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Old 10-27-2002, 04:45 PM   #1
Richard Budig Richard Budig is offline
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Studio lighting




I would like some feedback/ideas about how others light their studios.

I'm going to sound like a "poor boy" for a moment, but I've never had the luxury of a north light studio. I've always had to contend with either east, west or south light -- BUT NEVER NORTH LIGHT. That's me screaming. Sorry.

As a result, for the last 20 years or so, I've tried all sorts of things/lighting, and sometimes, just plain put up with bad lighting.

At the moment, I use an overhead neon light fixture with two 40-watt 5,000 degree K tubes, two floods with lights purported to be 5K north light sources, but I'll bet they're closer to 4K or less, and off in the distance is a standard bulb of about 60 watts. My neons are closer, partly because the ceiling is low. I'd guess my overall source light is between 4.5K and 5K. Heck, even Richard Schmid says he paints by 5K neon tubes, so I feel at least half right.

However, one of my persistent problems is that more than I'd like, my paintings seem a tad dark. The old rule of thumb is that too-bright light will make a weak painting, while poorer light will make a stronger painting. I suspect the rationale is that we tend to tone down (gray down?) in bright light, and tone up (increase intensity and hue) in poor light. Thus, one might surmise I have too much light.

Of course, no one can say without seeing my digs, so I won't ask. But what I will ask is how you do your studio, especially those of you not blessed with north light.

Sadly, at the moment, the only place I have (we live in a VERY small condo) is the garage, and there are not windows. So, I use my bank of two neon tubes, two "north light" floods, and a regular incandescant bulb.

Tell me how you solve your lighting problems.

Thanks,
Dick
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Old 10-27-2002, 06:56 PM   #2
Karin Wells Karin Wells is offline
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eek North Light is overrated

I finally got a north lit studio and it was a big disappointment. I live and work in New Hampshire. When it is is rainy or cloudy (as it often is) it affects the light. The time of year and the time of day affect the light.

My solution was to install a whole lot of flourescent daylight balanced bulbs in the ceiling. Any time of the day or night when I enter the studio, I simply flick on the switch and I have perfect, steady, unchanging light.

For me, north light is totally not necessary. In fact, windows in a studio are completely unnecessary...pleasant for sure, but not necessary. To my mind, extra wall space is more appealing.

As to how much light? I personally need a whole lot of light in order to see. What affects my painting more than my light source is the color of my studio walls. I cannot paint when anything stark white is in my field of vision. I have medium value, neutral colored studio walls.

I have even hung a large old faded oriental rug on the wall behind my easel and this helps me keep my paintings on target - value wise and color wise.
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Old 10-27-2002, 07:03 PM   #3
Jeremiah White Jeremiah White is offline
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Interesting topic. I've recently cut down tremendously on the lighting in my studio. I used to work with fluorescent lights as well as others but now only use a few clip-on lamps that I can move in different directions. It's nice because it cuts down my field of vision to just the canvas and tools that I need. Kind of makes for a moody/romantic setting too.
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Old 10-27-2002, 08:16 PM   #4
Karin Wells Karin Wells is offline
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Jerimiah, I did that at one time too because it made my surroundings darker and I liked it. But my problem was that I couldn't position my clip-ons so that there were no shadows cast from my hand and brush. I find shadows on my work to be a disqualifying defect.

Thank heavens my overhead flourescent lighting does not cast any shadows...perhaps because my studio ceiling is high and slanted (not flat).
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Old 10-27-2002, 08:33 PM   #5
Leslie Ficcaglia Leslie Ficcaglia is offline
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I have a wall of southeasterly windows, overlooking a small river, and I paint facing that wall. Then I have a sliding glass door to my right, over which I have track lighting controlled by a dimmer rheostat. I also have an Ottlight which I clamp to my easel, which gives me a nice, cool white light although it doesn't illuminate the canvas as evenly as I'd like. To supplement all that if I feel the need, and what I used to use solely, is a mudlamp. Painting with that, and with my current setup, the hues remain the same whether I'm looking at them in my studio or out of doors, in the sunlight. One downside to having my easels against the wall of windows is that light filters through the canvases, so I need to back them with standard sized masonite panels while I'm working on them. My walls are bright white. When I was building my studio the recommendations seemed split evenly between white and a neutral grey-tan sort of color. Since my first studio, which was my son's old room, had bright white walls and ceiling and I seemed to work well that way, I went with the white for the studio. I do wish I had more wall space because I've run out of room for my paintings, but then I imagine no artist ever is able to hang them all at once anyway.

