Last night, I had the good fortune to attend a lecture, entitled “Art as a Business”, given by the Arts Law Centre of Australia. St George School of Fine Art graciously provided the venue and the event was supported by Kogarah Council. It was well attended both by student colleagues and by members of the St George Art Society.

Here is the ‘Top 10’ advice I took away from the event.

1. Re-read Julia Cameron (The Artist’s Way or any other of her books). And put her ideas into sustained practice.

2. Decide whether you’re an Anonymous-Attic-Artist or an Artist-who-Operates-in-the-Public-Domain. Consult and for more information.

3. If you an artist operating under your own legal name, there’s no need to formally register a Business Name. Operate as a Sole Trader using your legal name (see

4. Get an ABN (even if you don’t make the minimum threshold tax level of $AU18,300). Keep in mind that formal arts funding, e.g. grants from local Councils, usually requires one since they most often fund auspiced entities and not Sole Trader individuals, given their stringent                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                    reporting responsibilities and transparency to LGA ratepayers.

5. GST only comes into play if you’re making $A75,000 or more.

6. Check ASIC Connect and ATMOSS to see if another artist somewhere else is already using a name identical to yours. Be clear in your own mind about the differences between a Business Name, a Trademark and a Company Name.

7. Registering a Company is expensive and onerous in terms of reporting and compliance; too difficult for a Sole Trader.

8. If working collaboratively (especially over a long period of time) with another artist, consider a written/signed/witnessed Partnership Agreement to minimise misunderstandings.

9. If receiving income from several revenue streams (e.g. day job, part-time jobs) including working as an artist Sole Trader, you’ll be taxed by the ATO as a single tax-paying entity. Write off art production expenses against the whole-of-income. Don’t worry about whether your art is a loss-making enterprise year on year, the ATO is only interested if you don’t declare income, not if it makes a profit or not.

9. Check your insurance: not just personal injury but things like home studio, theft of expensive cameras, external visitors visiting your home as part of your business activity.

10. If insurance is difficult/expensive, actively consider mitigating or limiting the risks. Keep in mind that galleries will often insure your work during an exhibition, but you will have to insure work travelling to and from the gallery: check the gallery’s fine print.


Exif_JPEG_PICTUREIt’s no longer politically correct to refer to the Neolithic figures as “Venuses”, referring to them as Gravetttian instead. This first, in air-dried clay, is the Venus Lespugue. I’m aiming for a set of four or five from the period, including the renowned Willendorf.

I’ve let it dry slowly (given its mass) in the conventional manner, that is uncovered during the day and enclosed in a plastic bag by night.

I’ve yet to go back and pick out features and smooth edges with tools, though I’ve no wish to create an exact replica, but merely to get the feel for the truncated or abbreviated body.

This is in readiness for the next big project in Sculpture this term at Art School: an abbreviated or “fragmented” body (exaggeration permitted) in fabric; specifically two maquettes 30x50cm and one larger one.

Given the rigours of transporting these clay figures back and forth on public transport to Art School, their size has been determined by their ability to fit into common take-away plastic food containers. Used to terracotta and stoneware clay, air-dried clay is completely new to me; I’ll be monitoring shrinkage and cracking carefully, plus the texture created by working surfaces with a high degree of water. I’ve used a mud-brown clay (as opposed to a porcelain grey body) and have no intention at this stage of painting them.


January complete 1.1MB













It’s 1 February local time, so using PicMonkey (ipiccy is equally good), I’ve created this collage of paintings completed during January as part of the online final day celebration.

Sincere thanks to those who’ve dropped by my weblog; your interest has been motivational and inspiring. Thanks also to Leslie Saeta for organising the Thirty Paintings in Thirty Days, January 2015 challenge (, to Carol for alerting me to the event and to colleagues, all 1483 of them from around the globe, who’ve been a part of the event!
















