Capturing the Light Quickly

Capturing the Light Quickly on Plein Air Style, by Carole Gray-Weihman
Capturing the Light Quickly on Plein Air Style, by Carole Gray-Weihman

Capturing the Light Quickly on Plein Air Style, by Carole Gray-Weihman

Carole Gray-Weihman
Carole Gray-Weihman
Painter, Instructor and Founder-CEO of Plein Air Liaison, Carole loves engaging with other plein air painters, teaching and painting the landscape. She also enjoys web design and social media. You can also find her here:       READ MORE

Preparing Images for Web & Print

DIY Preparing Images for Web & Print, by Alfredo Tofanelli on Plein Air Style

So, there’s this great art competition that you would like to enter and you need to prepare a digital image to submit using their specifications. This article will cover how to process your image in Photoshop for the web and for print. This can be a confusing topic and even many of the competitions seem confused on what they are asking you to submit--That’s probably because two different things are required depending on if it’s for the web or for print.

I’ll start with an introduction to preparing images for print and then move on to online versions, which are typically at a much lower resolution. Image resolution is defined on how sharp an image is either in print or displayed on your monitor or iPad. Each of these media or devices will display the image at a different resolution. Let’s say you created an ad for a magazine and your graphic designer asked you to send them an image at an exact size and resolution--Let’s say 6 inches wide by 4 inches tall. If the ad is for a typical magazine then they’ll want it to be twice the resolution of the actual printed page for the finest representation of your image. Most magazines print at 150 dots per inch (dpi) so you would normally give them an image cropped and color corrected at 6 in. x 4 in. at 300dpi. For the 300dpi image that is the same thing as an image that is 1800 pixels (6 in. multiplied by 300dpi) by 1200 pixels (4 in. multiplied by 300dpi).

Now if we prepare this same image for a web page then we would probably reduce it farther depending on how large we want it to display on the web page. Most of the time when dealing with web pages we’ll be using pixel dimensions versus inches because each monitor can be set at a different screen resolution. And we know what that means, right?
Let's hypothesize. If you had both your 13" laptop and your 28" monitor set at 1920x1200 pixels the same image on the monitor would be much larger in inches than on your laptop if you measured the image on the screen with a ruler. That actually makes our jobs easier in the sense that we may want the image displayed on a gallery page at 1200x800 pixels regardless of the screen resolution setting. The image will take up the same proportion of the web page. In a similar way as looking at a web page on your iPhone assuming it isn’t a web page designed specifically for a mobile phone.  

Click to zoom in
The illustration above is a screen shot from Adobe Photoshop CC of the Image Size dialog box which can be found under  [Image]  in the Photoshop menu. This is what the dialog looks like when I first open it up with this image. Actually I zoomed out on the painting so that you could see it better. It normally opens so that you see every pixel in a cropped area as the next screen shot shows. This dialog remembers what you last set it to so it may appear different than what you see above. Also, this dialog looks different from previous versions of Photoshop.

Notice that the Resample checkbox is unchecked. Next to it are algorithm choices for enlarging and reducing. For now, we will leave it at Automatic. Also notice the dimensions near the top. This image is currently 4040 pixels wide by 3016 pixels high. At screen resolution, 72ppi (pixels per inch), it would be 56.11 in. wide x 41.89 in. tall if we had a monitor large enough. Way more then what we need but that’s what we want. We always want an image larger than what we need to end up with.

To prepare this image for printing at 6 inches wide we will first:
  • Open the highest resolution file of your painting.
  • Click on [File] then [Save As] and rename this to something like Candy_Rock_forPrint.psd, also save in an uncompressed file format like PSD.
  • Click on [Image] then scroll to [Mode] and select [CMYK Color] 
  • Click on [Image] then [Image Size]
  • Check the Resample checkbox if its unchecked
  • Make sure the chain link to the left of Width and Height is selected. This will maintain the height to width ratio.
  • Set the Resolution to 300 Pixels/Inch
  • Next to Width we will select Inches for units
  • Enter "6" next to width
  • Notice the Height is automatically set for you because the chain link was checked.
  • Notice the dimension has been updated to 1800 x 1244 px and Image Size has been reduced to 6.92Mb from 34.9Mb
  • Click "OK"
  • Click on [File] then [Save]. Check with Publication or Print shop to see what file format they need and save another version with their requested file format.

