Podcast 11: Austin Kleon

This week I interview best-selling author Austin Kleon on the creative process.

Austin is one of my favorite writers and thinkers about the creative process. He is a poet, a collage artist, a blogger, an author, a diarist, and a writer who draws.

Listen to the episode here.

Mentioned in this episode:


(Warning: transcribed by robot, unproofed by human)

DANNY: Welcome to art for all, the Sketchbook Skool podcast. I’m your host Danny Gregory.  Each week I bring you stories, ideas, interviews and inspiration to keep you company while you work on your own creative project.  Whether you are drawing your dog, welding a monumental sculpture, designing an offIce tower, screen printing a T-shirt , or making a really good grilled cheese, I hope this episode inspires you. That’s our mission at Sketchbook Skool, to help encourage art for all. Including you, of course.

A couple of quick reminders:  We are about to embark on a very exciting new kourse called Watercolor Rules! And how to break them. And time is running out to sign up because we start on Monday, September 17 so get over to sketchbook.school and check it out.   and if you’re listening to this episode at some point after September 17th, you can still join the kourse because it will. also available in demand. I promise, no matter your experience level with watercolor and when you take it, you will love this kourse.  Love it. I do.

I also want to let you know something else you should actually get right on which that we are soon going to raise the price of a ticket to SketchKon, our first ever drawing and painting convention in Pasadena, November 2-4. The faster you sign up, the less it costs.  If you want to know more about about this amazing event, visit SketchKon.com, that Kon with a K and you’ll see all the incredible events and speakers and sponsors and sketchcrawls and social events we have lined up.  It is gonna be amazing.

Onto this week’s episode. As soon as  we first birthed the idea of SketchKon, I knew who I absolutely had to have as a speaker; Austin Kleon.  Austin is one of my favorite writers and thinkers about the creative process. He is a poet, a collage artist, a blogger, an author, a diarist, and a writer who draws.

Austin is the author of several New York Time best sellers on the creative process including

If you don’t know these books, treat yourselves to a copy of both. They are smart, funny, ingenious and you will come back to them time and again. I reread them both every year.

Austin and I have had a number of deep and far ranging conversations over the years and I wanted to make sure I could get him to come to Pasadena to share his insights with our community.  Even though he is a finishing up a brand new book, called Keep Going: A guide to staying creative in chaotic times.  he agreed to make time for us and he will be there, on Saturday November 3rd to deliver the keynote.  I am so excited.

I called him to go over the details of his talk which will be called “Creative  is not a noun” and afterwards we kicked back, turned on the audio recorder and talked about a broad range of things.



Danny: In the last episode of this podcast, I did a whole meditation on paper and all the things I love about it and all the different forms that it takes and I happened to read this article in the Washington Post.  

There’s actually a video as well about this restaurant in Freedom Main I don’t know if you heard about it’s called The Lost kitchen. It’s like this very hot restaurant and they were besieged by people leading phone messages on their machine trying to make reservations. And so they decided that they’re going to change their whole system and the way the system works now is you have to send them a postcard and that’s how you get a reservation is by sending a postcard that you’ve made so they had all these people.

They got 20,000 postcards and then they would randomly pick one. They would have like whoever was available here the busboy pick one and that would be the pink and they in this video. They show all these postcards and they’re just gorgeous. Like people really went to town making these beautiful things and I know that you.

Like you love paper, you love sketchbooks, you love notebooks and and all that kind of stuff and I just wanted to talk to you a bit about that. Like what kind of what extent that passion has for you like what are you really sort of nerdy about paper and the feeling of books and so forth.

Austin: I’m not a real fussy person like it comes to materials.

I’m sort of overall. I’m obsessed with paper and I’m and I’m sort of like the idea of paper. I’m obsessed with and I and I and I. And I love it and I use it. I’m not particularly fussy about what the poundage is or what it feels like, you know, I mean, it’s more of a utilitarian thing for me. So but I but I believe so deeply in the power of it.

