Posts Tagged ‘influences’


Wednesday, June 2nd, 2010

Back in February I made a post about all art as collage. Since then, folks have sent me lots of stuff, so now I present
25 more quotes to help you steal like an artist
I know a good joke when I steal one. - Paul Mooney quoting Milton Berle
Bad artists copy. Good artists steal. Art is theft. - Pablo Picasso
We are shaped and fashioned by what we love. - Goethe

Writers are like vacuum cleaners, sucking up all that we can see and hear and read and think and feel and articulate, and everything that everyone else within earshot can hear and see and think and feel. - Anne Lamott, Bird by Bird, p. 177
I’m a writer who likes to be influenced. - Kenneth Koch
Those who do not want to imitate anything, produce nothing. - Salvador Dali
The kernel, the soul - let us go further and say the substance, the bulk, the actual and valuable material of all human utterances—is plagiarism. For substantially all ideas are secondhand, consciously and unconsciously drawn from a million outside sources, and daily used by the garnerer with a pride and satisfaction born of the superstition that he originated them; whereas there is not a rag of originality about them anywhere except the little discoloration they get from his mental and moral caliber and his temperament, and which is revealed in characteristics of phrasing. - Mark Twain, writing to Helen Keller, who was accused of plagiarism
Nothing of me is original. I am the combined effort of everyone I’ve ever known. -Chuck Palahniuk, Invisible Monsters
Books serve to show a man that those original thoughts of his aren’t very new after all. - Abraham Lincoln
You know how you scratch away at a lottery ticket to see if you’ve won? That’s what I’m doing when I begin a piece. I’m digging through everything to find something. Scratching can look like borrowing or appropriating, but it’s an essential part of creativity. It’s primal, and very private. It’s a way of saying to the gods, Oh, don’t mind me, I’ll just wander around in these back hallways… and then grabbing that piece of fire and running like hell. - Twyla Tharp, The Creative Habit
Rip something off that you love….Find something that speaks to you…and build it yourself. - Jim Coudal
I have to admit that my favorite songs have been put together by amateurs. My father used to say, Most folk music is the product of plagiarism. That’s what I learned from Woody Guthrie. You borrow a tune here, then change it a little bit. You borrow some words there. Then add to them. You don’t claim to be original. - Pete Seeger
That’s how art history and literary history gets made: by living artists connecting with the past. - Jeet Heer
Old and new make the warp and woof of every moment. There is no thread that is not a twist of these two strands. By necessity, by proclivity and by delight, we all quote. It is as difficult to appropriate the thoughts of others as it is to invent. - Emerson
The thing that hath been, it is that which shall be; and that which is done is that which shall be done: and there is no new thing under the sun. Is there any thing whereof it may be said, See, this is new? it hath been already of old time, which was before us. - Ecclesiastes 1
Though it’s unlikely you’ll write something nobody has ever heard of, the way you have a chance to compete is in the way you say it. - Amy Hempel
You have to be different, great, or first. - Loretta Lynn
Ideas on their own are just not that important. It’s incredibly rare that someone comes up with an idea so unique, so protectable that the success story writes itself. Most ideas are nothing without execution. - David Heinemeier Hansson
All the signs were in the air all around with ambient music in the mid 1970s, and other people were doing a similar thing. I just gave it a name. Which is exactly what it needed. A name. A name. Giving something a name can be just the same as inventing it. By naming something you create a difference. You say that this is now real. Names are very important. - Brian Eno
It was an idea that was already out there, but I shined a spotlight on it, named it, and everybody got it right away. - Sam Martin
Plagiarize! Let no one else’s work evade your eyes, Remember why the good Lord made your eyes. - Tom Lehrer, Lobachevsky
During the course of this long volume I have undoubtedly plagiarized from many sources–to use the ugly term that did not bother Shakespeare’s age. I doubt whether any criticism or cultural history has ever been written without such plagiary, which inevitably results from assimilating the contributions of your countless fellow-workers, past and present. The true function of scholarship as a society is not to stake out claims on which others must not trespass, but to provide a community of knowledge in which others may share.”<br />
- F. O. Matthiessen, American Renaissance: Art and Expression in the Age of Emerson and Whitman (1941)
The principle of collage is one of the central principles of art in this century and it seems also to me to be one of the central principles of literature. - Donald Barthelme
The visual artist can deal with almost every kind of material, even sound, but the writer deals with only one kind of material: sentences. The solution, therefore, is to treat sentences as though they were found objects….The illogic, the apparent absurdity, of a Rauschenberg collage or a Barthelme story makes people impatient, because it seems to violate ordinary habits of perception and understanding. But we experience the arbitrary juxtaposition of radically disparate materials every day, when we look at the front page of a newspaper. - Louis Menand
Finally, some words of caution
if you must write prose and poems the words you use should be your own dont plagiarise or take on loans cos there’s always someone, somewhere with a big nose, who knows and who trips you up and laughs when you fall… - The Smiths, Cemetery Gates
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Steal Like An Artist

