Wednesday, July 2, 2008

Studio Lights

Communications, 2008, Oil on Panel, 18x24

So the lighting in my new studio is about a million times better than any studio space or room that I have ever worked in. In fact I don't recall ever having worked in a room with much if any good natural light (certainly no north light) and so over the years I have gotten quite used to working in a pool of light. And at this point I prefer it. Using lamps creates a stable light, one that I can depend on at any time of the day or night.

But now I have north light! Since I am not sure what to expect with that though, I decided to just go ahead and do my usual set up. I have three lights clamped to my easel. One is just a 60w bulb in one of those crappy metal lamp fixtures from the hardware store (I have a bunch of those, they come in handy). The middle one is a clamp on desk light, also 60w. The halogen light is my favorite. It's easily adjustable and I like the intense and warm color of the light from it, although having another bulb to even it out is important. I used to have a stronger halogen light but the switch broke on it and when I went to buy another one, I found that all of the halogen light were of a lower wattage. The new one is 100w and I think my old one was at least 150w. With the higher wattage halogen, I only needed one other lamp, but after I got the new one I had to had a third light to compensate.

I have another clamp light on my other easel, which is the one I used for larger panels in my old studio. Now that I have so much more room around my easels though, I don't know if I will do much painting at the second easel. But if I do, I have a bunch of extra clamp on lights and a good light stand.

The fixtures in the attic itself are fairly minimal. We put up two track lights, each with four lights. At first we put in halogen bulbs but I found the spotlight effect to be irritating. So I stood up on a too short step ladder the other day and put in 60w bulbs, which do a much better job of providing overall light in the room.

The south end of the attic is quite a bit darker than the north end. Mostly because of the historically accurate, yet small and impractical oval window that has a louvered exterior. Luckily though, I have a handy dandy floor lamp (you can see it in the photo above) that I picked up at a yard sale for five bucks a few years ago. It can take a 300w bulb which really lit up my old studio downstairs and now it is great for the dark side of my new studio. I won't need that lamp on when I work at my easels, but it will be good for when I have to prep panels on the south end of the room.

I know that I really should be using energy efficient bulbs, but I gotta say that I really hate the color of their light! We put one into a few of our can lights in the kitchen and their cool light on my nice cozy warm yellow walls bothered me so much that I finally changed them. So I will use the incandescent bulbs for as long as possible and I may even stockpile a few thousand. I keep hearing that they may soon be extinct and that we will have to use the fluorescent energy savers.


No great words of lighting advice here, I am afraid. I like my lighting, but would never recommend this wacky set up to anyone. I suppose I will change things up at some point and it won't be the end of the world. For now though, I do not plan on messing up what has worked for me so far.

More about moving into the attic tomorrow. It is filling up!


n warner said...

I love the set-up and I too hate the quality of the florescent energy savers...but you can or might consider the more expensive warm light
energy savers, (a tiny bit yellow granted)....but I get it, I HATE
that weird looking light. Keep with your wacky set up...proof in the pudding, eh? Great job in getting that wonderful studio space up and running. Oh, and those delphiniums are amazing. :-) Nina

Chris Rywalt said...

I never really understood about the famed north light until recently. I've always painted under artificial light -- first down in my basement when I was living with my parents, then in various temporary set-ups, and now in a corner of my bedroom. I've got two rows of track lighting. One track someone gave to me years and years ago and I carted it from place to place, never using it but always thinking it'd come in handy one day. It finally did. The second one I found in a box at a local eco-park with a "take me please" label. I've filled them with 100- and 150-watt-equivalent compact fluorescents, which I actually like. They're bright and I find them closer to white light than any incandescent. They need a little bit of time to warm up, though. Not all brands do, but I still have some of the bad kind.

I've been drawing with Dorian Vallejo in his home studio and there's where I learned about north light. Liana, his wife, also an artist, tells me that when they went home buying they took a compass with them and actually checked the northern exposure of every house they looked at. The real estate agent thought they were crazy. They had a studio built in the attic of the house they finally bought and Dorian actually set up a model to see how the sun moved so the architect could design the studio properly.

The result is a room that gets surprisingly even light all day. I didn't notice it for months, but one day I realized that, no matter what time of day it is, sunlight never enters directly through the floor-to-ceiling studio windows. It's pretty amazing.

The drawback for figure drawing, though, is there are never any really dramatic shadows to work with. Dorian likes that, but I kind of wish we had something a little more exciting now and then. Last time I was there we tried to get some stark shadows going by closing the studio blinds and using some overhead lights but we weren't all that successful.

m collier said...

Really love your studio set up. I too have lighting issues.

Casey Klahn said...

It took me forever to find out that a mix of warm and cool lights, such as you have, is the key. That's how i do my track.

My Dazor lamp is the the business. Lasts forever and stays where you put it.

Thanks for illuminating your space (har har!) - your results are awesome!

gary rith said...

I know, I did the same with some of my studio bulbs: switched them to energy efficient, then back to old fashioned!

Tracy said...

Thanks Nina, yeah, I hope they get the color in the lights worked out. I get depressed thinking about a world of fluorescent lighting, ugh.

Chris, funny story about your friends house hunting. I decided against putting in skylights in the attic mostly because I didn't want the directional light they would create. Well that and the price of putting them in:)

Thanks m, Well it's working so far. I am still bummed about not being able to find a stronger halogen light anymore though.

Casey, Oh a Dazor lamp, I am jealous. I would love to have one but I have splurged enough this year. Maybe next year:)

Gary, so glad to know it's not just me not liking those bulbs:)

Anonymous said...

Your posts are so rich in content -- if they were dessert they'd be that kind of dense chocolate layer cake with fudge icing that is served in the best restaurants! Thanks for all the info about color. I love seeing studio pics and those links reminded me that I need to take some photos of recent updates to my studio.

Tracy said...

What? Did someone mention layer cake with fudge icing? Mmmmm...

Thanks Jana, I am glad my words can convey so much, I have been used to the art doing it and so maybe I am not a one trick pony after all:)