And I think what’s interesting to me is just how I think I probably feel the way I do about paper just because we’re in this incredibly digital era. I mean, I think if you sort of like kind of poke around history, you’ll find that whenever you know one form kind of a sense. Whatever is being kind of pushed out.

There’s kind of a leap in interest in that other things. So like for example, you know MP3s or Digital streaming with music like Rises and then all of a sudden you’ve got, you know people listening to records again and vinyl and I think the same thing is kind of happened with paper which is like, you know, you have this, you know, it’s just becoming this very digital, Zeros and ones world and there’s paper which is kind of this, you know, really tactile thing that is actually incredibly durable. I mean a lot of people are like, oh, you know, do you upload all your sketchbooks to the cloud so you you know, so you have like them backed up or whatever in it, and it’s really funny to me because I’m like, you know, I have sketchbooks from when I was 13 that I can still open and read.

And I have hard drives or three years old that I can’t read. You know what I mean? So it’s like the kind of like I think people’s ideas about what lasts and what’s durable. I don’t trust the cloud at all with that with much, you know, and it’s interesting because I once my books are printed I have this kind of relief because I’m like, okay.

Well if I lose all the. Are in writing at least I have these books that float around on the shelves, you know, it’s this funny thing and I think some people I have I do Twyla tharp’s thing that in the creative habit. She has this thing as she recommends where she starts a banker’s box for every project.

So I do that now and I’ll and I just these boxes just fill up with paper and I think some people would throw it out. But for me, it’s just like such a great little time capsule. You know, I don’t want to get rid of them.


Danny: I my son just turned 25 and I still have I have books that you know the with a plastic sleeves and I’ve four or five of them  called The Art of Jack Tea Gregory and it’s like and it’s like page after page of these like every chicken scratching that he did before when he was, you know up to the age of about eight or nine and scans certainly don’t capture that.

Austin: I like paper with kids because it’s ju st so. There’s just nothing beats.

I mean my my son Jules who is three right now, I would say he probably goes through one of those like copy paper reams probably every week or two. You know, he just he just fills it and you know, we as a family of kind of I think some people would be like, oh that’s so wasteful and you know follow up on we as a family are.

But we just decided like will go through a lot of paper. That’s just the expense and that’s what we do and one of my heroes Lynda Barry who I’ll probably talk about again because when I think of drawing I think of Linda and so much of what I’ve learned about drawing I’ve learned from her and she talks about being a kid and her mom, you know, she had a rough childhood and she talks about her mom like yelling at her for using up paper and how it kind of created this.

I think it I think it turned paper into a fetish object for her in some ways which probably led to what it is that she does but she’s a paper hoarder now, so she just like she talks about just like hoarding every little scrap of paper. She comes across and it’s funny because I do think that I’ve been thinking I just wrote this new book called keep going and one of the sections is about.

Is about tidying and it’s about it’s sort of pushing back against this thing going on our culture. Now where people are really, you know, the Marie kondo magic hoarders packrat this there’s this kind of like there’s this that kind of thing in the culture right now that pack rats are really it’s a bad time to be a packrat basically and and I think that all.

I wrote in steal like an artist I wrote, you know, most artists are collectors of some kind and I said not a hoarder mind you there’s a difference but after I wrote that I kind of I’m starting to think. No, actually I think artists are hoarders because you just you don’t know what you’re going to need and and you don’t know what you’re going to use.

But that’s just a roundabout. I kind of went off topic there, but I just think for me there’s just such a magic to having to watching you know, for one thing. There’s a magic to watching The Notebook stack up, you know, I just the physicality of it. I like my version of notebook pornography is not actually looking inside of people’s notebooks as much as I love to see like someone’s trunk.

Of sketchbooks, you know our like a big stack of one of my cartoonist Heroes James coach Olga has this picture of just the stack of his notebooks. He used to draw his comic strip American elf and it’s just 14 years of notebooks and it’s like it’s I don’t know how many feet high it is, but he took this picture of it and the designer Michael Beirut.

