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My Little Black Book of Art Secrets!

8 reasons why I can´t live without this book....

I can´t believe no one told me about this book until I found in on the shelf at Real Groovy in Auckland recently. Then when I told my art friends about it, it turned our they already knew! Worst kept secret I say.

Well, suppose many of you would also know about it. But in the event that even one of you dont, then it´s my obligation - artist to artist - to tell you why you need this little black book in your life.

"Steal like an artist" is full of little trade secrets that every artist could and should learn from.

I´m not even going to try to summarize it for you as I would just be repeating the whole book.

Instead I´m going to tell you 8 things I´ve personally learned from it and how it has changed my life.

• Nothing is Original

I wanted so badly to disagree with this statement, but the more I read the more I had to admit the truth behind it. All creative work builds on what came before it.

This might seem depressing but as Austin Kleon says we can turn it to our advantage. Stop being so hard on ourselves in the search for originality, admit where our inspiration comes from and allow it to fuel our ideas rather than spend energy denying it.

Inspiration is not the same as copying. Seek inspiration in nature, culture, your idols etc. take that inspiration and remix it until a new idea is born.

• When People give you Advice, They´re Really just Talking to Themselves in the Past

Me when I was just starting out with Special Effects, about 6-7 years ago

So when we give advice, we are really just expressing what we wish someone had told us earlier.

I´m writing this blog because I wish I was reading blogs like this when I was first starting out as an artist. That doesn´t mean I know everything, it just means I enjoy sharing what I learn with others.

Pay it forward. Share what you know. You will be amazed with how much you learn from teaching others.

"Make It Till You Fake It"

We´ve all heard Fake it Till you Make it, and we fling it around as a joke. But the truth is that non of us really know what we are doing. In a way that is the beauty of being an artist. We are always growing, developing new skills and techniques; always trying to find ourselves and our style. And that´s ok.

Every time I start a new sculpture or bodypaint I freak out a little bit inside, worrying I´ve forgotten how to do it.

As Austin says, don´t wait until you figure it all out, just get creative and start doing. So I say flip the saying around and Make It Till You Fake It; keep making stuff until you believe in it.

• Make what You Want

If you are going to write a book, dont write what you know - write what you want to know. Write what you want to read. Make the kind of music you want to listen to.

Step out of the comfort zone of what you already know. Have fun with it. Make what you like.

From "Steal Like an Artist"

• Step Away from the Screen

If I could take away only one thing from my little black book, this would be it. This tip has made such a dramatic impact in my way of thinking that I just have to share it with you straight up.

My analog desk at home.

It goes like this:

If you have the space, set up 2 work stations - one digital and one analog.

On your analog desk surround yourself with papers, pens, sticky notes etc. Do some arts and craft. Put quotes and pictures on the wall. And KEEP AWAY ANYTHING ELECTRONIC.

A computer is great for processing ideas, but not for generating them. Also computers are distracting. Find your flow - swap back and forth between stations. When you get stuck or distracted in front of the computer, go for a walk or do some arts and craft.

• Surround Yourself with Better People than You

This is relevant whether you are an artist or not. Surround yourself with people that inspire you.

Both digitally and in real life, follow people that do the best work. Pay attention to what they are interested in, and who they follow. Learn from the best.

Find the most talented person in the room, and go stand next to that person. Befriend that person. If you ever find that you´re the most talented person in a room, it´s time to move to a new room. Otherwise you will stop growing.

My first meeting with Sir Richard Taylor 5 years ago. He remains my biggest inspiration.

• Boring is OK

People like to paint this picture of artists as some sort of super humans. Apparently we drink, party and never sleep. But guess what - we dont. At least not if you want to get shit done.


Being creative takes a lot of energy. If I dont get my 8 hours a night I don´t produce good work the next day.

A day off for me is brainstorming for new ideas. It´s going to a cafe and sipping over 1 cup of coffee for hours while I write my blog. I love my routines and ticking things of my to-do lists.

• Be a Fan

Writing fan letters carries a build-in expectation and pressure for the receiver to respond. I crinch when I receive a facebook message ala "Hi I love your work......please check out my page too, it´s - - - " or even "I´ll like your page if you´ll like mine"!

However, I love it when people write me just to say hi and that they love my latest painting or something - without expecting anything in return. And ironically I´d be much more inclined to check our this person´s work too, because the situation isn´t forced.

Austin suggests writing public fan letters. Share someone´s work online purely because you like it. Credit them for inspiring you.

I decided to take him up on his word and that is why I´ve written this blog. Thank you Austin for sharing you secrets. "Steal like an Artist" have changed the way I work.

Do check out and get a little black book of your own! :)

Much like Austin tells us to surround ourselves with other creatives, next week I will talk about "Powerful Collaborations" and how they will make you a stronger artist.

See you next Monday :)

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