Art and Money (Or Lack Thereof)

Drunk Homer Warhol Dollar Mashup

Drunk Homer Simpson says, “I could do a lot of things if I had some money…”

Money spent to date on making silkscreen prints: $2848

Income from selling prints to date: $236.83

That amounts to a loss of $2611.17. If that’s all you’re interested in you can stop reading now, but I’m trying to measure gains and losses in other ways, too. Besides that, it’s only been just over a year since the first print came off my press. Most new businesses don’t turn a profit in their first year, so I guess I’m no different there. What about gains and losses that aren’t financial and where did all that money go?



In the year that I’ve been printing I’ve made ten different prints and a handful of one-off test prints and experiments. This has resulted in over 500 prints designed and printed in my home. That’s pretty cool for just getting started. Not everything that I’ve printed has been listed for sale (and some that have been listed have been removed), but if I sold all my listed prints tomorrow at full price I’d see an income of about $11,768. That’s not enough to quit my job and make art full time, but it’s enough to buy more supplies for future prints and pay down some of the debt I’ve incurred in the form of credit cards and personal loans (Thanks, Mom and Dad!).


By no means am I a screen printing expert now, but I have learned tons. In a year I’ve learned how to combat humidity and get better screen exposures. I’ve learned not to add too much water to the ink and to always pre-rack the paper. I’ve experimented with ink transparency, overprinting, and metallic inks. Most recently I’ve made use of halftones for an entire image. With every print I do I’m trying something new whether it is a process or material. Such experiments put more tools in my arsenal and allow me to make better designs much quicker.


Where did $2848 go?

I don’t know if I can account for every penny, and some of it’s boring, but here are some of the highlights:

  • Paper: $600.32. This includes 800 sheets of 100# Cougar cover stock, a couple hundred sheets of various French Paper, and most recently 12 sheets of 1618 Arnhem 100% cotton paper. All that remains now are a few hundred sheets of Cougar.
  • Ink and emulsion: $522.26. This number might be a little on the low side, and just like paper these are consumables and I’m starting to run low on them. The good news is that as I get better and exposing screens, I’m wasting far less emulsion on bad screens.
  • Screens: $237.06. I’d have to check my invoices, but I believe that this is for four small screens (23 x 31 inches) and two large screens (25 x 36 inches). Unfortunately, two of them are bad now and require restretching. Fortunately, I received another large one for Christmas.
  • Miscellaneous: Rapidograph pens, postage, wet media Duralar, glass for exposure unit, bulbs and ballasts for exposure unit, dehumidifier, inkjet printer, refillable all black ink cartridges, inkjet films, used flat files, and any number of other small items that add up faster than you would think.

Truth be told I probably spent even more than $2848. Some costs get commingled when I make trips to the hardware store for general projects around the home (like screws and wood glue that were used to make my vacuum table and exposure unit). That total also doesn’t include the money I paid to have the Guitar Playing Robot design printed elsewhere before my shop was up and running.

Other Costs

The primary cost other than money is time. For the most part I’m happy to use whatever time I don’t have to spend at my regular job. However, I really should use some of the time elsewhere. My home could use some attention in the way of cleaning and small repairs to prepare for getting a roommate. I kind of like living alone, but the extra income would help make more art. And I probably should make more of an attempt to leave the house and be social from time to time. I think my mother would still like to see me meet a nice young lady someday and it would probably be good if I weren’t a hermit all the time. (To that end I am going out this Friday night to see Local H in the city; sadly it may be my only concert of the year).


Sell more!

In 2015 I had five total sales on my Etsy shop. So far in 2016 I have had two, but that just means I’m on pace to beat last year’s number. Doubling that number to ten would get great. More would be better.

Sell Elsewhere!

Etsy is okay and really seems to work for some people. Maybe I just haven’t figured it out yet. I’ve looked into some other options like Shopify, BigCartel, and StoreEnvy, but I feel like those might work better when I have more inventory to offer. What I’d really like to do is get out there in real life and sell at some art shows like the Renegade Craft Fair.

I don’t know if the craft fairs will happen this year. A half booth at Renegade costs $250 and that doesn’t include the fact that I have to build some sort of booth that I can transport there and setup in a short amount of time. I feel like such events might be a great place to sell my work because you have an audience that is there and ready to buy such things. Again, this might be a better investment when I have a larger selection of items to choose from.

Make More!

I feel like this year is off to a bit of a slow start because I don’t have the funds for more supplies. Also, I’m really starting to like printing on fancy 100% cotton paper, but it is several times the cost of the standard 100# Cougar cover stock. To remedy this I’m trying to work more overtime at the regular job to get more funds for supplies, but overtime is not always available. I suspect I’ll get some more as we get further into summer.

I have two specific goals in terms of new prints this year. One is to make at least one print that rivals The Silo in quality, complexity, and beauty. Beauty is subjective, but I think I have a design in the works that might get me there. The second goal is to do at least one gig poster for a musical act. I don’t care if I have to put on an acoustic show in my living room and print a poster for it, I’m going to make this happen. Better still would be to get paid to produce a poster for a band to sell at their shows. Even better would be if it were for a band I already enjoy.


A lot of this is just being patient. No one is a success overnight. I should use some of the time when I’m lacking in funds to organize and read and re-read materials on growing a business and marketing artwork. It’s awesome when people stop by this site to comment and ask questions, but documenting the progress here is just as useful to me when I’m trying to remember how I put together a design or made use of a new technical process.

Sometimes people will ask if I regret borrowing money and trying to go all in. No. Never. The only thing I regret is not putting this much effort into it years ago.

Onward and upward!



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