Artists, Automation Can Be Our Friend
When it comes to repetitive tasks, no one does it better than Wall-E. Besides being undeniably cute, the dude really knows how to roll up his…sleeves? and get to work. When I’m knees deep in emails, laundry, accounting or [insert your least favorite, most mind numbing task] I try to channel Wall-E. But his space odyssey is more than an allegory for the power of perseverance. It also foreshadows a world in which humans are increasingly detached from their planet—and themselves. A world not unlike our own.
But we have a say in how this story ends. I dream of a world in which we have healthier, functional relationships with the robots who live in our pockets and our homes. An artist who embraces automation can bolster their creative practice against the continual pressures of digital life—without sacrificing their online presence. Whether you’re looking for ways to free up time for your craft, reduce your screen time, or streamline your communications strategy, there are simple, automatic processes that you can set up to help.
Over the next 600 words, I imagine and offer ways in which the principles of automation can be incorporated into your artistic workflow like a fiercely protective, supremely punctual studio assistant. An assistant who fields incoming calls and emails when you’re in the zone, walks prospective buyers through your studio when you’re working, and creates event flyers with ease—so you’re free to focus on the thing you do best: making kickass art.
Your Communications Assistant
Finding someone you can trust to communicate with the outside world on your behalf is hard. Heck, most companies hire several very smart people (cough cough) to manage their External Relations for this very reason. But what if I told you that you could create a responsive, organic system to do your communications work for you?
This is the magic of a client relationship manager (CRM). All the best CRMs for artists and creatives include an automated emailing feature with customized triggers. In human speak, this means your CRM can automatically send a warm, inviting welcome video to every new subscriber, or a personalized thank you note after every ticket purchase. This kind of attentive communications work is virtually impossible to achieve for regular people with full, artistic lives. But thankfully, your CRM adores this kind of repetitive, automatic work.
Your Boundaries Administrator
CRMs may be magical, but you don’t necessarily need extra software to create healthier boundaries with technology. Here are some simple, accessible automations that create a protective barrier between you and the internet for artists experiencing digital overwhelm:
- Artist At Work, Do Not Disturb
I recently (accidentally) left my devices on “Do Not Disturb” for several days in a row. It changed my life. Since most apps are desperately vying for our attention with continual, strategic push notifications, using “Do Not Disturb” is less about silencing the family group chat and more about blocking intrusive marketing tactics. I like being available to the people I care about, but the truth is most things aren’t urgent. And there’s a real, tangible cost to being available to every ping, ring, and ding that crosses your screen.
- Auto Responder for Working Artists
The official name for it may be “Vacation Responder,” but this tool isn’t just for vacations. If you’re busy, sick, tired, or just plain over it (me), the email auto responder serves as an invaluable pressure valve. Here’s what it could look like in the wild:
Thank you for your email. My family and I are moving to a new city (hurrah!) so replies may be slow. Appreciate your patience, and look forward to connecting soon. In the meantime, please watch this video of my band performing live music for a semi annual dog costume parade.
Your Brand Manager
I’m embarrassed to share that, despite working in communications for 5+ years, it never occurred to me that my artistic practice could have a brand identity—and that branding would save me time and give me self-confidence.
Packaging myself into a neat little brand always felt time-consuming and inauthentic. Whenever I tried, I would overthink it and freeze up. The ice finally thawed when a total stranger noticed my work, introduced themselves, and gently asked why I didn’t take my work or my viewers seriously. There was no QR code, no artist statement, no website URL, and their absence communicated something I never intended: this artist isn’t serious about their work and isn’t looking to connect with their audience.
When I finally took the time to pick fonts and colors for my personal brand—a surprisingly fun way to spend an afternoon—I realized how many opportunities for automation I’d been missing out on. Once you craft a brand identity, creating standing templates for every occasion and platform is like coloring by numbers—you just follow the rules you’ve already set for the look and feel of your personal brand.
Using templates might not seem like “real” automation, but it drastically reduces the human input required over time because you aren’t going back to the drawing board every time you need an event flyer, invoice, wall label, Instagram announcement, or email header. You just duplicate the template, and fill in the details. My new communications strategy takes way less effort because it’s simple, streamlined, and repetitive. Wall-E would be proud.
Go forth and automate
Many artists know the struggle of wearing every hat. Being your own accountant, promoter, facilities manager, prop assistant, and more seems like an unavoidable reality of creative life. But automation is changing this reality, and relieving some of the pressure artists face in the digital realm.
It might be time for you to surround yourself with a whole fleet of Wall-E’s to preserve your energy, streamline your work, and create more opportunities to connect with your supporters. The laundry, however, is not going to fold itself.
About Vicky Blume
Vicky Blume is an arts worker based in New Haven, Connecticut. After moving to the city to study art and psychology at Yale, Blume lit up communications for a contemporary art gallery and a community art school. Most recently, she served as Creative-in-Residence at the New Haven Free Public Library's Tinker Lab. In her artistic practice, Blume builds interactive websites, animations, and installations that offer calming and consensual alternatives to the Attention Economy. At home, she is passionate about her houseplants but struggles to care for more sensitive plants. She aspires to create a home environment where every houseplant can thrive.