One of my former classmates, the talented Lauren Pope, asked me some questions regarding studio lighting. Instead of answering her privately, I thought that I would take the time to post my answer as a blog for everyone. This also gives me the opportunity to open my studio up to you all with some more photographs.
Here are her three questions:
#1: Do you have shades or blinds for the windows?
I have no shades or blinds. I do have cute thin little curtains that mostly serve as decoration. I used to have shades before my landlady repainted the porch. She replaced the very old, yet useful shades with the shear curtains. The one good thing is that I can easily remove them if I need direct sunlight.
If I had my way, a large budget, and if the studio wasn't the main entrance to the house, (as it is actually our front sun porch - talk about a fish bowl) I would love to have black shades installed. I doubt that's a common practice, and I would probably have a hard time finding them, but it seems to me to be a perfect solution to controlling the lighting in this room. But until then, I am enslaved by the weather, ever changing light and shadow on my still lifes, and think of myself as an honorary plein air painter for that very reason.
It's been a challenge to learn how to set my still lifes up in relation to where I think the sun will be during my session. In the fall and winter I have roughly 3 hours of direct sunlight. I know when I can take my 15 minute break as the sun goes behind a telephone pole, where to set the still lifes up knowing the path of shadows from the window molding. All of this foreknowledge is important so I can set up early in order to maximize my painting time.
#2: Are you able to control the light?
About the only thing I can do to block out the sun is create some interesting contraptions with boxes, cardboard, and fabric. I've been known to kidnap our dining room table covers. They make great sun blockers and stand on their own with the three panels.
Again, it's not the best solution given that when people visit, which is often, they are greeted by my creative clutter.
To get around the need for controlled lighting, I have learned to have several still lifes set up for each lighting situation. One for night time painting (which I rarely get to, anymore), one for direct sun, and one for overcast days (this also works for morning painting as the sun is on the opposite side of the house).
#3 Do you have special lighting(bulbs) for cloudy days and nighttime painting?
I used to, but the ones that came with my nice lamp burnt out and I don't think I had a spare at the time, so I put in a regular bulb and have not seen a need to do otherwise. This is my currently neglected night-time setup. All of my friends know it well, I'm sure. As you see, here, I have a simple clamp lamp that has a fluorescent ring ( giving a blue/white light) and then a regular bulb (giving a warm light). For me that's all I need. I like to keep it simple, and it doesn't seem to be distorting my paintings.
For cloudy days, I use a simple night stand lamp, like something you'd find in Target or Walmart. I tip the shade, and it's just what I need.
Don't get me wrong, I love looking at art supply catalogs and dreaming, but right now window shopping will do just fine.
This information on my studio lighting practices and hopefully more than I've shared here, as well as other artist's methods, will be coming out in the October 2007 issue of The Artist's Magazine.
Thank you Lauren for your questions.