A guy from India has emailed me offers to outsource my painting practice. I read about the journalist A.J. Jacobs outsourcing his life, but I didn't think someone would try to sell me the concept in regards to my profession. How am I supposed to interpret that offer? Am I supposed to be flattered or insulted that someone asserts that he can make reproductions or "original paintings" from images of my work? I never have any clue ahead of time what any of my completed works will look like, beyond a general compositional layout. Am I so predictable already, only 10 years into my career? I do admit that I have massive sleep deprivation and time constraints working against me in the studio, and I have probably whinged about it too much on this blog. But to outsource the process to India is outsourcing all creativity and identity of myself as an artist - might as well tear up my artistic license and sit in a hole.
Apprentices, assistants, and artisans have been working with or for artists throughout the centuries to create huge bodies of work (read both as huge work and/or huge quantity). It's debatable how beneficial this system is for the artist and his or her quality of work overall, but it's definitely tripped up art historians, self-claimed experts and those people who find "something interesting" in grandma's attic. It's why we watch Antiques Roadshow, right?. Hopes are more often than not shot down: it was the overworked apprentices who actually crafted the work and the master may have (a Snowball's chance in a CAT-scanner) just did that fiddle-y bit on the helmet.
More recently concept artists (not to be confused with conceptual artists) like Damien Hirst have taken the assistant/apprentice/artisan (does anyone really take on apprentices anymore, besides reality tv series?) art mechanism to the methamphetamine lab level: stew too much at once in the tub and it could blow up in your face, but the supply never seems to slake the (perceived) demand. If I had wanted to be some sort of art theorist that illustrates concepts with throw-away insta-art or orange buckets in a white room and a five thousand word thesis then I would be hanging out with the 'time and space' graduates from the Art Academy in Helsinki. As I'm not, I'm here inefficiently smearing paint in a tedious manner on canvas.