I know he. Had like a stack of his composition books. He’s been using for 30 years. I just love that kind of that paper Monument to human effort. You know, that’s the kind of thing that I really kind of

Danny: I’ll send you a picture of my cabinets because I have a wall of cabinets which is all filled with Sketch books and writing books all in like neat rows on shelves and that’s always been my favorite thing.

In fact, I remember I interviewed James for this book. I did about people who keep sketchbooks and just having this hole. I mean so many of people are obsessive in the in some cases. It’s making their own sketchbooks in some cases. It’s always having exactly the same kind or having different ones for different is I know that you kind of have different ones that you’re going on at the same

Austin: Yeah, I I started using this like this off-brand company.

I they sent me some and I was like dude a really nice. I’m going to order more of them. And then I like ordered a box of them because I like them so much and then they start falling apart. So now I’m using them but like people ask me like oil. Can you recommend like what notebook do you use and I’m just sort of like I can’t tell you because like they fall apart but I do it is funny because people make fun of the the mole Sky normal skin.

However, you say it like, but those those everyone I have is still like held up and. I actually I keep three different notebooks. So I’m kind of like I have these three different notebooks at all times. And so I could if the risk of boring everyone to death, I guess I could but I

Danny: us tell us what they are.

Austin: So the one I carry around all the time is like one of those hard back. It’s like a credit card sized basically. It’s like a very small it’s like the size of an iPhone like an old iPhone not one of those big monstrous ones, but like it’s like a very tiny hardback notebook. And that’s one that in the morning.

I date stamp the page and then I just like any idea. I have ice cream. I have a pencil that I tie around it like with a rubber band and like any idea. I have throughout the day goes in that book and that’s like my scratch notebook that I keep. So that’s like one notebook and that’s on me all the time.

And then I have what I call my log book and my log book is about is like a like half the size of a paperback book. It’s like a tiny little Moleskine daily diary and what that’s for is everyday I write down what I did the day before. And so it’s but it sounds like a diary. It’s actually not it’s literally it’s a stupid.

It’s like a reverse date book. So it’s like I write down got up took walk ate breakfast. It’s very boring. You know, it’s like I’ll write down talk to Danny for an hour, you know, just like just it’ll be went to the grocery, you know, but it’s literally just a list of what I did throughout the day.

And that sort of becomes like an index of my wife and I use that as a way to almost find other stuff and just to kind of like keep a record what happens to me and I’ve been doing that for like 10 years. So that’s so that’s like the thing that’s been most constant throughout the past decade

Danny: So you refer back to that when you say I had an idea on so when I was doing something what else was I doing at

Austin: yeah, we’re I’ll be like when was I in Belgium? Well, I think it was you know, I might look it up in my Google Calendar or something and say oh, well, that was 2014. Okay. Let me look it up my log book. Oh, that’s right. I went here and here and then what I might do is I keep and then I’ll go on to the my. Third notebook, which is the probably the most substantial but what I do right now as I have a good old-fashioned diary and this is like the size of a paperback book, but it’s like really fat and I fill one of these about every month and a half and what I do is no matter what I sit down in the morning and I’ll fill out my log book and I’ll look at my Scratch notebook that I carry around my little pocket one and I’ll write about the day before in the morning over breakfast. And sometimes I’ll do a collage sometimes my primary thing that I draw in there is I’ll draw comics of like funny things my kid says so and then he likes to read the comics.

So he’ll want to see my Comics that I’ve drawn about him in the in the notebook, but that’s like a very. That is a very old-fashioned diary basically, so I will write about and that’s actually I’ve been doing this for about about two years now and this is the book where most of my new book came from like like the ideas that are in the diary like like that really kind of led to this new book.

So this system. Is actually sort of modified from the like kind of cobbled together. This is actually I was inspired by David Sedaris because I knew David Sedaris was very was a the writer David Sedaris was he was I knew that all of his pieces came from his diary, but I didn’t know how he did them and he just put out a book of his Diaries called theft by finding.

