Artist Austin Kleon taps into creative sharing 

click to enlarge Austin Kleon
  • Courtesy photo
  • Artist Austin Kleon, author of the best-selling “Steal Like An Artist” and the new “Show Your Work,” speaks at FLAX Art & Design on Tuesday.
Austin Kleon doesn’t like the word “guru.”

“I’m not interested in being a guru,” says Kleon, whose book “Steal Like an Artist: 10 Things Nobody Told You About Being Creative,” was on the New York Times best-seller list for six months.

“I don’t want to become the guy who talks about being creative and isn’t actually creative himself,” says the artist and writer, a frequent lecturer (for TED, SXSW Interactive, Google and Pixar) who will be in The City on Tuesday to promote his follow-up title, “Show Your Work! 10 Ways to Share Your Creativity and Get Discovered.”

But he adds: “A big part of my career has not just been making art, but writing and sharing my process.”

In “Show Your Work!” Kleon addresses professional blogging, sharing vs. oversharing, and promotes an “if you build it, they will come” theory.

Most importantly, Kleon advocates doing work, whether it’s crafting, drawing, painting, sculpting or writing.

Secondly, he advises sharing the process, and the work, on a website, blog or both. When artists open up about process, like-minded people will gather round.

He is aware there is a careful balance: “You don’t want to spend all the time showing your work,” Kleon says. “You want to spend the majority of the time doing the work.”

He admits that the Internet’s vast and cheap resources are both useful and seductive. Artists can overmonitor, get narcissistic and pay too much attention to what people like. He urges artists to set timers to gauge their Internet use, so they don’t take too much time away from the actual work.

“There wasn’t a comment feed under the ‘Mona Lisa,’” Kleon says. “Now you can see the retweets the minute you post something.”

Kleon, who works in a studio in the backyard of his house in Austin, Texas, frequently cites his wife as his best editor. He also realizes that his productivity as an artist is irrelevant to his young son.

He appreciates the separation of duties.

“I go out the back door, open the door to my studio, and I’m at work,” he says. “When I’m done I come back in, and I’m dad. Even if I have a terrible day in the studio, I switch off the lights, lock the door and I’m dad, and he’ll accept me and he doesn’t care.”


Austin Kleon

Where: FLAX Art & Design, 1699 Market St., S.F.

When: 5:30 p.m. Tuesday

Tickets: Free

Contact: (415) 552-2355,

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Lauren Gallagher

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