In the past few months, one of my blog readers, Littleviews, has repeatedly (here) suggested (and here) that I read the book Steal Like an Artist: 10 Things Nobody Told You About Being Creative by Austin Kleon. I ordered it and it arrived just as I was running away last week.
The little black cover appealed to me immensely, and I discovered it
to be the perfect book! Few words, lots of graphics, meaty substance... yes, I can read
this. I found myself nodding emphatically and just now, I read through
it again, with a pink pen in my hand. I underlined and drew stars and
nodded some more.
One of the... events... that happened this spring that I have alluded to, but did not feel I could openly write about on this blog... well, that event or incident has been weighing on my mind lately. Maybe because I am hiding and thinking a lot this week. Maybe because I am trying to clean out some of those crappy thoughts that just make me stamp my feet, yell "it's not fair!" and eat chocolate. And maybe because I am trying to be braver and more fearless and face some of this head on. Be gone evil one!
After reading Steal Like an Artist, this incident kept poking at my thoughts. Also, the incident that happened with artist Lisa Congdon's Nordic animals being ripped off... she is one of Lilla Rogers' artists, so that came up in the class I was taking with her. When Lilla was asked how artists can stand up for themselves after this happens, she said we should use social media - and that worked really well for Lisa!
What was my "incident"?
I buy a gajillion books on all kinds of subjects and I don't care if it has "doodling" in the title, I still want it. So I was really excited to sit down and read "Zen Doodling" by Carolyn Scrace.
This book is really nice with lots of gorgeous art and I was happily flipping through it when I suddenly felt like someone had punched me in the gut! Stuff started looking... familiar.
Just so you don't think I am paranoid, here are a few of the things I noticed almost right away...
If you are interested, you can see a pdf of all the comparisons HERE. I made the pdf to show to my publisher and lawyer. If you enjoy getting indignant, ;-), or you think I may be a looney, feel free to take a look.
I know that it is to be expected that there is going to be some overlap with all the Zentangle books coming out all of a sudden. But many of the topics that I cover in my books... like... mind-mapping, drawing houses in a fan shape, tangled snowflakes, printmaking with foam plates, tangling on rocks, using Klimt as inspiration for drawing womens' faces (seriously!!!?)... these are NOT common to Zentangle or even Zendoodling. Or Doodling.
Whether or not you agree that there are striking similarities between the works, the incident has been "stuck in my craw!" for many months. And, no, there isn't a durn thing that can be done about it. BUT, if you still want to order the book, and as I said, it's a nice book, and cheap too, please click through the link above because that way, I will earn a few cents on the Amazon affiliate commission. (Yeah, just a little bit of sarcastic cynicism there, but at least it is sincere!)
In Steal Like an Artist, Austin Kleon says, "there's only stuff worth stealing, and stuff that's not worth stealing." So... I'm flattered to be in the first category. In his Ted Talk, Austin talks about the creative lineage of ideas and how ideas can be traced back and back with artists being influenced by one another. But each one incorporates all their different passions and influences and "thefts" to create an authentic retelling. For example, I can tell you how I came up with the idea of putting houses in a circle, based on a failed drawing of fan blades and the influence of my home in Guam. In order to properly "steal" from me, Carolyn should have incorporated her own influences and built on my idea so her work was authentically hers. It feels to me like she was using my books almost like a checklist of what she had to put in her book... but without the reasons, inspirations or history.
Austin Kleon says, "Don't just steal the style, steal the thinking behind the style." In the example of the houses in a circle (my "Flores de Casa") - good god, Carolyn did a beautiful job of drawing houses!! But she misses the point. First of all, that is totally NOT a "doodle" - that's "art"!! And just by putting it there, doesn't mean her reader will be able to draw it. It's kind of... showing off. The thinking behind the style in my books is to empower the reader to try stuff and then create their own work. I give enough steps to show how to get started and a finished piece that doesn't intimidate. And in many cases the reader will say, "cool idea, but I can do it better." YES! That is what I want.
Alright, that's enough. My temper has calmed quite a bit over the past few months and I have spent a lot of time thinking about this and trying to process it using things I have learned in recent classes, including the relationship class! That was actually the most helpful... I looked out at the ocean and thought "what do I want to happen?" No. I don't want to go to court. I don't need the book pulled. I don't need a huge apology check (although I wouldn't turn it away!) And I've learned enough about the publishing world to know that some of this may not have been her own fault... but still, she has a ton of books published, she should know better. But if all those reasons aren't what's bugging me, then what?! Relationship class analysis: I wanted MY publisher to stick up for me. I wanted to know that my work and me, as an artist/author, had value to my publisher. That I was worth defending as a person if not a commercial item. And why...? Because... Carolyn Scrace hurt my feelings. She automatically gave Klimt credit (because I did), and acknowledged him as the influence for that section of the book... but she didn't think I had enough value to deserve credit for the parts of her book that I influenced.
It all boils down to the fact that I AM an idea person. The greatest compliment in the world and my ultimate purpose in life is to know that I had a positive impact on someone.
The greatest insult is to influence someone so profoundly that they incorporate your ideas into a mass market book - but they are too embarrassed to acknowledge that influence.
And the ultimate humiliation, for me, will be the person who reads her book first, then mine... and assumes that I STOLE from her.
So - that's it. That's all of it. I put it all out there for you and I'm not going to hold any of it in my head anymore. Except for that last bit about being judged unfairly... I can honestly say that I no longer care about that book.
What I DO care about is that I am in a stuck place with my feelings about Zentangle in general and this book about it that I have been working on and restarting for FOUR YEARS! Once again, Steal Like an Artist gave me some interesting insight on it.
"Write the kind of story you like best - write the story you want to read."
Ah-ha! Of course... that's why I enjoyed writing the other books!
"The work you do while you procrastinate is probably the work you should be doing for the rest of your life." - Jessica Hische
So... ballpoint pen doodles?
No, seriously. I've spent a few days sitting in a hotel room with a view of the ocean, sorting through a decade's worth of idea notebooks and piles of papers and scraps... I made lists and sketches and discovered a shocking theme...
I love books!
Who knew, right? I sent an email to Bonnie (my Main Minion) listing all the book ideas I had found on those scraps. There were way more than ten. Everything from murals, to art journals, to kids' books... and that's just from the scraps I brought WITH me. I have twice as much that I left in piles at home in my studio. There were great ideas for actual projects and things to build, but overall, I seem to think in books. I'm still startled by that. When I procrastinate... I come up with book ideas... and think up ideas of paintings and projects that I would like to... put into a book.
I will have to read Steal Like an Artist a third time because the rest of the book gives more practical tips on how to take action on these thoughts. I was relieved to see that I already DO some of the things, I just didn't know WHY.
And since I have "stolen" so many ideas from Austin Kleon for this blog post and I want to thank him for saving me the therapy time and expense... I'd like to pay him back by encouraging every one of you to get his book!!! (He has a new one coming out in March 2014 too.) It's inexpensive and will make a great gift for any artists and non-artists you know - and will fit in a stocking. I also encourage you to buy my books ;-) and to remember to show your support of all authors and artists by not only buying their books, but also by taking the time to leave positive reviews on online shopping sites. It can be very tempting to be snarky, and can even feel good for a minute, but ultimately it does more damage. So instead of leaving mean comments on the products/books you dislike, try only leaving good comments on things you love.
One last quote from the book:
"The best way to vanquish your enemies on the internet? Ignore them.
The best way to make friends on the Internet? Say nice things about them."