And I was reading another book of his where he actually talks about how he keeps a notebook and that when I discovered that what he does is he just keeps notes all day and then he writes about the day the next morning that sort of unlocked something for me and I realized that like oh morning is when I’m most on that’s when I’m most meditative.

That’s when I should try to write because I used to try to write a diary at the end of the night. And I was just too tired. I just like couldn’t do it was hard to keep up. So once I switch to the morning like something really great happened and now I have the system that just like I never lack for something to write about.

The other thing. I do on the digital side of things is I keep a daily blog now. And I’ve noticed that my notebook system really make sure that I always have something for the daily blog. Like that’s where a lot of those daily blog posts come from and then of course the daily blog sort of becomes the books and so I really feel like for people who are trying to do creative work.

I believe very much in the daily of creative work. I think you need like a daily system for producing work. And I don’t really think it matters what it is, but there needs to be some sort of process like there needs to be some sort of system in which you never really have to worry about whether you’re producing.

You just kind of do things, you know, so it for other people it might be different like it might just be like, oh, you know you feel three pages of your Sketchbook or you. You know, it doesn’t really matter what it is. But I find that little daily chunks of effort over time. They build up into something new and so I just I’m a very additive guy.

It’s like, okay, you’ve got this little notebook you take notes and and then they become bigger diary entries and then you take these diary entries and they turn into blog posts and then you might put the blogpost together into another big blog post or you might put them in a talk and then that talk might become a book, you know, so it’s this very like.

Iterative sort of Katamari ball. You know what? I mean? I’m just like Gathering things.

Danny: eating the whale.

Austin: Yeah, so it’s like but I’m just like I think more than SketchBook people. See I used to be very, you know, I’m someone who considers himself a writer who draws so primarily I see myself as a writer and the drawing is sort of like.

It’s something I Almost Do on the side or it’s like a it’s like an auxiliary power or something. I don’t know but like for me I also think that writing and drawing or so interwoven and my mind now because it’s all ink on paper, but for me, I primary primarily see myself as a writer and so. I’ve just in the you know, 10 years ago.

I think I was more inspired by like looking at people’s sketchbooks and like visual stuff. But now I’m very much inspired by diarists. So I’ve been reading a lot of David Sedaris a lot of Henry David Thoreau as my favorite journalist or Journal keeper diary keeper. I actually love Andy warhol’s diary which is.

Is was actually him dictating what he did to his assistant and then she transcribed it. So it’s sort of a different thing. But and also like someone like Virginia Woolf was really good, but that’s sort of where I am in my work and I think diary, you know, my first kept started keeping those log books.

It was away from putting the effort into a diary. But now I just that my daily diary is just so incredibly valuable to me because it’s really where I discover what I’m really thinking about what I’m really going through.


Danny: So I want to morph into talking about steal like an artist because I feel like so much of what I get from your process whether it’s on your blog or in your newsletters and then ultimately in your books is this sort of.

The way that you’re constantly filling your well with stuff and that you’re always you’re all your interest in so many different things and all these ideas sort of accumulate and obviously the part of the creative process that you’re really intensely focus on is this is this Gathering and then ultimately, It’s about it all kind of coming together in new and interesting ways.

Can you talk a bit about that about the about this process of of it’s in I’ve heard it referred to as RI mixing and I don’t think that’s really what it is. I think it’s more this giant Soup pot of stuff that kind of breaks down and forms new flavors, but tell me a bit about your perspective on that what what what what goes into it and what comes out of it.

Austin: well, I think that primarily I see what I do through the lens of collage. I’m a huge fan of like collage as a form. And and I think that collage is really where my mind is most active. So collage is something that I do when I really don’t know what to do next I make collages and there’s something about the act of collage that really activates my brain and.