Click to zoom in

This new file is now 6 inches wide and set to 300 dpi which is what most print shops and publications would want. Make sure to name these different versions so that you will easily know one from the other. I usually add something like Raw, Cropped, forPrint, forWeb, etc… to the ends of the file name so that I can easily distinguish them. Make sure that you do not save over the original image. I always start by selecting "Save As" to a new filename before I "Image Size" my image.

To prepare the image for the web at 1200 pixels wide make sure you start with your highest resolution image. If you start with the one that we had just created for print then you will be compressing an already compressed image which will not be as clean as if you had started with the highest resolution image. In video games they say garbage in, garbage out meaning if you start with something that isn’t the best version of it then what comes out will be inferior to what it could have been. And since we are artists we want the best representation of our work.

To prepare this image for the web at 1200 pixels wide we will first:
  • Open highest resolution file of your painting.
  • Click on [File] then [Save As] and rename this to something Candy_Rock_forWeb.psd, also save in an uncompressed file format like PSD.
  • Click on [Image] then scroll to [Mode] and select [RGB Color] 
  • Click on [Image] then [Image Size]
  • Resample should still be checked, but if not check it.
  • Chain link should be selected
  • Change Inches next to Width to Pixels
  • Change Width to 1200 px
  • Notice Height changes to 896 px
  • Notice the new Dimensions toward the top
  • Click "OK".
  • Click on [File] then [Save As] and save the file as a PSD or similar.
  • Also save or export a JPG version for the web.

Click to zoom in

You now have three versions hopefully in PSD format or a similar uncompressed format that you want to save.

Now you may have noticed that we didn’t explicitly set the Resolution in the Web version. That’s because it is irrelevant for web purposes. A web page uses the actual pixel width and height, so normally, resolution doesn't matter. In the future that may change.

To get a better understanding of how the Width, Height and Resolution are connected open up an image and bring up "Image Size" from under [Image] and uncheck Resample. Now take note of the Dimensions toward the top. Type 300 in the Resolution and notice how the width gets smaller but the Dimensions at the top are unchanged. Try typing a resolution of 600 and the width and height are cut in half and still the Dimension is unchanged. You can also try changing the width to 8 inches and see what the resolution changes to. Change the width to 2 inches and see that the resolution goes up by 4. What you should take away from this exercise is that as long as Resample is unchecked then you are not altering the actual pixel dimensions of the image, you are altering its resolution and that in turn alters the way it prints but not usually the way it is displayed online.

This is a confusing topic for most people so I hope that you are a lot less confused now. If you have questions then you can ask them in the comments below and I will try to answer them. Also feel free to suggest future articles. Happy processing!

Alfredo Tofanelli
Alfredo Tofanelli
Painter and Instructor, Alfredo is passionate about painting the portrait and figure. He's a regular instructor and advisor with Plein Air Liaison.
You can also find him here:      CONTINUE READING MORE

Making a Painting from a Plein Air Study

I decided to enlarge an 11in x 14in oil plein air sketch I made while in Monterey at the 3rd Annual Plein Air Convention a couple of weeks ago to see what I could come up with. The entire sketch was painted using one of my longer palette knifes that I re-fashioned with the assistance of my studio neighbor, Edgar, a metalsmith and craftsman and his blow torch. (That would be another blog post!) Almost the entire studio version was created alla prima (meaning in one sitting) and 95% palette knife, with the exception of a few finishing strokes to push a few color notes and a slight bit of scumbling in the sky after the painting had dried.

The above sketch was drawn directly onto an 18in x 24in  pre-stretched canvas using my new ivory Rosemary brush and a little Gamsol and Winsor Newton Permanent Alizarin Crimson and Ultramarine Blue puddle I mixed on my palette. I like to shade areas that I know will be my darker notes of color to check for the balance, overall design and flow. The wash drawing dries within a minute of applying the paint, so it doesn't interfere with the colors I apply on top. Any heavy tones, distracting drips or lines in the wrong place can be easily wiped off with a little Gamsol. I superimposed a backward "S" in photoshop onto my image to illustrate what my intent was in creating a pleasing *rhythm to the overall design. If this piece were a more complicated design, I might grid out the drawing on canvas first. This approach above, made me feel like I was painting back on location in Monterey--the more that I can do that, the better off my painting is. So, 90% of my "studio version" was painted outdoors in natural light.