David Shields Reality Hunger
The Ecstacy of Influence by Jonathan Lethem

Newspaper Blackout


Wednesday, February 10th, 2010

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.


These are all quotes and doodles I abandoned while working on a presentation for next week’s PechaKucha night here in Austin.

Most of these notes were grabbed from my tumblr tags on “collage“, “influence“, and “originality” or “plagiarism.” I grabbed one or two from Jonathan Lethem’s incredible essay, “The Ecstacy of Influence.”

Next time you’re stuck, think of your work as a collage. Steal two or more ideas from your favorite artists and start juxtaposing them. Voila.

steal like an artist

“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, street 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 nonexistent.”
Jim Jarmusch

“If you think a man draws the type of hands that you want to draw, steal ‘em. Take those hands.”
Jack Kirby

“You can’t steal a gift. Bird [Charlie Parker] gave the world his music, and if you can hear it you can have it.”
Dizzy Gillespie

steal like an artist

A good poet will usually borrow from authors remote in time, or alien in language, or diverse in interest.”
T.S. Eliot

“In the grand collage that is Dada, past and future are equally usable.”
Andrei Codrescu

“Our souls as well as our bodies are composed of individual elements which were all already present in the ranks of our ancestors. The “newness” in the individual psyche is an endlessly varied recombination of age-old components.”
Carl Jung

steal like an artist

“Most artists are brought to their vocation when their own nascent gifts are awakened by the work of a master. That is to say, most artists are converted to art by art itself. Finding one’s voice isn’t just an emptying and purifying oneself of the words of others but an adopting and embracing of filiations, communities, and discourses. Inspiration could be called inhaling the memory of an act never experienced. Invention, it must be humbly admitted, does not consist in creating out of void but out of chaos.”
Lewis Hyde

“The choices a writer makes within a tradition – preferring Milton to Moliere, caring for Barth over Barthelme – constitute some of the most personal information we can have about him.”
Zadie Smith

“If an artist may say nothing except what he has invented by his own sole efforts, it stands to reason he will be poor in ideas. If he could take what he wants wherever he could find it, as Euripides and Dante and Michelangelo and Shakespeare and Bach were free, his larder would always be full, and his cookery might be worth tasting.
R G Collingwood

steal like an artist

“Every idea is a juxtaposition. That’s it. A juxtaposition of existing concepts.”
Steven Grant

“I wanted to hear music that had not yet happened, by putting together things that suggested a new thing which did not yet exist.”
Brian Eno

“Really the truth is just a plain picture. A plain picture of, let’s say, a tramp vomiting in the sewere. You know, and next door to the picture Mr. Rockefeller or Mr. C. W. Jones on the subway going to work. You know, any kind of picture. Just make a collage of pictures.”
Bob Dylan

“Sometimes I think everything I draw is just a combination of all of the millions and millions of drawings I’ve seen.”
Dash Shaw

steal like an artist

“If you steal from one author, it’s plagiarism; if you steal from many, it’s research.”
Wilson Mizner