I’ve noticed in my life that I have to be doing a lot of different things at the same time and then the things talk to each other and they create this new thing and so that’s sort of the magic of it. And I think my books in particular are sort of they are collages of the books. I’ve read like the past five years.

Yeah, and that’s how I really feel about them. They’re almost like. I was talking I was talking to an artist recently and our names and her name’s Lucy Bellwood and and she has a dad who taught screenwriting and he would kind of collect quotes and he would make these little like ziens that he would pass out to his students and she said, you know your books really remind me of my dad.

Little ziens they give to the students. Not lately. Yeah, that’s how I feel about my books. They’re like fancy ziens, you know that someone like Photo copied and pasted it together, but I you know, as I as I have studied, you know, my books are really the result of me trying to figure out how to be an artist.

And so as I was studying other artists just became clear to me that yeah, you just. You have to devour your so much the result of what you eat garbage in garbage out kind of thing. Like you are what you eat like input and output like so many of the Great’s just it’s about like sort of taking in and then putting out, you know, and and I when I was younger I felt so much this pole towards having to be original.

I felt like well, what artists do is they just have like they’re special people. And they tap into what’s special about them and they use their talents to just make This brilliant work and like that’s how it works. And that’s how I thought it worked for a long time. And now I just have the opposite feeling.

I think that artists are you know, they’re normally talented people but more than anything they’re obsessed by certain things and they spend a lot of time and effort kind of devouring with their attention. Certain things and I think that you know for artists in particular, I think that most artists are the result of like, you know, 9 or 10 different artists that they’ve tried to copy.

So I think that you basically you start out and you just you know you love. I don’t I’m going to blank here. But you know you start out and you’re just like aping one particular I’ll use music as an example. You know, it’s like when I was younger, I just love to Green Day. And so, you know the minute I heard Green Day and my friends and I like we want to start a three-piece punk band.

We’re just like, okay, so we started this band and it was all Green Day. So like it sounded like a bad version of Green Day. And then as I studied I found out. Oh, well Green Day. They listen to this band called The Clash and okay. I will let’s listen to The Clash like oh that’s interesting The Clash they do like.

All kinds of different, you know, and then it’s like, okay. Well they were also listening this band called The Ramones and you start listening The Ramones. Oh, well, the Ramones are and they do these like pop songs and they are into this guy named Phil Spector. Maybe I should so, you know, you start like you start.

I think you I have this kind of model for artists where it’s like you start with the artist that really inspires you and then you just figure out everything there is to know about that artist and you figure out who influence that. And then you start finding this whole web you sort of like build your own history of the art form.

You can do that literally by just starting with one artist and I always find it interesting that I use music as an example because I think music was really my first Passion and that’s the thing. I really understand in terms of these webs of influence, but you can do it for any art form. You know, you start.

It just you start at one point you start with whatever sort of makes you feel alive to your own gifts. And then you just figure out figure it out from there. But I really I think like watching my son’s it’s been so much. It’s been so interesting to me to realize copying is just how we learn. This is how we exist.

This is this is how humans have developed themselves. From the beginning you don’t come from nothing, you know, nothing comes from nowhere you you literally discover Who You Are by emulating other people and trying on different outfits and you know, you just you become, you know, you have to wear like a dozen different skins before you find your own, you know, that’s just like sort of how it happens and people talk about voice a lot discovering your voice and.

I never knew what they were talking about. And I finally heard the poet Billy Collins. He said well your voice is just the result of a dozen people whose voices you’ve tried to mimic. You know, that’s your own voice. That’s how you find and I just think that that was so powerful. So that that’s really the that’s really where the steal like an artist thing comes from it comes from, you know, not.

When you’re starting out not running away from influence, but running towards it and trying to grab as much as you can and I think there’s a there’s a political element to influence in terms of you know, I think whatever influence you run towards can be a corrective to what’s happening in your life right now.

So, you know I have with this book. I was really really inspired by women. I really. You know, I had had a little bit of Chris’s criticism for my last books where there were so many male voices and not enough female voices and I took that really seriously and I really took a look at my own life and was like, what am I devouring?