*The rhythm of a painting is what creates the flow, it's like the timing in a tempo of a song. Strong directional lines in a painting can disrupt the rhythm causing the eye to rush too quickly off the canvas and onto something else entirely. It's like listening to classical music with a hip hop beat.

I felt pretty good about the design and the direction I wanted from my sketch and where I wanted to take this piece was becoming very clear to me, so I launched right in and started laying in my darkest color notes first. Applying the darks first is the simplest way to establish the value and color key that I'm after. I do the same while out in the field, so I like to do the same on my studio pieces. 

I tried to remain as true as possible to my field study, applying colors notes on top of color notes in the same fashion as I did while painting it out in the field. The globby masses of color you see here, all applied with a palette knife using thick applications of oil paint, sans medium and thinners, are essentially my first impressions of those spots of color that I observed while out in the field. The only way that I can actually see these color notes is by scanning all of the color relationships as a whole over the entire scene and discerning what each color has more of or less of compared to it's adjacent color. These basic masses of color are my interpretations of reality, narrowed down to a simplified overall mass of color that I can use to represent what I'm seeing. Basically, it's all an illusion of my reality.

The first color notes, are always the most pure and rawest ones, showing the *objects punchier side--it's all of that stuff that each object is made of. I also lean my first notes slightly darker, lightening as I build color on top of color. Every color exists in every color, the question is: How much of what color is in that object? In the process of applying color notes, I adjust and manipulate the notes to create a truer sense of what I'm seeing. And I'm always using my first notes to get there in a thoughtful and sensitive way--however outwardly, I'm attacking the canvas in a bit of a furious energy, because as soon as I slow down, I risk losing momentum and freshness ...and out in the field, you risk losing the light! It could almost appear as if I'm throwing arbitrary color all over the place in the beginning (that's usually when passer-bys come by and assume I'm an abstract painter and then wonder why I bother painting outside). I do enjoy the fresh air. 

I'm using the term, "object" here as that's how most people think of things. Thinking of the bushes, the trees, the ocean and the sky--as objects is easy; thinking of them as color spots, within color masses, within space may take a little practice. But that's how I try to see everything.

In the above image, I had loosely and energetically covered all the white of the canvas so that I could easily see what the painting needed. I hadn't bothered paying too much attention to creating forms within the masses, just spots of color as they related to their adjacent spots until the white of the canvas was gone. But, here we can see, forms or objects are emerging without my thinking of them as such.

Here, I am continuing to adjust my color notes in a more refined way, while breaking some of the larger masses into smaller masses. I'm carefully adjusting my hues and values to more accurately represent the light effect I witnessed on location. I'm not usually a "light-chaser", but when I was working on the field sketch of this scene, near the end of my painting session, I witnessed the sun dropping behind the tree with a veil of atmospheric fog that was lifting off the horizon and then rolling back in again. The light lasted about 2 minutes and then--poof, it was gone! I decided to try to record THAT light, as it was so subtle and beautiful and bathed in warmth. So here it is, an overcast gray day with the last bit of warm illuminating light bouncing off the top planes of the sandy dunes and peeking behind the cypress. I figured, "Last Light of Monterey" would be an appropriate title. Now, is it truly finished? Time will tell. I like to have my paintings sit awhile before I send them off someplace. I like to do a final "looksee". Almost everything I paint, will require a few finishing touches, a lost edge or two, a dark accent here and there, a soft edge, a hard edge, a belt sander, a razor blade... we could fuss forever, never really truly being satisfied. But I am deeply satisfied that I painted! The process is often the biggest reward.

Carole Gray-Weihman
Carole Gray-Weihman
Painter, Instructor and Founder-CEO of Plein Air Liaison, Carole loves engaging with other plein air painters, teaching and painting the landscape. She also enjoys web design and social media. You can also find her here:       READ MORE

How to Take Care of your Brushes

How to Care for your Brushes, by Carole Gray-Weihman

Taking good care of your brushes will pay off in the long run--they really can last a lifetime if they’re properly cared for. One thing to remember is that every brush is not created equal. A cheap brush and an expensive brush should not be handled the same way. While in the studio, storing your more expensive brushes in an airtight box and your cheap brushes upright in a jar, will remind you which is which. In your outdoor gear, use two canvas roll brush holders--one for inexpensive brushes and the other for expensive brushes. 

