Originality doesn't exist, only influence and iteration

Published: October 13, 2016
Author: Steven Thomas

Why we should all 'steal like an artist'

A good friend sent over this Wired article recently that celebrates a fantastic piece of work by the talented folks at Dorothy, a UK-based studio that produces conceptual prints, products, and artworks that are sold and exhibited internationally.  The Alternative Love Blueprint is a history of alternative and independent music mapped out to the circuit board of an early transistor radio.  It is a thing of utter beauty.  If you want a closer look, jump over to the Wired article and use their zoom feature, I'm afraid my humble site doesn't quite have the tech capabilities.

Our Alternative Love Blueprint celebrates over 300 musicians, artists, managers and producers who (in our opinion) have been pivotal to the evolution of the alternative and independent music scene - Dorothy


So, the Alternative Love Blueprint got me thinking.  When you see all of those brilliant artists linked to each other on the blueprint, it's easy to visualise just how much one has influenced the other.  How they've each taken elements of someone they admire and made it their own, in turn inspiring the next, who inspires the next.

Similarly, in his best-selling book Steal Like an Artist, Austin Kleon encourages us all to 'steal like artists'.  Austin's view is that inspiration surrounds us, we simply need to open our eye's and use it.

I think of almost everything in terms of collage. My poems are made up of bits and pieces of words I’ve taken from newspaper articles. My drawings are simply collages of points, lines, triangles, circles, and squares. I take Saul Steinberg’s faces, Otto Soglow’s hands, John Porcellino’s lines, Lynda Barry’s handwriting…I myself am simply a collage of my ancestor’s DNA, mixed with the hundreds of thousands of words and images and ideas that my brain has absorbed. - Austin Kleon

Forming our own blueprint

It can help to look at our work through this frame, regardless of whether we're in an indie band, or a writer, poet, or illustrator like Austin.   To make the impact many of us crave, we must look around for inspiration and be open to taking influence. From who or what will we 'steal like an artist's'?  On what creative path (or paths) will we find ourselves?  What will each of our creative map or blueprint look like when it is completed?