And so for this new book? I really tried to just kind of soak myself and in this more kind. In a more I’ve always felt like I was really influenced by by by women, but I it just wasn’t coming out in the work and so like I really tried to concentrate with this next book on, you know, really saturating myself in these women artists that I love people like create a can’t and hand a hawk and.

Nina katchadourian and Amy Chris Rosenthal I’m looking at my have this board above my desk that has all my like kind of artistic Heroes some kind of like naming them off Virginia Woolf, you know, and so like the I think that who you run towards influential e it affects the work that you do, you know, and so influence can be like really aspirational Tovey Onsen the woman who did the move in common.

You know, but that’s but but like, you know, whoever you want to be calm, you know again, I just think it’s that idea of you aren’t born with this stuff. You have to like figure it out. You got to kind of build yourself.


Danny: So you’re going to be talking at SketchKon and SketchKon is this convention that we’re holding for people who are interested in drawing and painting and a lot of it is grown out of Sketchbook Skool, a lot of the way that we teach is very much along the lines of what you’re describing because our theory is there’s no one way to learn Art and  no one way to make art.

And then basically you just need to be exposed to as many different artists and their work as possible. And that that those are ultimately one tablespoon at a time going to fill the kind of colder and of your own creativity. And so most of our classes are designed to have a new teacher every week and that’s sort of the idea behind what we’re going to be doing at SketchKon as well is it’s going to be like this sort of three ring circus of presentations and.

Nine months and kind of creative demonstrations and opportunities to make stuff and so forth and most of the people who are going to be there are illustrators and artists and visual artists, but we’ve asked you to be our keynote speaker in the middle of the whole event because I feel like so much of the message of what you have written about.

Is so pertinent to tying this together and to sort of saying the people it’s not about. Learning a technique, you know people say, oh, I’d love to learn how to draw and we always say what we want to teach you is how to learn how to love to draw so that you’ll always keep doing it and you’ll keep experimenting with it.

And yeah your Technique since your your skills will improve but that’s not really the objective the objective is to incorporate. Into a lifetime of making stuff and that that’s ultimately the most rewarding kind of life you can have and clearly you live that kind of life you make things all the time, but I wanted to ask you about amateurism because that’s really a lot of the focus of what we do is to say it’s not about teaching you professional skills like an art school would it’s about.

Encouraging you to have a creative habit where you make things all the time and that you see like an artist that you see the world as an artist and I and I love what you say when you talk about the importance of just making things and then waiting to see maybe maybe something will come with them.

Maybe it won’t they’ll take on a life of their own but that ultimately it’s not about. Drawing so much that eventually you can become an illustrator. It’s not about turning your passion for creativity into a profession because there’s frankly a lot of downsides to that to to sort of marry your mistress, you know, so talk a bit about that about this idea of living a creative life and that that.

Whether it turns into your you’re the way you put bread on the table or not is is less important than the all the richness that it will bring.

Austin: Well the thing I try to remind people with. You know, I’m a language guy. I’m a writer and so I always try to remind people of the origin of the term amateur now immature is used in this sort of pejorative sense and that you know, he’s an amateur that’s amateur, you know, but in the old days amatuer amature in the French literally means lover of.

And in the old days amateur was not pejorative in the sense. It is now an amateur was someone who literally just did something for love and so to be an amateur painter did not mean that you were necessarily a lesser painter just met you didn’t make money off your painting. And so the amateur spirit is something I talk a lot about in my book show your work because I find that the amateur Spirit Carries one forward a lot further and too much more interesting places than the professional Spirit their Milton Glaser talks really beautifully about this.

He says, you know, the. He talks a lot about how professional growth and personal growth are at odds. And the reason he says is that professional growth is all about you find something that you can do better than anybody else and you do it and you keep doing it until you retire basically that you know when you’re a professional.

