Saturday, September 25, 2010

Painting under artificial light

Because most of the students who take my classes have day jobs, I teach a still life class on Tuesday evenings from 6pm-9pm. This means that I have to use artificial light, instead of the beautiful natural light coming from the north-facing skylights. To replicate the effect of natural light, I have a series of full spectrum lights installed above and parallel to my skylights. This allows the light to come in at the same (or approximately the same) angle as the natural light from the skylights. Sometimes I choose to turn all of the lights on, but I have the option of just using the middle lights or the end lights, too. In general, I have many still life arrangements for the students to choose from set up on the east and west sides of the studio and the students are in the middle of the room, so any of the lighting possibilities work, and we try them all to see what looks best. It all depends on the effect we are trying to get on the arrangements.

Before teaching in the evenings, I generally never painted under artificial light, but these lights and the high angle make it an acceptable alternative, and we have gotten some nice results. With artificial light the shadows are harsher than with natural light, but knowing this, one can soften these.


Johan said...

I have no windows in my tiny studio so I am obliged to always use artificial light.

I bounce my light off white umbrellas on a stand to soften the shadows. The light itself is thus pointed at the opposite direction.
This works pretty well for people that cannot afford a properly lit studio. Well it's far from ideal to be honest, but it will do.

Karen Winslow said...

Hi Johan, Yes, as long as you have some light from one direction, you should be able to paint. That is a great idea to use the umbrellas.

In Vermont, it is often very cloudy, and on a gray day, you can use a window on any side because no sun will be coming in to confuse the light. When I babysit for my grandkids and can't get to the studio, I try to do some drawings of them using any light, as long as I have one dominant light which will give me a definite light and a definite shadow side.

A small table top Ott light will work too.

Saihah Shamoon said...

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Omani artist