“If you want to be an artist, I’ll help you pay for your first lot of materials,” my father said, "but it’s up to you to make it work.” He gave me a room to use as a studio in his house. He made it clear that if I didn't work hard, I was out.A carpenter, a friend of my father’s, made a free-standing easel, three metres wide and two high. Two or more canvases could be positioned on either side of it at the same time. He also crafted a dozen frames on which to stretch canvas. I did that myself, using a canvas stretcher – really just a clamp – and a staple gun. Overly anxious, trying too hard, I sometimes stretched the canvas too tight so, despite their hardwood frames and metal brackets, the frames warped. I'd have to pry out the staples and started again. I finally got the hang of it after I called the Queensland Art Gallery and spoke to someone in their conservation department. They explained the best way to prepare the canvas to take enamel paint. Soon my small space was filled with a number of large paintings being worked on simultaneously. As I waited for a coat to dry on one, I moved to the next.So much has changed in the decade since then. I have two large studios, assistants, and a lovely cottage overlooking the ocean. In a bad month, my income is five figures. And yet very little has changed: every day, there's the same precarious balance of artisanal skills, persistence, inspiration and intellect needed to transform a raw canvas or timber surface into 'art'.