In one of his recent books, the American author A.J. Jacobs reported he had successfully outsourced his life. In the name of improving personal efficiency, he left everything odious to an outfit in India — they answered his phone, paid his bills, dealt with spam and even settled misunderstandings with his wife. In Jacobs’ current book, Drop Dead Healthy, he explores outsourcing his worries. The idea is to give your worries to someone else to worry about while you undertake to worry about their stuff. Sounds fair. Apparently it helps you to be more productive and to live longer.
Another longevity ploy is what Jacobs calls “Chewdaism” — the art of chewing each mouthful of food up to 100 times. This improves digestion, prolongs eating, and drags out more nutrients. Definitely not for me as I like to finish my meals in less than four hours so I can get back to the studio. To stay in line, I considered outsourcing my chewing, like members of some African tribes, but I soon lost interest in the concept.
In our world, some artists outsource their creative work. This is where the artist phones her helpers and says she wants a 36″ x 48″ with a tree on the left and some rocks in the foreground. It’s best done poolside in St. Moritz to inexpensive offshore minions while being served dirty Martinis by tall, cute waiters with moustaches.
When you think about it, the photo-litho, giclee and reproduction game is somewhat similar. With today’s technology, the artist doesn’t even need to leave the pool to do the signing. I know artists who think if you’re not outsourcing via reproductions you’re a few lentils short of a casserole.
But what I want to talk about is the goal of outsourcing your sales. To be truly successful in our game you need two things: good art — and someone who thinks it’s good art, besides your mom. This is where respectable galleries come in. Artists who ship to art dealers are released to the sanctified glow of their own genius and the joyful frustration of their processes. For them, there’s no setting up and taking down in church basements or looking for the bubblewrap. Further, unless they feel like having shows, these artists need not stand around talking to Prada-wearing lawyers, dentists and CEOs. Home in the studio in the old spattered smock, trying to improve, is by far the better option.
PS: “I’m addicted to self-improvement. The thing is, there’s so damn much about myself to improve.” (A.J. Jacobs)
Esoterica: It’s reasonable that artists should outsource everything they don’t like to do. In my case that includes limbing the giant cedars on our property. When those Husqvarna-wielding arborists are way up in the perilous, swaying treetops, I realize just what a wonderful life an artist has. Some other jobs need to be outsourced as well, including tax preparation and household plumbing activities. One thing I know — it’s pretty difficult to outsource your style, your own hard-won abilities and your personal creative joy.
by Tony Angell, Seattle, Washington, USA
As one who also sculpts, I’ve been appalled at the number of artists who outsource to the point of doing nothing but signing their name to the finished work. For awhile a month didn’t go by that I didn’t get a solicitation from a stone carving or bronze casting outfit in China that would “do” my work for me. Yes, everything and all that was required was a sketch from me or a photo of what I wanted to have done. Now, here in the States, they have local fabricating outfits that do the same thing and will convert a series of photos of a subject to a computer program that will then allow a machine to carve the photo in three dimensions in Styrofoam. Once done, a mold is taken of the Styrofoam model which will allow you to cast it in bronze. This garbage is showing up all over the place and is the most outrageous form of “outsourcing” and giving credit to opportunistic frauds who claim to be artists. Of course it looks absurd to the educated eye, but sadly, the promotional hype behind some of this is such that an ignorant public swallows the hook as well as the bait.
by Leslie Moody
Love the freedom of the concept of outsourcing. I am an electronically challenged artist. The computer has invaded with lightening speed, thus, up to half of art is online time. My stomach turns thinking about it. In fact, that is mostly what I do — think about it, rather than do something about it. So many distractions chip away at my studio time. However, that is decreasing as I am considering how fulfilling painting is for me and hours of the day are opening up. Discipline seems to be a left brain term, but it gives abundantly to creating artwork. So outsourcing helps clean up unnecessary time spent away from the studio. By the way, why are there so few acrylic painting workshops offered?
(RG note) Thanks, Leslie. While oil painting workshops are currently the most popular, there are still quite a few acrylic workshops being offered. See our Workshop Calendar.
by Bill Kerr, Courtenay, BC, Canada
I want to “outsource” my self-improvement! Everything from personal habits to art-making. Let them read the books, make the resolutions, set the goals, modify behavior, learn the mantra, speak the platitudes, read Oprah’s book list, and all that self-improvement stuff. Just hand me the keys to my “new me.” Oh, yes, and the operating manual in case I need to turn off some feature in order to be recognized by old friends in old haunts.
Not so chic, but happy
by Susan Avishai, Toronto, ON, Canada
Friends not in the art world are always aghast when they hear we give 50% to our gallerists or agents. But they are the ones who find the buyer, pick up my work in their van, do the presentation, the paperwork, and the salesmanship, and have to look chic. Me, I prefer my painting clothes, my studio, and my solitude. It’s a good deal.