And as we all know, we love to collect supplies! Storing brushes for later use is risky if they're just sitting in your taboret drawer. They’re vulnerable to moth damage. Try adding a moth repellent to your brush storage containers. There’s nothing worse than losing your investment because of bugs eating up your most valuable tools. If you mistreat a cheap brush, it's no huge loss, but mistreat an expensive brush and it puts you out some money. The brush in the picture above, was not cheap... Oops!

So you've absentmindedly just grabbed the closet brush to work on your oil painting and inadvertently left it laying around in your thinner or on your palette for days at a time only to realize that was one of your best brushes. What then? In the case of the brush pictured above, 2 months had passed before I had discovered it laying around. 

This is what I did to recondition this brush along with it's equally messed up companion...

Soak Brush in Bristle Magic

Wipe Brush Dry and Test it on Soap

Bristle Magic Dip and Wipe Brush

Wipe with Olive Oil to Shape

Before and After using Bristle Magic

What NOT to do:

  • Don’t leave dirty oil paint brushes resting in a can of thinner as the solvent can eat away at the adhesive holding the bristles to the ferrule. With acrylics or watercolors, water can eventually cause the wooden handle to swell, which can also damage the ferrule.
  • Don’t wash your brushes in hot water (cool or warm is sufficient).
  • Don’t leave brushes resting on their bristles.
  • Don’t store them up tight when they’re damp as mildew can ruin the bristles.
  • Don’t ever let your paint dry on the brush.
  • Don’t store your brushes in direct sunlight.
  • Make sure that brushes aren’t resting against the tips of other brushes, or they can become deformed.
  • Avoid packing brushes up too tightly when using rolled canvas holders.

What TO do:

  • Do your best to clean the base of the bristles, it's just as important for maintaining a brush’s shape as the tip. Any paint residue that coats the bristles at their base will prevent them from coming together at the top. Gradually, your brush tip will become more and more spread apart until it no longer holds its shape.
  • Keep your brushes rolled in canvas sleeves with individual pockets for each brush, or in drawers. As long as the head is undisturbed, your brushes will do fine stored vertically or horizontally.
  • Always have ivory soap and Bristle Magic on hand. (Note: This was not a paid endorsement.)

Carole Gray-Weihman
Carole Gray-Weihman
Painter, Instructor and Founder-CEO of Plein Air Liaison, Carole loves engaging with other plein air painters, teaching and painting the landscape. She also enjoys web design and social media. You can also find her here:       READ MORE

Taxation & Tax Deductions for the Self-Employed Visual Artist

Taxation & Tax Deductions for the Self-Employed Visual Artist, by Peter Jason Riley

Artists and taxes don’t seem to mix very well.  Taxes and administrating the business of art are often last on the list of concerns for the visual artist.  The artistic temperament simply does not interface well with the exacting rule-filled world of federal and state taxation.  Artists tend to avoid the whole matter and consequently leave themselves vulnerable to bad advice.  The secret to overcoming this phobia is to develop an understanding of the mechanisms of the tax code and some simple, effective ways of complying with this onerous task.  I often use the analogy that you may not need to know how to fix your car, but it is helpful to know how it basically works.  In so doing you will pay less in taxes and you will be less likely to fall prey to erroneous tax information and disreputable or ill-informed advisors.

Taxation & Tax Deductions for the Self-Employed Visual Artist, by Peter Jason Riley

A majority of visual artists are considered “self-employed” in regards to filing their taxes.  In a legal and taxpaying sense this means that your “business” as an artist and you as an individual taxpayer are one and the same.  There is no legal separation, such as one would have in a corporation, partnership, LLC or other legal entity.  The artist usually files a “Schedule C” as part of their regular 1040 income tax form, which is where you report your art income and expenses.  The artist may file a form 8829 for the home office (studio) deduction and will also be required to pay self-employment tax (Schedule SE) on your net income (profit) as well as federal income tax.  All these forms are part of the year-end 1040 income tax filing.  As a self-employed artist, you will usually be required to pay estimated quarterly taxes using Form 1040-ES if your Federal tax liability is over $1,000 for the year. 

