With so many possibilities of things to make, the dilemma of where to start can be overwhelming. A way to leap right into making and overcome the paralysis of choice is to pick something that already exists and copy it. This is how you learn how to make the thing, gain insight into the making process and clarity around your likes and dislikes. Austin Kleon in Steal Like an Artist is an advocate for stealing art and using other artists work as inspiration: “taking the things you’ve stolen and making them into your own thing… combine it with your own ideas and thoughts, transform it into something completely new.”
Once you’ve practiced copying someone else’s work, you can begin to expand and grow your own ideas. By repeating this process with a variety of different artists work, you begin to create a web of knowledge around what you are visually drawn to. So what started as a sort of counterfeit practice becomes a rich source to draw from to create your own work.
The director Damien Chazelle explains how he stole ideas from old musicals to create the film La La Land (2016): “I’ve been a movie obsessed person my whole life so there’s no shortage of films, filmmakers that I love to steal from any chance I can get. When it comes to Musicals, Stanley Donen and Vincente Minnelli y’know, are some of the obvious iconic figures of the musical and especially how I’d say Vincente Minnelli used colour and how Stanley Donen used camera movement.”
Get curious about what the style, subjects, mood, shapes, themes or colours you’re drawn to and use the process of copying to help you practice and create your own art.