There is 1 comment for Not so chic, but happy by Susan Avishai
by Robin Shillcock, Groningen, Netherlands
It appears that hard-to-overcome difficulties demand simplistic solutions — that is, if I read your letter correctly. No doubt that is generally a human need, to find an easy way out of something that is a dark tunnel, not with a glimmer of light at the end, because it is a long and winding tunnel and you’re not even sure there may be light at the other end, or if there is an end. But reading about dress-ups and following comic heroes comes across as something very (if not too) American. No doubt it appeals to comic- coke- & McNugget-addicted individuals of which there appear to be a hundred million in North America. I gave up long ago on gun-toting muscle men and big-breasted females taking out evil by blowing it to smithereens — all that crap doesn’t come close to the old folk tales and sagas that are full of nuance and set-backs that the bigger-than-life protagonists have to overcome. And sometimes don’t.
Reading this bit of news from Dr. Rosenberg I am again strengthened in my doubt about clinical psychologists having anything of use to add to the world. On the other hand, thinking it over, it is indeed interesting that something as two-dimensional as comic book heroes could lead to inspiration, proving once again that inspiration can come from anywhere, and at any time.
The art of digital art
by Lillianne Daigle
“When you think about it, the photo-litho, giclee and reproduction game is somewhat similar.”
With the above statement, I think you are falsely implying, for people who are not familiar with the process, that giclée is all about reproduction. You will see by the article on Wikipedia that it is not.
All it means is that it is printed on an ink-jet printer. I will grant you that some artists only use it for reproduction purposes and without naming names I can think of a famous one who even signs them as if they were originals.
I, on the other hand, develop my digital prints from scratch using as a starting point, either photos I have taken, scanned versions of my classic prints or softwares such as Illustrator or Photoshop to arrive at a final digital print that I then print on my own ink-jet printer. And I am not the only one. You can look at the works of Li Shen, Suzanne Staud, Catherine Elliot and Karin Schminke, to name a few, who are recognized as digital artists.
by Laurel McBrine, Toronto, ON, Canada
I have got to get that book pronto. — I think it holds the answer to all the myriad problems that are keeping me away from my studio. I seem to be overwhelmed dealing with the problems of a lot of other people, whether it is buying their groceries, preparing their meals, shopping for their underwear or masterminding a million boring details of everyday life. Do you think someone in India can take care of all that for me?
(RG note) Everybody needs a wife. Wives especially need wives.
Putting up a website
by M Frances Stilwell, Corvallis, OR, USA
Robert, any hint about the best way to get a website up? First step for me is a) getting paintings to galleries or b) selling them myself. I have only so much room for storage in my studio and want to explore so many more new notions than I have room for.
(RG note) Thanks, Frances. You might download Leah Markham’s step by step video on how to build a site yourself as well as take advantage of all the bells and whistles an artist needs to get noticed. You might also ask her to build you a site for what seems to me a very reasonable price. Our own Premium Listings are highly effective. With us you already have a huge volume of regular and curious lookers.
Enjoy the past comments below for Outsourcing…
You may be interested to know that artists from every state in the USA, every province in Canada, and at least 115 countries worldwide have visited these pages since January 1, 2013.
That includes Hector Blenny who wrote, “I would like some advice on outsourcing my sleep. It is such a waste of time — swallowed up one third of my life so far, time in which I could be gainfully employed in painting.”
(RG note) Thanks, Hector. Throughout history, artists, students and others have tried to break the sleep habit. Salvador Dali maintained that a person gets most of his rest in the first second of true sleep. The remainder of time in bed is just habit and does little good. Dali devised a plan where he sat in a chair holding a spoon between his thumb and first figure. On the floor below where the spoon hung, he placed a tin pan. When he dozed off his fingers would release the spoon which would fall down, hit the pan and wake him up. According to Salvador Dali he could do this a few times a day and essentially keep working for several weeks. His method was never properly witnessed or corroborated. I tested it in my twenties and was able to keep working for approximately 48 hours. Eventually I slumped over the rungs of my easel and about ten hours later found myself being served coffee under a piano. During my sleep another thoughtful person had kindly put an oily rag beneath my head for a pillow.
And also Phil Chadwick of Brockville, ON, Canada, who wrote, “I wish I had something brilliant to add but I most certainly do not. I have outsourced my brilliant writing to Robert.”
And also Gayle Davis of Lynden, WA, USA, who wrote, “It is an interesting concept to outsource your life, if you don’t like your life. I rather love my life and prefer to live it myself.”