The goal is first and foremost to lower your taxes!  The artist has a number of tax deductions that are unique.  In the balance of this article I will try to break them down to their component parts to make the issues understandable.  For the IRS all deductible business expenses are those that are:
  1. Incurred in connection with your trade, business, or profession
  2. Must be “ordinary” and “necessary”
  3. Must “NOT be lavish or extravagant under the circumstances”
It does not take much analysis to see that these guidelines are not an exacting science.  The artist has a large group of basic expenses that easily fit the above criteria: travel (hotel, meals, etc.), vehicle and transportation costs, equipment, art supplies, home studio expenses, legal and professional fees, gallery costs & commissions, etc (see our attached list).  Let’s review some of the more complex and contentious deduction areas.

Is Being an Artist a Business?
The first hurdle visual artists often have is the question regarding whether their “art” is indeed a business for tax purposes.  The heart of this matter is whether the I. R. S. sees the endeavor as a real “business” or as a “hobby.”  Because the artist’s ventures often (sadly) yield losses, the question then becomes when the tax code determines an enterprise to be a true business as opposed to a hobby.  Here's how you may be affected by these so-called “hobby” rules.

Although you must claim the full amount of income you earn from your hobby, hobby-related expenses are generally deductible only to the extent of income produced by the activity.  So if you don't generate any income from your hobby, you can't claim any deductions.  What's more, even those hobby expenses which can be deducted are subject to an additional limitation: they are considered miscellaneous itemized deductions on Schedule A, which are deductible only to the extent that they exceed two percent of your adjusted gross income.  In contrast, if your activity can be classified as a bona fide business, you may be able to deduct the full amount of all your expenses by filing a Schedule C.  In short, a hobby loss won't cut your overall tax bill because the tax law stipulates that you can't use a hobby loss to offset other income.

Converting your hobby into a bona fide business means you can deduct a net loss from other income you earn, such as wages and salaries.  How does the IRS determine whether your activity is a hobby or a for-profit business? The Internal Revenue Service publications discuss these nine criteria:

  • Whether you carry on the activity in a businesslike manner.
  • Whether the time and effort you put into the activity indicate you intend to make it profitable.
  • Whether you are depending on income from the activity for your livelihood.
  • Whether your losses from the activity are due to circumstances beyond your control (or are normal in the start-up phase of your type of business).
  • Whether you change your methods of operation in an attempt to improve the profitability.
  • Whether you have the knowledge needed to carry on the activity as a successful business.
  • Whether you were successful in making a profit in similar activities in the past.
  • Whether the activity makes a profit in some years, and how much profit it makes.
  • Whether you can expect to make a future profit from the appreciation of the assets used in the activity.

The primary determinant is your ability to make a profit at what you are doing.  If your efforts result in a profit in three out of five consecutive years, your activity is presumed not to be a hobby by the IRS.  If you don't meet the three-out-of-five years profit rule, is all lost?  Not necessarily, if you can prove to the IRS's satisfaction that you have made a genuine effort to earn a profit and that the reason you are not successful is related to special circumstances, the IRS might agree that your art is, in fact, a business.  This is often true for individuals engaged in the arts, where profits and successes are difficult to achieve.  To increase your chance of gaining the IRS's recognition of your business, I recommend that you run your activity in a professional, businesslike manner.  Doing such things as having business cards and stationery printed, maintaining a separate business checking account and telephone number, keeping accurate records of the time you put in, and carefully documenting all business-related expenses.  The Internal Revenue Service places great credence on computerized accounting records as evidence of the artist’s “businesslike” intent.  Keep records of all show entries (even including ones that you don’t get into) and all gallery activity.  In short anything related to attempts to sell your artwork.   

Income for the artist includes amounts paid to the artist for their artwork.  Income for the artist also includes prizes, awards, fellowships, and endowments received.  There is also the concept of “taxable income other than cash.”  This includes trades of art between artist and other individuals.  For example: an artist agrees to “sell” a painting to another artist by exchanging artwork.  The painting that the first artist gives up “costs” $75 (the cost of paint, canvas, and framing).  The artwork received has a market value or price of $1,000.  The first artist will have a taxable income from this transaction of $925 ($1,000 less $75).  In other words the artist received something worth $1,000 but only paid $75.

Taxation & Tax Deductions for the Self-Employed Visual Artist, by Peter Jason Riley

Inventory is often problematic for many artists; I often get blank stares when I ask the question at tax time.  The inquiry concerns the artists cost at year end of the artwork that has not yet been sold, this is the artist’s inventory.  