You just you sort of glom onto the style and you just and this one kind of technique or whatever and you just like run that into the ground as a brand. You know, you just like you just make as much money off as you can off of that one thing. That’s how people know you

Danny: And branding this whole

Austin: and Branding.

Yeah, exactly. Yeah,

Danny: I have that conversation with illustrators who were just like, well, I can’t really experiment because I’m known for doing like fine. Line drawings with the block of color behind them and if I stop doing that, what will I become, you

Austin: Yeah, and and so we all but what we know is this happens in school, too.

When kids start out. I mean, my son’s don’t have any real I mean they do have style they have their work has personality, but they don’t have any idea that they’re supposed to just be one thing. So my son can sit down and make comics and it’s no big deal and like he can go and record music and it’s no big deal and you can read books about the human body and like go explore out in the yard.

Nobody’s telling him like, oh, you know, you need to stick to your piano playing or you need to stick to your botany. No, I mean, he’s this like kind of omnivorous like person and. You know, you taught you talked about James kichaka before I think James is a person that has discovered in I mean, he’s a multi-talented person but he’s also discovered that all this stuff sort of has a thread through it, which is really the art of Discovery is that you know, you’re you’re interfacing with the world you’re pointing your attention in this certain direction.

Are in multiple directions and so I just think the amateur Spirit while it might not help you always commercially. It’ll keep you alive, you know it and I think that that is a kind of old-fashioned. I can’t believe that this has become old-fashioned. But the thing I like about old-fashioned things is that the more old-fashioned they get the more kind of subversive and interesting they become and so.

I feel like we’re at this moment right now where if you stand up and a group of people and you say, you know, the best thing about drawing is that it makes you feel alive. That’s the best thing about drawing like it’s not you know, someone if someone pays you $1,000. For a drawing it’s not going to feel as good as as when you’re really on and you made the perfect line or you really were able to capture something, you know, and I think that I also think that what happens with people is and it certainly happened to me in my career.

I chased after things that I thought I was supposed to do that didn’t make me feel alive in terms of a career and then I suddenly discovered. What I eventually discovered is that if you really follow the things that make you feel alive and you pay attention to them and you spend a lot of time on them, what happens is that you know, eventually you get good enough at them that maybe they will get you somewhere that’s more commercial.

But I mean, you know that could happen. It could not happen, but I just think that. We do not emphasize in this culture enough that the Arts are supposed to make your life better. They are for the enjoyment of Life. They help us enjoy life. They help us drawing in particular. There’s a whole chapter about this my new book, which is drawing is a form of paying attention when you are drawing something you’re paying attention to it and you’re really looking at.

For what it is and the magic of drawing is not getting a finished drawing it seeing it’s either able to see the world better when you draw and it makes the world more beautiful actually when you draw it and I think my new sort of mission or goal really is to help people ReDiscover this very simple.

Fact and you know, I think the side hustle stuff and the you know, the the wanting to monetize your hobbies, I think all of that comes out of the economic anxiety of the age. I mean people have never been more strapped they’ve never the the despair between people who have a lot the disparity between people who have a lot and people have nothing has never been greater.

I mean we’re entering this new Gilded Age basically. And so I think that a lot of what we see that kind of side hustle that kind of like well turn your blog into a living or you know, make money off your art stuff. I think a lot of that comes from just the economic and social climate that we’re in but I think if you think long-term about this stuff, you just have to be really careful because I think the easiest way to destroy a passion in a lot of ways is to turn it into your breadwinner.

Danny: I think that that’s absolutely very insightful. I think I think another thing that’s going on now is. You can get an audience. Like when I was a teenager if I wanted to, you know, write stories or make art. What was I going to do with it? You know, maybe I could I could send it into a magazine and who knows maybe one day, you know, one of the things would get selected but now you can make something and you can put it out there.

And so I think it just encourages many more people to make much more stuff and I think we have to remember that that is its own reward rather than necessarily having to turn it into an Etsy store or publish it as a self-published book. I mean, it’s all very. Nice, but it’s not your it’s not your obligation.

