreamlike vibes. I adore all their work.
What I’m stealing: I’ve been thinking about shooting film for a while, but on finding out that K&J shoot almost exclusively with it means that yes, I have to try it now.
British documentary photojournalist & filmmaker putting her talents to good use by combining them with activism. Photographs tell stories, and Alice tells stories that need to be told with a focus on women’s rights and environmentalism.
What I’m stealing: her drive to use art for activism - I want to create work that has an impact.
Another skilled street photographer based in Cambridge, UK. His use of colour, texture and silhouettes mean I automatically like every one of his Instagram posts without needing to see them (although you definitely should). Documents every-day life in the most eye-catching way.
What I’m stealing: his attitude towards his work. He’s good because he shoots everyday.
Daily Rituals by Mason Currey
The Virgin Suicides by Jeffery Eugenides
The War of Art by Steven Pressfield
Homo Deus by Yuval Noah Harari
Factfulness by Dr Hans Rosling (current read)
YOUTUBE CHANNELS I DIG
Phil deFranco (news updates delivered with personality)
Mango Street (photography tutorials that don’t waste your time)
The Futur (business, design, education)
Charli Marie (vlogging web / graphic designer & educator)
Half as Interesting (short videos about - you guessed it - interesting stuff)
Matt D’Avella (videos about minimalism, creativity, lifestyle design)
The School of Life (philosophy & emotional intelligence)
Charisma on Command (how to be human 101)
Matti Haapoja (filmmaking, photography, vlogs, travel, etc)
The Financial Diet (videos about money that don’t make you want to throw up)
Kurzgesagt (I can’t pronouce it either, but they make the best science videos fuelled by a philosophy they call ‘optimistic nilhilism’)
The Better Show
Waking up with Sam Harris
TED Radio Hour
Happier with Gretchen Rubin
BANDS / MUSICIANS I’M BOPPING TO
Fitz & the Tantrums
As 2018 comes to a close, this is who I’m stealing from.
Time to stop being inspired and get to work.
But before you go, let me know who you’re stealing from! Who & what is influencing you at the moment? Who should we have our eyes on?
Thanks for reading,