Not to get too technical, but the calculation of inventory is primary in arriving at “cost of goods sold.”  In other words, my direct materials deduction for tax purposes is (1) the direct cost of all material used in the production of finished art work; materials,  framing, printing, etc LESS (2) the finished artwork held at the end of the year (ending inventory).  

Some artists (being cash based taxpayers) can ignore this process altogether because the direct product costs are relatively minor (a potter comes to mind), but for most fine artists, photographers, etc. the cost of framing alone can be sizable enough to require addressing ending inventory.
On the tax return the calculation looks something like this:

 Beginning Inventory (beginning of year – from all prior years)
 Materials purchased during the current year
 Printing done during the current year
 Framing done during the current year
 Total inventory available for sale in the current year
 Ending Inventory (end of year) 
 Cost of Goods Sold

 In this example the artist started the year with $5K of value (stretchers, printing, materials costs, framing, prints, etc) in “unsold” art work from prior years.  During the year she purchased $3K of materials, had $2K of printing costs and spent $6K in framing so that during the year she spent $11K producing new finished art work.  The $11K added to the $5K beginning number to yield $16K of direct costs in finished art for the year.  Finally at year end she had $5,500 (in cost) of unsold art work, this was her ending inventory.  According to this example her deductible direct cost of art work sold during the year is $10,500.

Since you don’t really want to be an accountant (!), the key thing the artist has to be aware of is that they need to take an inventory at year-end.  This means coming up with a (usually) estimated cost of art work unsold at year end (keep in mind that this may include work from earlier years).  This is art work held everywhere; in galleries, the home as well as in the studio.  The artist should first make an inventory list of titles and then estimate to the best of his or her abilities the direct costs represented by each work.  Keep in mind that the selling price is NOT relevant, just the actual cost of materials, framing, etc.  

Travel & Meals
The artist is allowed to deduct all expenses associated with overnight business travel.  These include meals (only 50% deductible), hotel & lodging, reasonable tips, dry-cleaning, phone calls home, etc.  Overnight travel is roughly defined by the IRS as travel that is far enough away from home so as to make it inconvenient to return home at night.  Travel could include expenses related to gallery visits, openings of shows, delivering artwork, art fairs, etc. and will include many of the expenditures made on such trips.  The other question often asked is the tradition for mixed vacation/business travel.  As long as the trip is primarily business then deductability will be maintained.  For example, what if the artist has a five-day trip to NYC for a gallery opening and outdoor art fair that includes a two-day stopover in Philadelphia on the way home to visit a friend.  In this case the entire NYC trip would be deductible but the expenses related to the Philadelphia stopover, which was personal would not be.  Since maintaining individual meal receipts is inconvenient, consider using the IRS “meal allowance” for deducting meals when traveling.  This “meal allowance” (adjusted annually by the IRS) ranges from $46 for “low cost” localities and up to $71 per day for “high cost” localities depending on the city or town.  In practice this means that receipts for meals are not required as long as the travel itself can be substantiated.  This “allowance” includes all three meals and incidental expenses for the day.  Travel for spouses or dependents are not allowed unless they are employees of the art business. 

Meals are deductible (remember, only 50%) as part of the overnight travel, and they are also allowed as a separate (non-travel) deduction when they meet the criteria of “ordinary,” “necessary” and business related.  This means that the meal must include direct business discussions.  This can mean lunch or dinner meetings with agents, fellow artists, gallery owners, etc.  If a direct business purpose is clearly documented then the deduction is allowed.  These meals could include talks on potential gallery showings, museum exhibits, future sales, Website design or setup, and meetings with lawyers or accountants.  The best place to keep records for these expenses is in an appointment book.  Log into your book who was present, and briefly the nature and substance of the discussion.  I often suggest that you keep a copy of the person’s business card as further substantiation.
Automobile & Vehicle Expenses
The use of an automobile can be one of the most common and largest deductions for the  artist.  The automobile use expense can be taken in two ways.  The first method is by using the IRS “standard mileage allowance.” In 2013, this annually defined allowance is 56.5 cents a mile (56 cents for 2014).  To take this deduction you do not need receipts, only records that show the distances driven and the business purpose of the trips.  These would include travel to galleries and museums; trips to the art supply store, classes, etc.  The best tool for tracking and calculating this expense is your appointment book or calendar.  If your calendar has a record of business travel it can be used as a tool to estimate your mileage deduction (odometer readings are appreciated by IRS, but NOT required).  