Red onion

oil on canvas panel, 6×6″

At this stage of the Daily Painting challenge, Thirty Paintings in Thirty Days, I’ve completely lost the sequence of paintings and days. I date the back of each canvas panel and refer to the previous painting rather than the date on my weblog or the date on Leslie Saeta’s weblog. The differences in time zones between the US are huge; the automatic dates on my blogs generated by WordPress are different from my own timezone; Leslie allows extra time for paintings to be uploaded. I know I lost a day or two last week because of a death in the family and some heat stress because of the weather, but the method underpinning each painting is improving day by day and frankly if I’m painting every day, I don’t really care whose sequence I feel I need to fall in with!

I was so “fluent” with the process today that I was able to stop and take some sequential photos.












This dramatic red onion allows me to play around with my tubes of violet paint. Having three, sometimes four, separate colours for red, blue, green, yellow, purple helps.















The underdrawing has to include some of the major tonal areas of the subject. I’m considering big colour changes as well as big tonal changes. I’m concentrating on the contours of the figure against the ground, especially where they count: the light against the dark back wall. I’m not focussing on detail; this is not a Drawing.














The next step is acrylic underpainting in complementary opposites. Invariably, I will lay out red, blue and yellow acrylics and mix from there. It’s a good sign if I am using all three. Mainly to confirm that I’m on the right track with how the figure is in relation to the ground. I could do this in oils of course, or I could do a tonal background using a Van Dyke brown. But this is Fast Painting, not Slow Painting. My 6×6″ canvas panel (tripled primed in white gesso) is being supported on a 8×10″ canvas panel, still wrapped in its plastic. I could Bluetack it to the plastic, I suppose, but this support is enough to keep my fingers away from the edges of the painting.












By rights, if I were to strictly follow Arthur Stern, I’d lay out and mix all colours before going anywhere near the canvas. But I tend to work the three areas separately: back wall, floor, then object. Sometimes I fill up two 10×12″ palettes with my mixes, but in this painting I filled up only one.

Sometimes I will take a break to clean the palette in the middle of my painting session. I don’t clean my palette completely; since this is a wooden one, I simply scrape off any excess and then rub the remainder back in to the “grey” of the palette.

I put the acrylic underpainting in the sun to dry for five minutes and use the time to lay out my tubes of paint. I may add bits of other colours from different tubes, but I know in advance that these are the ones I will rely on almost exclusively for this particular painting: Titanium White since there’s a lot of white and light tints; Ultramarine Blue and Burnt Sienna and a pinkish grey (Australian Grey), since the back wall is a blueish-grey; a range of Yellows for the floor; a range of Purples for the onion. The root section of this particular onion is a rich chocolate brown, so I’ve whipped out my Yellow Ochre and Van Dyke Brown for this special effect.












I’m invariably these days starting with the back wall and here’s how it looks with the palette. I’m resting the painting in my lap on the palette; I’m working outdoors in shade. In a more sophisticated setup, I might have the panel on the strictly vertical on an easel, adjacent to the subject; I’d step back two metres to make my decisions and then move in to add paint. My domestic workspace doesn’t allow for such sophistication! Knowing how much paint to put out has become easier after four weeks; it comes with practice and these days there’s hardly any paint left to scrape off. I leave the blue and brown on the palette because I know I’ll use them for the darkest areas of the onion.














Here’s the floor done and I’ve started jumping into the onion already. I’m not entirely happy with either the back wall or the floor, but I keep moving forward. I know I could spend days on both in order to get them 100% to my liking.













Here’s the onion proper finished. I stop when I’m really starting to fuss over some of the colours and definition of geometric shapes. Despite it starting to turn into a mud pie, I can walk away knowing I’ve got down most of the colours I observed and was faithful to most of the geometric shapes I observed.

Thirty Paintings in Thirty Days, January 2015, organised by Leslie Saeta (

Reference: Stern, Arthur. How to see color and paint it: a series of projects designed to open your eyes to colors you never saw before. New York, Watson-Guptill, 1984.



























