Stealing like an artist (I hope)

by Eric Marcoullier


Was your father a thief...

Austin Cleon wrote a blog post earlier this year listing 10 things he wish he had learned in college, much of it centering on how to be creative.  I urge you to go read the post after you’re done here (if you think you’ll forget, just go now; I won’t get mad). I’ve read the post several times and the thing that resonates the most with me is the idea of Stealing Like An Artist.  An artist is the product of her influences, so she should get inspired daily and create her own work building upon what came before.  As a fan of mashups and the whole remix culture, that concept has always resonated strongly with me.

Since selling OneTrueFan a few weeks ago, I’ve been aching to build something with my hands, so after more than 10 years, I’m getting back into stained glass.  The challenge is that I hate most stained glass — it’s all twee flowers and birds of paradise. I like the ecclesiastical windows a lot, but that’s not really appropriate for home (or atheist) use.  In recent years, my passion has been the modern stuff, like Larry Zgoda and Maya Radoczy and even someone like Richard Elliott, who became famous for giant art installations made of reflectors. My favorite artist is Carl Powell, who’s glass work contains boundless amounts of joy and movement and whimsey.

Home for Jewish Parents, Danville CA - 7'x7'

When I decided to get back into stained glass, the style I wanted to pursue was obvious.  Unfortunately, all the available stained glass patterns are that saccharin bullshit. The artists I’m interested don’t make patterns for hobbyists.

So I spent most of my free time last week in Illustrator tracing photographs of Powell and Zgoda’s glass and creating patterns of their work. I had no interest in recreating any of them because my own work won’t come close to the originals and the last thing I want is a shoddy recreation of one of their masterpieces.  But the process of tracing their work was profound; after a while I felt like I had actually internalized some of their design principles.

This week my free time has been split between creating my own patterns in Illustrator and staring at images in my “Inspirations” Drop Box folder.  The image below is the pattern for my first original stained glass design ever, and my first work in a decade.  The inspiration should be obvious, and while it’s clearly not as good as Powell’s work, I’m excited to be taking my first step as an independent artist.

It's a start, yeah? Now I just have to render it in glass.

Next up, I’ll be picking out glass and getting cuts on my fingers again. I can’t wait!

For any of my Bay Area peeps who are interested in learning to make stained glass themselves, I can’t say enough great things about Aanraku Stained Glass in San Mateo.  Jeffrey and Hiroyuki are fantastic teachers.

And lastly, Austin Cleon will be publishing a book early next year expanding on his Steal Like An Artist post. Make sure to pick up a copy when it’s released.

{ 4 comments… read them below or add one }

Rex Dixon September 23, 2011 at 10:02 am

Very interesting how the brain works. Artists/Musicians are usually the best when it comes to computer related and entrepreneurial stuff. Quite a cool / unique hobby you have there. Guess you decided to go that route than to learn how to play the bass?


Eric Marcoullier September 23, 2011 at 10:23 am

10,000 hour rule in full effect. If I practiced an hour a day for three years I’d be fit to play publicly. I just don’t have the time or the focus. I still pick it up and noodle occasionally, though. Love the bass!


Jason Michaels September 23, 2011 at 10:20 am

Awesome news, Eric. My dad created a lot of stained glass for our home when I was in high school. He loved both the precision and unpredictable aspects of working with glass, metal, and heat.


Eric Marcoullier September 23, 2011 at 10:24 am

That’s a fantastic way to describe it. You can’t force glass to do anything it doesn’t want to do, but if you’re patient, you can often persuade it to your way of thinking :)


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