I have a large double casement window which faces north upstairs in the loft, but I don't use that for painting. It might be a good area for framing eventually.
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Old 10-27-2002, 08:36 PM   #6
Enzie Shahmiri Enzie Shahmiri is offline
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I have a stand that has three lamps on it that can be adjusted to shine in different locations (mine face up towards the ceiling). They each have verilux bulbs in them and the whole gizmo sits behind the easel towrds the right. Two more lamps with same lighting are mounted right above the easel and can shine straight down on the painting.

I don't know about the quality of the lighting or weather Verilux is better/worse than True Color bulbs, or if I should throw this all out and get flourescents.

I like Karin's idea of creating a workspace that is always lit the same, but I lack the knowledge on how to do it without paying an arm and a leg. Karin did you have a professional install the lighting? This might sound really stupid, but I have always been a bad judge when it comes to recognizing the right values, so how can you tell if you have the optimum lighting installed?
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Old 10-27-2002, 08:48 PM   #7
Michael Georges Michael Georges is offline
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To each their own...but...

I now paint only under natural north light and I am completely and utterly spoiled by it. I am blessed to have a window at about 320 degrees North/Northwest, so I get great, even, wonderfully soft, and cool light from about 8 a.m. to about 3:30 or 4 in the afternoon. It is not quite high enough to allow me to get the raking light I really desire, but we make due with what we have. I allow the light to regement my painting time.

I have no problems with weather as a cloudy day through my window is just as bright as a sunny day. While there is a slight variation in brightness, it is still near perfect light rain or shine. Your eyes are programmed to see in natural light and your painting, IMO, will benefit - especially if you are painting anything from life.

I have done nearly all of the artifical light setups. If you are stuck without a north window, then you have to do what you have to do, but if you ever have the chance to see north light in a studio properly set up for it, be prepared for a real treat - it will spoil you for anything else.
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Old 10-27-2002, 09:11 PM   #8
Karin Wells Karin Wells is offline
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Quote:
...did you have a professional install the lighting?
Yes, I hired an electrician. He suggested the amount of lighting that I'd need for my room size...and I doubled it. I have three switches so I can turn on all or some of the lights. Mostly, though, I use them all.

Quote:
...but I have always been a bad judge when it comes to recognizing the right values, so how can you tell if you have the optimum lighting installed?
I am sure that someone more knowlegeable can give you and answer to this, but I simply got what I needed in order to "see" well. Most rooms that I enter in aren't lit well enough for me to paint in, but are perfectly adequate otherwise. This is why I doubled the recommendation for my room size even though everyone disagreed with me. But I am verrrry glad that I did it.

Also, I should mention that I really like to paint at night and oftentimes in the wee hours when it is quiet. This makes artificial lighting very important to me as I prefer to paint when I wish to and not just when natural light dictates the opportunity.
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Old 10-28-2002, 03:17 AM   #9
Steven Sweeney Steven Sweeney is offline
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North Light is overrated
Karin,

Thank you, thank you for that. I'm nearer the equator right now, but my home base is in the area of the U.S-Canadian border. We have nice Northern Lights, but not tons of useful north light. There's a lot where I'm at now, but I can't ask the landlord to rebuild the house -- and yet I'm also not going to quit painting.

We've scared the heck out of many on this site who can't get a "This Old Artist's House" crew into the project immediately -- sooner if possible -- and build high north windows with blinds that rise.

I've admittedly never had the privilege of painting solely by natural northern light. I intend to try it when I can, and perhaps I'll love it, as does Michael G. But I do too much early-morning and late-night studio work to rely on midday light alone, much less its constancy from day to day.

Lots of advice about alternatives in this topic.
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Old 10-28-2002, 10:08 AM   #10
Karin Wells Karin Wells is offline
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RE: fluorescent lighting maintenance tip

If any of you have/get fluorescent lighting I suggest that at least twice a year you dust the bulbs - even those that are "protected" by a covering fixture.

Fluorescent bulbs are electrostatic and attract a fine film of dust. Your lights gradually grow dim and if you are like me, you'll think that it is your failing vision. Anyhow, dusting the bulbs will make an incredible difference.
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