It's possible you could have arrived at this post in any number of ways. Perhaps you're here from the RSS feed, or I tweeted it, or more likely from April's monthly profit/loss post on Instagram and my website. It could even be from someone's newsletter or blog post. Wherever it is, I'm worried there's a little context missing, so I'll quickly fill in those gaps, hopefully.
The background: I'm a pen plotter artist, my about page is here, and there's my Instagram account too. I've spent the last 18 months documenting my profit/loss selling pen plotting artwork and buying pens and paper.
Last month I'd finally made an actual overall profit of £1.37, successfully paying off the initial £2,493.71 worth of costs, and covering ongoing equipment and studio costs since then.
Which, when you're trying to be a physical pen plotter artist, is a stark contrast to £1.37.
With all that out of the way, here's what I'm going to do now...
When I've chatted with a few people about the 'situation', one option which comes up is "Well, you could keep the physical stuff and digital stuff separate", which in a way does make sense.
I could keep tracking all the pen plotting stuff over in one place and the digital in another. But the more I thought about it, the more uncomfortable I felt about it.
The first part is that the digital and physical are linked. The digital was born out of the 70s Pop pen plot design, and from the digital, I've produce prints. One of the main drivers of pen plotting was to find an enjoyable way to bridge the gap between code and pen & ink. Then taking it back the other way with photos and video.
The other part is it seems disingenuous to keep posting about how I managed to make £250 profit from selling pen plots, while there's a big old pile of digital cash sitting in the corner. Well, technically, sitting somewhere up in the crypto-cloud until I can find an accountant who knows how to deal with NFTs, but that's a whole separate issue.
The other path is to bundle them together. So here's what I am doing.
I'm going to be including it in the profit/loss reports and then for the next year...
1. I'm taking the opportunity to drop my freelance hours down to just 24 hours a month.
I love the job I'm doing now; I'm doing work for a museum, and it exposes me to art daily. Not thinking about my art and having something else to focus on is part of my deep work process. My life would be culturally impoverished without it.
However, as an experiment having more time to put to my own work is something I've been after for a while. This seems like a happy balance.
2. I'm going to pay myself a wage.
One of the criticisms you could throw at the profit/loss I was reporting was that I wasn't including my own time, which is entirely fair. Tracking all the equipment and other costs was an essential first step, but now it seems like a chance to move from the "The art pays for itself" category to "The art pays for you" one, as described in A short essay on pricing pen plotter art.
So starting in May, I'm going to be paying myself an hourly wage of, umm, £15/hour, aiming for 26 hours a week.
3. I've moved into a new art studio.
As much as I love the art studio that's housed me for the last two years, it's scheduled to be demolished sometime this year. So moving out is a thing I've always known I'd have to do.
Also, sometimes it was too cold to do any work.
So while my new studio is smaller, it's warmer, and when I'm making videos, I don't have to worry about other people talking, drilling or making noise in the background.
The new higher rent will be kicking in starting in May too.
4. I'm finally going to have both the time and space to write and video pen plotting tutorials.
I've had many tutorials I've wanted to create on my to-do list for the longest time.
This will take a while to get going but will hopefully end up with a series of about 12 tutorials and YouTube videos.
5. Talking of YouTube videos, I'm hoping to spend more time making more short videos of just the pen plotter doing its thing.
I love editing together quick videos along with music and the like. It's another thing that I haven't had time to do as much as I'd like.
6. Make more plots and have the time to write about them, photograph them properly and put them in the shop. This won't be happening for the first month as I still have so much to catch up on, and moving studios is still taking up a lot of time.
7. I bought a second pen plotter, called Morgan.
I told myself that as soon as I'd made enough money to buy a second pen plotter I would.
Having the second plotter has already made a world of difference to my studio life, which I talked about in my second newsletter.
I suspect for the next year, I'll be posting monthly losses, £1,560 wages plus £450 rent each month, is a lot of pen plots to sell (about 40), and the pile of magic-sky-money will slowly get used up.
But I think being open and honest about what everything costs and what I'm doing is worth it in the long run.
I don't know what the next level of "levelling-up" my art practice is, but if there was ever a time or opportunity to find out, I think this is probably it.
Comments and feedback, as always, are super welcome at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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