How I Learned to Think Like an Artist!

3 min

The beginning…

Growing up, I had always aspired to be a writer. A renowned, reputed and a respected author. An original storyteller. By the sheer stroke of luck, I belonged to the land of Tagore! Rabindranath Tagore, the world-famous Nobel laureate.

Not surprisingly enough, I was more than often labelled “copycat”, “unoriginal”, and a clear “creative thief”!

I was disappointed. I was frustrated.

I was angry with myself till I stumbled upon this:

“Good artists copy. Great artists steal.” – Pablo Picasso

Why steal?

I had doubts. I had questions.Waiting to be answered.

I went up to my grandpa, who in his hay days was a fairly known poet. I told him everything that had been going on. He smiled at me and began with a story:

This is a story about the noted Russian composer Igor Stravinsky. Stravinsky was about to start a new ballet. But, instead of starting right from the scratches, Stravinsky decided to act otherwise. He pulled out some of his favourite classic manuscripts and started correcting them and working and reworking on them as if, they were his own! He borrowed melodies and baselines from the famous works but, he composed his own harmonies and rhythms underneath that work.

Stravinsky managed to outrage every critic as soon as the ballet came out. To the questions and abuses hurled at him for daring to rework classics, he answered in one simple line.

“You ‘respect’, but I love.”


The creative kleptomaniac

By now, I had grown aware of a fact, or rather a phenomenon. A phenomenon of which a lot of people are aware, but not a lot of them actually admit to.


Every creative work builds on what came before. Every piece of idea is basically a revised, a redone version of an archaic one, that has existed for ages.

As a matter of fact, I am a kleptomaniac! A creative kleptomaniac. The only difference lies in the fact that what I basically steal aren’t objects, but ideas.

“It comes down to trying to expose yourself to the best things humans have done. And then, bring those things into what you’re doing. We’ve always been shameless about stealing great ideas.” – Steve Jobs.

David Bowie was once asked by a writer, whether he thought the work was an original one, to which he replied: “No, no, no. I’m more like a tasteful thief. In fact, the only art I’ll ever study is the stuff that I can steal from!”

Everywhere you look around, there are works and ideas that are either worth stealing or not. It isn’t really about good and bad. The primary concern revolves the fact whether it’s worth stealing.

The thin line of difference…

Picasso had made an interesting observation when he said that great artists stole while good artists copied. So, what makes an artist good or great?

The answer is simple.

Good artists copy. They imitate. They imitate the style, the idea, and even, the choice of expression!

“Imitation is not flattery.”

On the other hand, great artists steal. They believe “Transformation is flattery.” They believe in accumulating things they have stolen and putting them together on a string that is their own.

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Not a Bestseller. Definitely a Storyteller.