Penplotter profit/loss, month of June 2021

I apologise in advance for using the phrase "New Normal" in the blog post, also for saying "it's been a slow month" when it clearly looks like it hasn't; I'll explain after the numbers 🙂



May Profit:

Overall Profit:

Notes and observations

The sales are once again high, as are the costs. It's around here I'd usually explain roughly what they are, but I've going to save that for under the breakdowns because it needs a little more detail. There are three quick things I want to hit on this month which are as follows.



A while back, I wrote a post called What are you going to do with all that money, in which I explained how it was all going to go back into improving the whole Pen Plotter part of my work, including blog posts and tutorials.

It may be evident that I haven't done that yet, and the excuse of "Well, I'm just moving offices" is getting a little thin. Well, I think I'm just about at the point where I can start focusing more on those things. This month has been all about getting organised, planning, working things out, kicking off some secret projects I can't talk about yet, getting some backend stuff on the shop sorted, and probably most importantly, working out how to hire help on the administration side.

Most of that is now in place this week, even though I've just gotten my second vax jab and feel like crap, this feels like the first week in a long time that I seem to be on top of things, just.


Just the plotter, no wages

In the profit/loss, digital and physical are getting bundled together, which, as I mentioned in a previous profit/loss, was a decision I had to make. So yes, it still feels a bit silly to go, "Oh, I spent £24.89 on paper", while there's £39,646.13 sitting there from digital sales. However, I kinda assume the digital will go away at some point, and I want to get the pen plotting into a position where it covers everything.

If I stop paying attention to the details, then I feel like I'll have lost sight of where I'm trying to get to. But for those people who want to see if making a living doing pen plotting is possible, it does bury the details a little bit.

If I strip things back to just pen plotting, having just the new studio, and remove my wages & digital, we get this.

Sales: £550
Rent: £450
P&P: £72.17
Pen, Ink & Paper: £24.89

Then I would have made £2.94 in profit, which isn't the important part. The important part is that without everything else, the sales of the pen plots still cover the cost of rent, postage and materials, just about.

I'd be selling more than just five plots in an ideal month, so the numbers still seem to show that pen plotting can cover its costs and even a small studio space.

There would be a long way to go before it could pay me a wage, but it seems not as impossible as before.


Diversifying the revenue streams

I may be a little more finance orientated (and analytical) than many artists, and I don't think that position is any better or worse than another; it just happens to be the angle I take on things.

And, I've just finished reading "Real Artists Don't Starve" by Jeff Goins, along with many other books about the business of being an artist. In there, he talks about diversifying revenue streams a lot. While it's fine to be an artist who takes the view of "I'm a watercolour landscape painter, and this is what I do", that can be hard to sustain if you make the single thing the only source of income.

Other people use their jobs to support their art, and I'm taking the position that I want my art to support me. I improve my chances of doing that if I can keep income coming in from several sources.

It's better if those are all related, and I'm a physical object, pen and ink, print artist at heart, who happens to have spent most of their life working with computer algorithms. So I am still thinking, "Does this other thing tie back to the physical art? If it doesn't, how can I make it so it does?"

Many a musician has taken on a job to afford to buy more equipment for their passion project, which isn't a bad thing.

The digital work I'm doing isn't "Oh, I'll just knock this out before I get back to the real work", but I do want to make sure that it isn't only serving to fund the pen plotter work, I want it to play a crucial role in the evolution of my whole art practice.

This is another way of saying I don't want to split things, because they are all part of the same artistic process. The fact that one earns more than the other (at the moment) doesn't make it more important artistically, but I'm also not going to ignore the fact that it's currently the one that allows everything else to happen.

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Fuller-ish expense breakdown

Postage & packing
All the postage; Amsterdam, US, UK, US & UK £72.17
Lokta paper, red, pink and purple £24.89
Pen & Ink
None 😞 £0
Set aside for Tax £10,000
ArtBlocks code uploading £521
Camera Equipment £3,642.20
reMarkable 2 - eInk Notebook £448
Rent & Costs
Art studio £560.00
Wages £1,600.00
Shop space rent £37.00
Shopify £22.16
People of Print Membership £12.00
Instagram ads £0.00
Total expense: £16,939.42

So, that's the expenses.

On the pen plotting and shop front, I've made the change of having free postage and packaging. It just makes the whole process easier to say, "This is how much the thing costs", and not then have to figure out the next part.

