In over thirty years of working as an artist, I’ve tried many different types of lighting. While none is perfect, I thought I’d review what I’ve been working with lately.
First is just plain north light through the window. This is often considered the gold standard for artists. It is a cool and pretty consistent light. My studio, the summer kitchen building of this old house, has four windows in the main part of the studio. Only one window is on the north side, two on the east, and one south facing. Using natural lighting is great but not always practical, especially if you want to work in the evenings or at night. But it has come in handy on occasion during power outages. If you’re working in a centuries-old medium, you can just carry on without electricity.
I am unusual in that I actually like fluorescent lighting (most people don’t). I think it provides good light and is great for working, such as, cutting mats or assembling frames. I have two standard light fixtures in my studio but have opted to pair a cool bulb with a warm (daylight) bulb. Although this is difficult to see in the photo, it provides a nice balanced illumination for the studio. However, if I’m working on a still life, I want aimed lighting without the overhead fluorescents.
Another lighting option in the studio are the can lights. As you can see, they’re pretty old. I’ll probably replace them with the smaller halogen lights in the future. But these are really great for highlighting hanging paintings, such as when I have a studio show.
I also have several clamp-on lights (not shown) which I have used with photography tripods. These are inexpensive and great for lighting still lifes.
Most of my painting in the past few years has been done with a clamp-on gooseneck lamp. It has a daylight bulb. Unfortunately, it sometimes causes “hot” spots on the paintings (uneven lighting). I’ve tried placing it behind me but then I’m working in my shadow. This is especially a problem when working on larger paintings.
Recently I investigated some new easel lighting. First I tried the Phive LED desk lamp. This is made especially for drawing tables and has a really wide lamp head. It also adjusts to many color temperatures and intensities. Although it has a somewhat flexible head, I just could not get it affixed correctly to my easel. This was not a cheap lamp so I returned it and ordered my current favorite.
The most recent lamp that I’m using is by IMIGY with a super long and very flexible 24 inch gooseneck. This LED lamp has several settings for cool, warm and mixed lighting with several dimming options. It also has a delayed timer for turning it off. The clamp is much smaller than the Phive but I may also remove it entirely and attach it directly to the easel with some two-hole plumbing clips. However, the flexibility of the lamp means there are many options for aiming the light. The light bar is shorter than the Phive but the output seems at least equal.
It is important to have good lighting in your studio. I discovered many years ago that if I worked under a warm light, then my paintings turned out too cool. Now I usually use a cool light which mimics north light which means that I paint a bit warmer to compensate. If you are unhappy with your current work space illumination, you might want to try out some of these suggestions.