Steal like an artist


The idea that we are not creative unless we come up with something completely original is somewhere deeply instilled in our minds. Unfortunately, it turns out this is not true and through this article, I am going to urge you to steal more. I strongly believe that nothing is really new in this world, it’s just a constant rehash of existing or old ideas. What’s new is how these old ideas are put together, mixed, mashed and clashed, and that’s what makes things creative, new and special. All the best products in the world ranging from Apple to Samsung, Coca-cola to Lays, keyboards to football were not really invented or discovered but they were just re-invented or re-discovered in ways and contexts that were inserted into popular culture.

Well, we are not talking about plagiarism, fraud reputation or stealing objects but seeing and creating things from different perspectives. As Steve Jobs once put it, “It comes down to trying to expose yourself to the best things humans have done and then try to bring those things in to what you are doing. Because of the saying that ‘Good artists copy, great artists steal’, we have been shameless about stealing great ideas.” Honestly, every time I write an article, on the surface of it, I am afraid if I’ll be caught for the lack of originality but then deep down I know that I’ve been collecting data, doing some research and putting them on paper in my own way. The final touch being my original work and that defines my creativity.

Jim Jarmusch is an Indie filmmaker who puts it another way, “Nothing is original. Steal from anywhere that resonates with inspiration or fuels  your imagination. Devour old films, new films, music, books, paintings, photographs, poems, dreams, random conversations, architecture, bridges, streets, signs, trees, clouds, bodies of water, light and shadows. Select only things to steal, from that- speak directly to your soul. If you do this, your work(and theft) will be authentic. Authenticity is invaluable; originality is non-existent. And don’t bother concealing your thievery – celebrate it, if you feel like it. In any case, always remember what Jean-Luc Godard said, “It’s not where you take things from – it’s where you take things to.”

Well what does the quote ‘Good artists copy, great artists steal’ mean? A good artist simply copies another person’s art, while a great artist selectively takes or steals elements from other artists or sources and then collaborates them in a creative manner that makes the art completely unique. We consider companies like Google, Apple, Facebook and movies like Inception, Avatar, Titanic  as creative but we feel that unless we come up with something completely original, we ourselves are not creative. Unfortunately, even if you have something really creative in your head, either you were inspired and influenced by something that has the original content or someone has probably had the same idea ages ago.

Here are some of the best examples:



Inception is one of the best movies I’ve ever watched. The whole idea of dreams within dreams is scintillating but Christopher Nolan was inspired by an episode of Donald Duck’s cartoon show where the main character goes within his dream to save his friends who get caught in his dreams.




Facebook is allegedly a copied idea from Facemash/hot or not and a combination of a few other social media sites like orkut/myspace etc.



Google was not the first company to create a search engine. A unique program that delivered only good results with an addition of simple interface made all the difference.



Apple Inc. CEO and co-founder Steve Jobs unveils the much anticipated iPad

Tablets were first created by Toshiba and few other companies before Apple. Apple managed to create something similar that was wafer thin and good looking.

Star Wars



Star Wars was created as a fusion of the battle between good and evil from good old fiction stories.


There are still speculations and debate about whether or not Picasso quoted, “Good artists copy and great artists steal.” Maybe he copied or stole the quote himself as some say, it was T.S.Eliot who quoted, “Good poets borrow, great poets steal.” T.S Eliot, a great thief and poet says, “One of the surest tests [of the superiority or inferiority of the poet] is the way in which a poet borrows. Immature poets imitate; mature poets steal; bad poets deface what they take, and good poets make it into something better, or at least something different. The good poet welds his theft into a whole of feeling which is unique, utterly different than that from which it is torn; the bad poet throws it into something which has no cohesion. A good poet will usually borrow from authors remote in time, or alien in language or diverse in interest.”

One needs to have the creative freedom to pull influences in any form of art from different experiences and convert into their own; be it music or dance, technology or products, arts or ideas, marketing or design, poems or articles. Find inspiration in the world you live in, where nothing is truly new so that everything has the potential to be innovative and creative. The five reasons why I believe good artists copy and great artists steal are: well, I don’t really have 5 specific reasons why good artists copy and great artists steal. It’s just that most articles I’ve read, have the titles as ‘three reasons why’ and ‘five things you should know about’, and hence, I thought why not steal it and make it my own? Isn’t it creative enough?

ImageCredits: Homestead, Businessinsider, Satellitemagazine, Infographicality, Wallpaperspublic, Jeuxonline

Originally posted on helpost.


2 thoughts on “Steal like an artist

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