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-   -   Help with new studio lighting please (http://portraitartistforum.com/showthread.php?t=9243)

Joan Breckwoldt 10-07-2009 09:31 PM

Help with new studio lighting please
Hello artists,
After painting for many years I am finally going to get a studio. I am using a room in our house, 16'x10' and today the contractor removed the ceiling. It's going to have a vaulted ceiling with two 2'x4' skylight on the roof portion facing north. There is also a standard sized window (30"x50") on the north wall of the room. Also a widow on the south side and TWO windows facing east. I'm planning on putting curtains on every window so I can control the light. Dark thick non-reflective curtains (velvet like) and the walls will be dark greenish gray.

Here is where I need the help: To paint my model I would like to have all the light coming from one direction: north. So, the skylights will be facing north and as close to the bottom of the roofline, and the north facing window, as possible. I feel like that will get me lots of north light. But I feel I also need some more lights for cloudy or rainy days. I am thinking of one or possibly two banks of 4 tubes for some daylight tubes. My gut feeling says I need to get them over there on the north side of the room too, maybe right above the skylights (by that I mean closer to the peak of the roof) or below, closer to the wall. That way I can supplement the natural light on dreary days.

What about the other side of the room? Should I have a bank of lights up on that sloped ceiling too? I can always turn whatever I don't need off. I plan to have a pretty chandelier hanging from the middle of the room, perhaps not the most practical but it's my dream studio so I'm adding that luxury. That will give me a little light but I imagine that'll be turned off during the actual painting time.

Before this remodel I would paint with a spotlight on my model, a little light leaking in through the blinds usually from the east, and a 60 Watt bulb in the overhead fan/light combo.

Any help with the configuration of the sky lights and daylight tubes will be greatly appreciated. As a side note, I don't generally paint at night because my models only come during the day. I live in Texas so we get plenty of light coming in all the windows.

Thank you!!!!

Marvin Mattelson 10-07-2009 11:17 PM

Make sure the skylights are angled no more than 15 degrees or sunlight will enter. You may need to dormer them.

The fluorescent tubes could be between the skylight and the window or they can be placed in between the two skylights. Make sure you get 6500 degree kelvin tubes to match the color of the natural light with a high CRI. Lumichrome bulbs are the best.

Good luck.

Joan Breckwoldt 10-07-2009 11:36 PM

Thank you Marvin for your reply, I read one of your earlier posts about the artificial lighting, thank you.

Well, the skylights might be a problem. The pitch of the roof is close to a 45 degree angle. We already have the two skylights. Maybe the best thing would be to just build a dormer to hold a window facing north on the roof. That would be more costly and complicated and this job has already gotten more complicated than I thought. Probably the story of all remodels . . . .

If my model and easel are not directly under that skylight in any direct light, is it really that much of a problem to have some direct light coming in the skylights? I think tomorrow I need to test this by watching the sun and making a little model of a skylight to see how much sun really would come in.

Okay, you've got me worried about the skylights . . . .


Joan Breckwoldt 10-08-2009 12:00 AM

No skylights
Okay, thanks to the post by Marvin we have a better plan, I just talked to the contractor. We are going to build a dormer with windows facing north. Tomorrow the two skylights go back to the store.

Marvin, I can't thank you enough!!!


Marvin Mattelson 10-08-2009 10:11 PM

1 Attachment(s)
It was my pleasure.

Before you go forward you should do some serious research on artists' studios.

I did a search for Norman Rockwell's studio and found the following image of his north windows from the exterior and this link to a video: http://www.yankeemagazine.com/issues...l-studio-video

Clayton J. Beck III 10-10-2009 12:14 PM

Hi Joan and Marvin,

American Artist Magazine has just put out an issue called Studios. (I am one of the contributors to one of the articles on lighting.) It has a lot of good advice for studio set-up.

My advice is always to figure out the paintings you think you will want to paint and then build the studio to create that. Too many people build a studio solely on others strong advice and then find out that their paintings are all looking like the person's work who gave the advice. In other words, know what you are trying to create and then make your studio give you the closest set-ups to your vision. If your vision of your future work is weak, then you have a real problem because sometimes the studio one builds actually over powers their developing vision and makes it difficult to grow.