Brown onion

oil on canvas panel, 6×6″


Graphite underdrawing (hard pencil, not soft!), followed by acrylic underpainting in complementary opposites (red for back wall, green for floor, purple for onion). Normally I try to preserve as much of the foundation drawing as I can. The acrylic underpainting eliminates the white canvas and allows me to re-assess the relationship between figure and ground. The acrylic underpainting never looks “beautiful”, nor should it: it’s simply there to establish a reasonable-looking blob of a figure against a ground. In this particular case today, I reduced the size of the onion considerably when I started painting it in oils. The capsicum I painted a few days ago suffered from being overly big for the space it contained.

I include the geometry of the main tonal areas in my underdrawing, but most of the attention goes to the contour of the upper half of the subject. What will make it “read” as an onion is the roots at the bottom (here on top) and the shoots at the top (here at bottom right).

I keep the paint on the back wall as thin and sketchy as I can. I am not averse to the ground showing through and if any serendipitous palette knife strokes seem okay, I will leave them rather than constantly working over the top of them. I don’t paint the entire back wall in a single colour any more. I start with the darkest areas and then progress by making subtle changes in lightness and darkness, and colour. Each colour spot really only amounts to a palette knife stroke or three.

I ever so slightly exaggerate everything: the contours and the colours. The photograph below doesn’t do justice to the range of colour in the onion skin layers, or to their broken edges. The area most prone to overworking is, of course, the shadow at the base of the subject.

If I wanted to amaze Sydney with my onions (just as Cezanne wanted to amaze Paris with his apples), I’d work much more deliberately and less spontaneously.

Only by looking at the photograph AFTER the event do I notice a fundamental error in my painting: the roots are not directly opposite the shoots.

















Prickly Pear

oil on canvas panel, 6×6″


Ordinarily a horticultural pest, Prickly Pear fruit only comes my way every few years. I’ve drawn them in the past; I love their subtle greens and purples. It’s been so long since I last saw them, I’ve forgotten how to eat them and what they taste like. I did make a terrible mistake today however: I arranged them on a white plate with my bare hands. Having done so, I picked up microscopic spines all over my fingers. Today’s was thus painted on tenterhooks, a painful jab at every inopportune moment. The fruit would have been “unreadable” as Prickly Pear without the final dots.













My painting ‘pace’ is improving, but still a bit rocky and wayward: either the colour is right and the tone is wrong, or vice-versa. The natural light changed significantly during the two hours: the most in any of my daily paintings this month.













It felt strange to pick up a brush for the underpainting, today done in complementary opposites but in more than few colour spots.











And I thought I’d photograph my palette, for no particular reason, except that there’s too little paint to create colour palette samples on canvaspaper and I’m a long way from recording colour samples as I work, which is something of a lost opportunity. Normally I’d clean the entire palette twice during the session, but today I got away with a (messy) once.
















oil on canvas panel, 6×6″


Preliminary drawing of major masses, followed by ground/underpainting in tints of Pthalo Green acrylic, so I could retain the major masses. The ground/underpainting certainly eliminates any concern about the canvas texture affecting tone. For example, laying down Ultramarine Blue brings out the plain white canvas texture.

They say a habit becomes permanent after doing it for 21 days and today had a feeling of ‘having-done-it-all-before’. Not complacency, since close observation requires the utmost focus, but no stress. I’m reaching for the required paint tubes automatically. I know when my lapses in tonal matching are most likely to occur and I’m acutely aware of how the consistency of paint can affect its application, mainly arising from the fact that Titanium White (and in my case Spectrum Red Dark) are of a tougher consistency than the other tube paints. The hand wants continuity in paint application, so getting the consistency of paint is important in supporting that continuity.

In the back of my mind is the need to tackle transparency and fairly soon I’ll tackle a tumbler full of water: Diebenkorn’s knife and glass of water come to mind. In the back of my mind also is the fact that pomegranites have appeared in local greengrocer’s, a subject particularly suited to oils.

I’m starting to definitely steer clear of any fine detail, preferring large geometric masses instead.

The last few days’ photographs have been marred somewhat by photographing them while still wet. I probably need to wait a day or two for the paint to settle down before taking photographs. It will be interesting to compare today’s shot with one taken in a few days’ time.