Kleon’s “Steal Like An Artist” Speech Analysis

Stealing something is an action that is almost taboo to speak about in a way that is not judgmental. Hence, the speech “Steal like an Artist” has a provocative name and may seem controversial or offensive to some people. However, after listening to the speaker, his ideas become clear, as the word stealing might be changed to borrowing and transforming ideas. Such an idea is not new for me (Kleon, 2015). Hence, I would like to add how I learned this idea through different mediums earlier in life.

One of the artists mentioned in the speech is David Bowie, whom I greatly adore as a musician, artist, and personality. In his 1973 interviews, he recalled himself as “a collector – a person who collects personalities” (Holm-Hudson, 2019). This approach is true, as he is known to change many visual and musical styles and images throughout his career. Hence, it is fascinating to learn about his interests and the influences behind the changes. It is also hard to deny that Bowie became one of the most influential rock singers and musicians of the 20th century by being a great imitator and transformer of others’ ideas.

Another rock personality that commented on the same matter was Kurt Cobain. Like Bowie, Cobain recalled in one of his diaries that “I use bits and pieces of others personalities to form my own.” (Ziek & Pantic, 2019). Lynda Barry’s composition notebook guide requires the students to include everything they see and do in order to develop the skill of seeing and remembering the world around them (Barry, 2021). Connecting Barry’s idea to the approach explained by Kleon defines that inspiration can be drawn from any external influence, including other people’s art because after an idea is processed through an individual’s unique perception, it changes. Both Cobain’s and Bowie’s opinions resonated with me during my teenage years, as I have noticed the same identity tendencies in my life. Hence, it seems like this principle applies to other spheres such as art, technology, science, or personal style. This is one of the fundamental ways people interact with other people.


Barry, L. (2021). Syllabus: Notes from an accidental professor. Drawn & Quarterly.

Holm-Hudson, K. (2019). Walking the dead: Memory and self-reflexive intertextuality in late style David Bowie. Music, Memory and Memoir, 81-98.

Kleon, A. (2015). The Steal Like an Artist Journal: A Notebook for Creative Kleptomaniacs. Workman Publishing.

Ziek, P., & Pantic, M. (2019). From Anti-hero to Commodity: The Legacy of Kurt Cobain. Journal of Arts and Humanities, 6(2), 21-31.