Dear Artist, 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. Best regards, Robert 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.   Appalling outsourcing by Tony Angell, Seattle, Washington, USA  

“Mt. Gnome II”
bronze sculpture
by Tony Angell

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.   Outsourcing necessary by Leslie Moody  

“Seeing Red”
acrylic painting
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.   Too much! by Bill Kerr, Courtenay, BC, Canada  

“Morning Stroll, Venice”
acrylic painting
by Bill Kerr

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  

“Pink tulips”
oil painting
by Susan Avishai

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
From: Liz Reday — May 15, 2012

I agree. Deal-making can be creative, but very draining, and studio visits require studio cleaning, which is a waste of time when we could be painting. A gallery can find and nurture new collectors that we might never get a chance to meet. A good gallery can brag & promote the artist in a way that we can’t do. It’s hard enough keeping track of work going in and out and keeping BIOs and websites updated.

  Simplistic solutions by Robin Shillcock, Groningen, Netherlands  

“Torrent de la Selle, les Ecrins”
oil painting
by Robin Shillcock

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  

“Winter 4 pm”
digital print
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.   Help wanted by Laurel McBrine, Toronto, ON, Canada  

“Perette – study from life”
original painting
by Laurel McBrine

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  

“Fishing pond at Airlie”
pastel drawing
by M Frances Stilwell

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.    

Archived Comments

Enjoy the past comments below for Outsourcing

From: ReneW — May 11, 2012

I hate to think what life would be like if I did not outsource the jobs I don’t want to do or can’t do. You have to pay for most outsourcing, like roofing a house, plumbing, brick-laying, fixing your computer, having someone do my taxes, etc. If I had to do all this stuff myself there would be no time to create art! In the business world they call it delegating.

From: Jackie Knott — May 11, 2012
From: Karen — May 11, 2012

I don’t see what some artists and galleries have against giclees. They allow people to buy my work who couldn’t afford the originals, and thus, allows me to at least make a sale. I have had some success in selling both originals (mostly) as well as giclees. People buying giclees should, of course, be told they are not originals, after that, why should it be an issue?

From: Claire Remsberg — May 11, 2012

Thanks for the chuckle, Robert. I generally need to outsource the job of providing the humor, but I do appreciate it.

From: Tinker Bachant — May 11, 2012

Love your humor! I don’t do giclees. If it’s not myoriginal , it doesn’t get my signature.

From: Jenny — May 11, 2012

aaahhhh….painting for the pure joy of it…yes!

From: Marie Bergman — May 11, 2012

Thanks for the info. I always stay with signing my originals.

From: Hector Blenny — May 11, 2012

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.

From: Tessa — May 12, 2012

Outsourcing is a job in itself.Even Samuel Pepys had problems with the staff!

From: Jacqueline C. Satterlee — May 12, 2012
From: Tatjana Mirkov-Popovicki — May 12, 2012

Yesterday I made money for 8 hours, then dug in holes for concrete blocks in the supporting wall in my backyard, and then painted for several hours. And for all that time Sinisa was on the phone with a nice fellow Jatinder discussing our cable invoice.

From: Patsy Heller — May 12, 2012

What is the process for submitting your work to a gallery. I’m a watercolorist and have a website, but I’m thinking a more personal approach would be better. It’s always the technical things that foul me up, dpi’s rpg’s, upload, download that sort of thing.

From: Rick Rotante — May 12, 2012

To outsource or not to outsource,,,that is the question. In my humble opinon to outsource your work is similar to hiring someone else to live your life. Once they start to do everything, what’s the point of living at all. We have moved from the rediculous to the sublime. If I can’t do it, it isn’t worth doing. What does this do to your feeling of self worth? If someone else is living my life, what is my purpose? I can see an accountant, business manager, personal assistant if you are lucky to afford these people…but…having someone else create my art… STOP THE WORLD, I WANT TO GET OFF!!!

From: Diane Overcash — May 12, 2012

I’m sure a lot of us painters would like to spend most of our time in the studio (or other places) and leave the sales to the experts who know how to sell it.

From: Pat Andreotti — May 12, 2012

Apparently written by someone with enough money to hire others.

From: Jennifer Snyman — May 12, 2012

No reflection on your art, but I swear you should be also be writer! Your emails are an absolute delight and so eloquently written. This one was a LoL (Laugh out Loud) with LoL (Lots of Love) one. Thank you…

From: Annette Waterbeek — May 12, 2012

A list for outsourcing…My list would be HUGE…

From: B.J. Adams — May 12, 2012

There is much in the life of an artist to be out-sourced, thereby giving the means to spend unlimited time in the studio. I would like to outsource all engineering of my work whether it is painted or fabric and the packing and shipping of art. What seems to be eating up more creative time, these days is the computer. That computer time can be both creative and a nuisance and seems to be taking up more and more time. However there are times where being away from the creative work, paying attention to all those tasks you would like to ‘out-source’ actually adds to ‘quality’ studio time. Being anxious to get back and thinking all the time away is another form of working.

From: Diane Whitehead — May 12, 2012

Interesting article. I have been approached lately and asked to do reproductions. I wonder if it is good for my business. Any advice on this topic would be appreciated.

From: George Tanner — May 12, 2012

You recommend selling through reputable galleries as though that was a readily available option. It’s kind of like advising a homeless person that he should really live in a house.

From: Deby Adair — May 12, 2012

Some of this ‘outsourcing’ is decadent and only the latter sounds ethical and responsible. I’m ashamed of what art is becoming in this era.

From: Lynette Sheppard — May 13, 2012

I’m going to outsource housework, vet visits, and anything else that I can legally!

From: Luz Angela — May 13, 2012

Hola, Para ti que eres un héroe y un artista. Que piensas de estas palabras? El señor escribe muy raro.

From: Robert Boras — May 13, 2012

How do you find a gallery?

From: Jérémie Giles — May 13, 2012

Life is indeed beautifully funny when seen through your eyes.

From: Kimberly Price — May 13, 2012

Just brilliant writing, Robert. THOROUGHLY enjoyed this one!! THANK YOU!! You always bring home a good point. LOVE these letters!

From: Dan Young — May 14, 2012

wonderfully funny, cheeky and right on…….. I hate stretching canvas…. outsourced….. It helps keep the creative joy unblemished…..

From: Valerie Norberry VanOrden — May 14, 2012

There is a time not to DIY and a time to DIY. Art is DIY do it yourself. I am reminded of a story of a urologist who attempted his own surgery. You get my point. My sister lamented that Thomas Kincade had minions doing the tree leaves or something. I don’t know. My stuff is all my own EXCEPT the spray-painted borders I let my husband do, which he does quite well. I also photocopy my penwork (I do Spencerian Penmanship now) onto a rose border done by an Amish gal, that can be purchased, like computer paper, in a pack for 3.00. Funny thing, she copyrighted her roses, so I have to photocopy each and every piece onto her border and cannot copy the whole. Calligraphy and penmanship cannot be copyrighted, last I checked, in the USA. So, here I sit, broken hearted, thought I’d outsourced but only started.

From: june tucarella — May 19, 2012

I live in columbia S.C.

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pencil drawing by Edward Minoff, New York, NY, USA

  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.”    

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