So many artists I’ve met feel that the only way to be a true artist is to have their hands in every part of their work along the way. The only true artistic venture is one where your hands are filthy and worn from the process of producing, marketing, selling and delivering your art to the world. If you believe that, let me ask you a couple questions.
How many times do you think Andy Warhol stood in front of a screen printing press to pull his own prints?
Do you think Damien Hirst applied all those diamonds to “For the Love of God“ skull?
Does Takashi Murakami draw every single smiling flower produced under his name?
If you said yes to any of those questions, please slap yourself in the face for being ignorant. It’s absurd to think any of those three artists, or many of their contemporaries, had more than a pinky’s worth of involvement in the actual production of their art.
The True Artistic Venture is in the Executed Idea.
Click that to tweet it while you let that percolate for a bit. The real art is not in how you put the pen to paper, or paint to canvas, or hand to clay; that’s technique. Sure, some people have more skill in processing the technique than others, but that can be learned, or in the case of the artists above, outsourced. Your ideas alone are not art either. They are merely ideas, and if you fail to act on them, they are worthless trash. What is the value of an unused, unheeded idea? None!
True art is in the transference of an idea into something tangible. Everything else is manufacturing. So if we reduce the rest down to a manufacturing level, why can’t we have others help us with that aspect? If art is in the idea, and the rest is production, why do we, as the artists, need to have our hands in that aspect of the work? Let’s run some numbers for a moment.
For the sake of argument, let’s say that your hourly rate is $100 for any of the work you do for your business. If you’re a one person shop that believes you need to have your hands in every aspect, that’s $100 an hour for the art, the marketing, the social media, the emails, the packing and shipping, and any other menial task that people making $100 a hour should NOT be doing.
What if you hired someone for $20 an hour to help you sort through some of these tasks, like packing and shipping, or answering customer service questions via email, or any number of other tasks that are not the creative, artistic aspects of your business. It’s fair to say that at least 75% of your day is filled with these menial tasks, so if that employee is doing them, your cost for a 12 hour day is now $480 (3 hrs x $100 + 9 hrs. x $20).
Of course, you didn’t only work three hours, and make your employee work nine, but instead of you spending those nine hours working on menial tasks, you spent them doing creative, artistic work; the work that is worth $100 an hour. Andy, Damien and Takashi understood this and used it to their advantage. Why can’t you?
Why the hell are you driving all over town to pick up all your materials?
Why are you packing those boxes?
Why are you stuck to your small-time thought processes that will only cause you to work harder in the long term, potentially killing your motivation for why you do this in the first place?
The less time you spend doing the creative aspects of your work, the less joy you’re getting out of your business. Eventually that lack of joy is going to murder your motivation. Stop kidding yourself about the need to have your hands in everything because you feel “inauthentic” to your customers. They do not care, and if they do care, then they obviously deluded about what it takes to do the work.
You are not less of an artist if someone else pulls the screen on your t-shirts, or prints your greeting cards, or paints gesso on your canvas. If you don’t outsource some of your work for fear of being inauthentic, that’s not being an artist; that’s just dumb.
Your Time is Precious—Treat it as Such.
Now that I’ve beat you up a bit, I want you to go be good to yourself. Find one aspect of your daily work life that you can hand the reins over to someone else while you do the work that’s important.
Start with one thing and see where that takes you. Then when you’re comfortable, give them something else to do, but don’t watch over them. Encourage them to come to you if they have questions, but leave them alone to it. Now go work on the things that really matter, the expensive things, the joyful things.