May 11, 2012
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.