Your obligation is to yourself and to just keep creating.

Austin: Yeah, I think like I just think that this world is in this is an ancient idea. I mean, you know, I was just reading the rose Journal this morning and September 7th 1984 1851. He was writing about how he felt like most people just weren’t alive to the world.

I mean that was really his. That was really his great insight and that’s really the inside of a lot of the great philosophers and writers is that most people sleepwalk through life and what the Arts do is it helps you wake up to your world and I really think that is the true joy and value of drawing is that it wakes you up to the world.

It makes you feel alive. It fires at least two of your senses, you know. And NN sensors are exactly what we’re sort of lacking in this world right now people with sense not just common sense or sense but the census people are divorced from their senses, you know and drawing brings you back into at least two

Danny: Yeah, I mean, I personally drawing changed my life when I started drawing in my late 30s and it it it completely redirected me in a New Direction and I think a lot of the people who are going to be at SketchKonnor going to have that kind of understanding awareness and ambition to to just go deeper into it to learn more and more.

I think when we start to draw we think. I don’t have to draw a straight line or I didn’t want to learn how to draw a bowl of fruit or likeness of somebody and I think ultimately you start to realize when you live your life as you also do observing everything around you recording it creating new memories creating new insight seeing things more clearly recognizing beauty in all its many forms life just gets better.

It gets easier. You know, it’s. It’s a fantastic way to live. So we’re going to have 500 people who are all I think going to be really interested in hearing what you have to say. And I hope that you’re also going to be part of this experience. You can be part of this this convention and hopefully you’ll get a chance to do some drawing and to make some stuff while you’re there with us in Pasadena.

Austin: look forward to it.

Danny: Yeah. I think it’s gonna be really fun. Well, thanks so much for coming. With us to talk and also for joining me on this podcast today and your talk is going to be on Saturday night right before we have our big evening Gala party where we’re going to have a drink and draw and celebrate Day of the Dead and I don’t know get drunk and draw naked people or something like that.

So it should be a lot of fun. So prepare yourself for that. Thanks again for chatting today.


Danny: Isn’t Austin great? I hope you can see why I was so adamant about having him speak at SketchKon.  I hope you will be there in Pasadena, November 2-4 to hear him speak in person. He’s looking forward to being a part of the konvention, to drawing with us,  signing books and chatting. And you can buy him a drink at the day of the dead drink and draw right after his talk.

Sign up at SketchKon.com

I also hope you and your watercolor sketchbook will be joining me and Koosje and Ian Sidaway and Ian Fennelly and August Wren and Inma Serrano in our new kourse Watercolor Rules and how to break them. You can find out more at Sketchbook.school.


I hope you got some beautiful creative work while you listened to our conversation and I hope you found them useful. If you did or if you didnt, please subscribe and give us some feedback.  We try to make lots of different sorts of episodes for you on this podcast and to cover lots of different topics we think you’ll find useful. And we’d love to hear from you so we can make art for all even better.


You can email me at danny@sketchbookskool.com or you can come up and chat with me in Pasadena  


Until next, time, I’m danny gregory and this is art for all.




6 thoughts on “Podcast 11: Austin Kleon”

  1. I like the variety of subjects and speakers. I’m slowly getting used to podcasts and find I get quite a bit of art done while listening to this talking rather than my usual music. I wish I didn’t have so much trouble getting into the podcast…I don’t do itunes. I eventually get it to work, but each time it seems to take me lots of searching to find the way to get it working.


    1. Lin, if you click on the little Art for All logo and icons to the right near the top under the words “subscribe to my new podcast” that should open it here. At least for this one. Unfortunately Danny has posted the “Listen to the episode here” link as an iTunes Podcast app link; maybe he meant to do it the other way round?


  2. Love all your podcasts..especially Austin’s…..another I thought I was on a religious channel…it was great too…I’m doing pottery while listening to you but you inspire me to draw….


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