The second method is to write off direct expenses.  In this method you actually depreciate the cost of the vehicle (over 5 years) and then tally up gas slips, repairs, insurance, etc and use that amount as a basis for your expense.  This method requires more work and organization.  If you were writing off a cube van or other larger vehicle, the second method would be preferred.  In my practice I often find the mileage allowance method generally yields the highest deduction for straight automobile use.  In any case, the IRS allows the taxpayer to calculate the best method year by year and take the one that yields the highest deduction (within limits).

Equipment purchased is generally “depreciated” and written off over 5 or 7 years on Form 4562.  Depreciation is a technique for expensing or writing off purchases that have a useful life of greater than one (1) year.  In other words, a kiln or printing press is intrinsically different in nature than clay, a tube of paint, brushes or photographic chemicals.  Supplies such as inks, film, canvas, welding material, etc. will be written off (or deducted) in the year of purchase.  Most art equipment including computers is written off in 5 to 7 years; these “depreciable lives” are defined in the IRS code.  The main tax strategy when it comes to depreciation is the use of what is often called “the section 179 election.” The IRS allows taxpayers to “expense” up to $500K in 2013 and it drops to $25K in 2014 unless changed by legislation.  In this case the potter is allowed to write-off his/her $5,000 kiln in one year rather than wait seven years to do it, or a photographer could write-off digital cameras on other technology in the year purchased.  Remember this “section 179 expensing election” only accelerates the deduction into one year.  Either way, the artist is able to write-off (depreciate) the full cost of the purchase.

Taxation & Tax Deductions for the Self-Employed Visual Artist, by Peter Jason Riley

The Home Studio
The home studio (office) has been a contentious subject in my profession for a number of years.  With recent legislation, the home office has clearly returned to its rightful place as an allowable deduction for most artists.  If you use a room (or rooms) in your home exclusively as your studio, you will probably qualify for the home office deduction.  The use of the room can be as a studio, storage area for equipment and art, record keeping for the business, marketing, etc.  The home office is a fairly straightforward deduction to calculate on form 8829.  It simply utilizes a formula based on the square footage of the business portion (the home studio) of your home vs. the total square footage of the house or apartment and then applies that percentage to all associated costs.  The costs could include rent, mortgage interest, real estate taxes, condo fees, utilities, insurance, repairs, etc.  Other rules that come into play here include the “exclusive use” requirement.  This rule states that the home office must be used only for the business – no “mixed use” allowed.  In other words, the studio cannot be a part of a larger room such as the living room unless the business part is partitioned off in some way.  The home office can be a powerful write-off in that it allows the artist to deduct a part of what were non-deductible personal expenses.  

Remember that this outline is not intended to be the whole story.  The Federal Tax Code is very complicated, and your specific applications should be reviewed with a tax professional before filing your taxes.  The visual artist is unique in the world of taxes.  When you are shopping for a tax preparer please make sure they have some experience in taxation for artists.  Organizing your numbers using our on-line worksheets (and this article) will make the process easier, cheaper and will help you maximize your deductions.  Ask your preparer about other tax saving strategies for self-employed individuals such as retirement plans, health insurance and the timing of deductions.

Take a glimpse of the contents of my book: "New Tax Guide for Writer, Performers & Other Creative People", by Focus Publishing. To keep up with the most current information, including tax tips, a glossary, FAQs, as well as our "Tax Quick Guide" that will always give you the latest information on tax rates, mileage deductions, exemptions, deadlines and tax law changes, please visit our website:

Worksheet Downloads courtesy of Riley & Associates:

Expense checklist for visual artists PDF Version
Expense checklist for visual artists Excel Worksheet Version

Income worksheet for visual artists PDF Version
Income worksheet for visual artists Excel Worksheet Version

12 month expense worksheet for visual artists Excel Worksheet Version

Peter Jason Riley
is the author of the newly revised book “New Tax Guide for Writers, Artists, Performers, & Other Creative People” published by Focus Publishing. 
You can also find him here:        CONTINUE READING MORE

Related Posts Plugin for WordPress, Blogger...