“If you have one person you’re influenced by, everyone will say you’re the next whoever. But if you rip off a hundred people, everyone will say you’re so original!”
Gary Panter

steal like an artist

My hobbie (one of them anyway)…is using a lot of scotch tape… My hobbie is to pick out different things during what I read and piece them together and make a little story of my own.”
Louis Armstrong

“The beauty of the collage technique is that you’re using sounds that have never met and were never supposed to meet. You introduce them to each other, at first they’re a bit shy, clumsy, staring at their shoes. But you can sense there’s something there. So you cut and paste a little bit and by the end of the song you can spot them in the corner, holding hands.”
Jens Lekman

“To spark my creativity…I often re-use pieces from my other works…basically collaging my own stuff…”
Nate Williams

“All writing is in fact cut-ups. A collage of words read heard overheard. What else?”
William S. Burroughs

steal like an artist

“I love art, I love being thrilled by art, and I love folding these thrills into my own practice. I love stealing….I absolutely believe my best work lies ahead of me, and lies in the work I’m absolutely on fire to steal from.”
Tom Hart

“I was…attacked for being a pasticheur, chided for composing “simple” music, blamed for deserting “modernism,” accused of renouncing my “true Russian heritage.” People who had never heard of, or cared about, the originals cried “sacrilege”: “The classics are ours. Leave the classics alone.” To them all my answer was and is the same: You “respect,” but I love.”
Igor Stravinsky

“Some one may say of me, that I have here only made a nosegay of other men’s flowers, having furnished nothing of my own but the thread to tie them.”

“I’m being given a little bit of credit now as being a viable collage artist, which some people think is ridiculous. Like this guy who said, “Wait a minute: You had an art show where you just cut out pictures and then glued them back together?” And I said, “Yeah, that’s pretty much what it is.” There’s more to it than that. It’s about having the eye for detail, moving things from one environment and reassembling them into new environments….Everyone can do it, but not everyone can do it well.”
Robert Pollard

steal like an artist

“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 from that from which it was torn; the bad poet throws it into something which has no cohesion.”
T.S. Eliot

“It’s not where you take things from—it’s where you take them to.”
Jean-Luc Godard

steal like an artist

Add your favorites and anything I missed in the comments below.

Steal Like An Artist


Tuesday, May 16th, 2006


I was on the phone one day with my friend Brandon. Brandon’s a writer, been a serious one for a lot longer than I have, so whenever I get him in a conversation, I drop a little, “So what’re you working on?” question somewhere in the middle of things, a little bait, to see if maybe he’ll bite and spill the beans.

“Oh, I’m just reading, mostly.” The kind of answer that drives me nuts.

So I said, “Well, what are you reading?”

He told me he was picking out certain authors, and then reading everything that author had ever written. (I think at the time, he was tackling Flannery O’Connor, James Baldwin, and Ian McEwan.) I freaked out a little bit, and said, “Jesus, man, how disciplined of you! I can’t even finish a novel!”

So I hung up later, and got to thinking about his project. A few days earler, I’d read a line of advice from G.S.: “Find two or three writers that you’re really excited about. Follow their lineage back. Know everything about them. Immerse yourself in those writers.” This really clicked with me.

Since I started working in a library, I’ve been on book overload. I can get any book, anytime. No limits. Always a bad idea. So much to read. So little time. Really overwhelming. But this, this was a really great idea: Take it slow and steady. Saturate yourself with a writer’s work. Figure out who means the most to you right now, and then read who meant the most to them. No problem.

But how to begin? A list seemed too linear. What I needed was a map.

I’ve always been a nut about genealogy. When I was in undergrad, Brandon gave me a book of Carver stories. I fell in love with them. Then I found out our teacher had been taught by John Gardner, the same John Gardner who taught Ray Carver. I started building this goof-ball lineage in my mind…that I was somehow inheriting what had come before me.

A family tree!

So once in a while, when I’m feeling lost, feeling a little schizophrenic in my reading habits, I’ll draw a dorky map like the one above, who I’ve read, who I should read.

Where I am, where I should be going.

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