Of course, it means I eat the postage costs, but things are so much smoother now. It has me fearing the shop less and generally a lot happier. Two things help with this.

The first is that, obviously, the thing to do is increase the prices to cover that postage cost. Raising prices is something I've written about before. I think I was always underpricing, and this increase brought it in line more with other pen plotting artists, so I'm not undercutting them.

It also gives me a few different price points to play with. Many of my quick experiments are something I hadn't considered selling but are often popular on Instagram. So I feel more comfortable now just popping those into the shop at a lower price point while keeping my "proper" work at a higher value.

I still haven't achieved this yet, but the aim is to only have 16 items in the shop at a time. Then when I add a new item, the oldest item gets removed, with a nice one-in, one-out policy. Also, if a plot makes it all the way through to being removed, it obviously wasn't meant to be.

I've only managed to get nine things into the shop at the time of writing: and four of those have sold already. Meanwhile, I still have a bunch of plots to put into the shop, which I haven't yet, because up to this point, while making pen plots is tremendous fun, the act of putting them into the shop is mind-numbingly tedious.

Right, back to expenses.

£10k is set aside for taxes, presumably, if I spend all the money, there'll be no profit and no taxes, but I'm not entirely convinced that's how it works 😆 so here I am again playing it safe.

"AtrBlocks code uploading" is the act of getting things ready for the digital "drop".

Camera Equipment is me finally buying a whole bunch of motorised sliders and controllers for the camera. After a long time of buying cheaper solutions that just don't work while eyeing up Edelkrone stuff from a distance, I have the opportunity to buy some decent gear.

It seems like overkill for Instagram videos, but I have a feeling it'll pay for itself in the long run by just how awesome it'll make my work look 😀

The final "Misc" expense is buying a second reMarkable 2 eInk notebook. I've already written about the reMarkable here, and I love it, using it on not only on a daily basis but probably an hourly one.

Having a second one is a luxury, and I get that! My main complaint of the reMarkable was that you couldn't flip back and forth between distant pages quickly, and that's how I work all the time. I write down everything and with a paper notebook, I'd collate all the essential things by flipping back through the pages and copying things forwards.

I just couldn't do that on the reMarkable. But now I have a process of keeping the first one with me at all times and then copying over the significant bits into the "final" reMarkable at the end of the day.

The next morning, I go through the "final" reMarkable, updating the list of tasks into the "everyday carry" reMarkable. This isn't "Morning pages" from The Artist's Way or journalling, but is it close.

Again, this is an expensive luxury, but in this case, throwing money at a problem has significantly improved my quality of life and "flow".

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June Sales

It's been a slow month, which seems silly to say considering, but you know what I mean. In this New Normal world of digital and physical things getting bundled together things can seem a little skewed. But this is where we are now, and I guess we have to get used to it moving forwards.

Plots (5) £550
Prints £0.00
Digital (255) £39,646.13
Other income, i.e. buymeacoffee etc. £3.00
Total sales: £40,196.13
June profit £23,256.71
Profit to date £50,008.63
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I've written about the digital NFT part before, so I'm not going to go over the background again.

This month's "drop" of my 70s Pop project was Series Two. Two hundred fifty-six different generative art pieces, the first one of which I create kicking the whole thing off. The other 255 get created one at a time when someone hits the buy button.

Each one sold for 0.095Ξ (Ethereum/ETH), which was worth $238.32 back then. ArtBlocks takes a 10% cut. The whole lot sold out in 9 minutes for a grand final total of $54,694.44 / £39,646.13.

I say the above glibly because it just sounds so bizarre. There's a whole blog post to be written later, but it's fair to say that a lot more work goes into it than "Oh yeah, I made x amount of money in nine minutes."

Selling an artwork for £173 isn't unreasonable at all for an artist. Selling 255 pieces of art in a month is possibly more unusual, but again I assume some artists manage it. So I guess everything is, umm, fine.

It was lovely to sell five plots. One right at the start of the month before I rebooted the shop. Four in the last week when I got around to putting some more plots in there.

Apparently, one of the tricks to selling art is that you have to do more than just make it; you have to put it somewhere where people can buy it too.

I also got a very nice £3 from buymeacoffee thanks, Fabax!

It's the things like buymeacoffee that really make me smile.

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