Good luck and I hope you will post photos of your remodel.


Joan Breckwoldt 10-10-2009 03:57 PM

Thank you Clayton
Dear Clayton, not only are you a contributing author to that article, your beautiful paintings are featured in the article! I had to go downstairs to get the magazine from the living room - I've spent hours dreaming about the studios in that magazine sitting on my sofa! - and I had bookmarked the page containing your painting of the nude on the sofa! Beautiful work, also the head is amazing two pages later.

I did read that article and it was very helpful with regard to artificial light, I will be using artificial light too. I have a north facing window and now we're adding a dormer on the roof with a 5' wide x 2' tall window. Surely that'll get me a good amount of north light. The window will be vertical (thanks Marvin).

I'm not sure where to put the artificial lights. I bought two flourescent boxes holding 4 lights each. In my mind they should supplement the artificial light so they should be as close to the windows as possible. Maybe one right below where the dormer starts? That's about the only place it'll fit. If I put it above where the dormer is cut out, it'll basically be overhead lighting. Oh, maybe on either side of the window in the wall. I think I'll have to post a photo to make all this clear.

Thank you Clayton for your advice about making the studio what I need and not what any other artist needs. I do have the advantage that I've been painting in that room so I am familiar with the lighting as it is (without the addition of the roof dormer). And I'll be painting models from life, and a client when I can get one to pose, so that at least narrows down the conditions I need.


Joan Breckwoldt 10-10-2009 04:08 PM

Clayton, in the article it says you have a diffuser over the tray of flourescent light tubes. What kind of diffuser? When I went to Home Depot to look at the light trays, some had clear . . I imagine it was textured plexiglass, and some had a diffused acrylic covering. I was afraid that particular covering would alter the color, it looked to have a yellow tint, but then again was standing in Home Depot and didn't have the best circumstances to judge the light output from the sample lights.

We talk a lot about lighting the model, but sufficient light needs to be on my canvas and palette too, right? I've always heard it should be the same light. I don't think I'll be able to position my easel to catch as much north light as the model will get, the room just isn't that big. How do you suggest I light the room? A bank of these tubes up on the ceiling, but not too bright that it disrupts my shadow patterns on the model? thank you!


Debra Norton 10-13-2009 05:04 AM

Joan, I'm going through the same process you are right now, so I'm enjoying reading what you're doing. We're nearing the end of building our house which includes a studio for me on the second floor. I have four 5x5 windows on my north wall with a 2x9 window centered above the four. We have four windows on two other walls (put there for resale value - and the view) that I plan to cover with blinds when I'm working.

I plan to put some "helper" lights above the painting windows for our overcast northwest Washington days. Color corrected of course.

I have two west facing skylights that I have to deal with also. I debated a long time whether to put them in or not and finally decided that it would be a lot easier to cover them or diffuse their light than have my husband refuse to cut a hole in the roof later.

I bought fabric to make curtains for the north windows today. I ended up getting cotton duck canvas. I hope that will be heavy enough to block the light. If it isn't, I'll line them.

I'm hoping to be moved into the studio by Thanksgiving. Still have to put in doors, trim, sink and a cabinet. I've been painting in a little 8x10 room with an east facing window for the past two years, so I'm really looking forward to that north light! And space!

Joan Breckwoldt 10-13-2009 10:50 PM

New studio!
Hi Debra,

How exciting! Your new studio sounds fabulous. Mine is only 10'x17' but I feel truly blessed to have that space all to myself.

I thought about skylight, actually I bought them and then returned them. I ordered them with roller shades that come down over the skylight and block out the light. There is a motor to control the shades and a keypad on the wall. You might want to look into that since that's easy to do with new construction. I bought Velux brand, they seemed to have some great options.

I still need to figure out the helper flourescent lights. I went to Home Depot but they don't have the right tubes, I'll have to search on line for the right specs. And I'm not real sure exactly where I'll mount them, probably between the window on the wall and the dormer in the ceiling.

I've been thinking about curtains too but haven't bought any fabric yet. I am really hoping to be in my new studio by the first week in November. I hope you'll post photos!


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