Thursday, December 2, 2010

A New Studio

A while ago, I was very generously offered a new studio space. The studio consists of its own dedicated separate building. Before I could start using the space, I wanted to have everything set up just right.

My preference is always to work from natural light if possible. Before the invention of electricity, buildings were built to maximize light from natural sources. They were oriented so they faced the poles. With more modern buildings this is not always the case; making the best of the lighting is tricky.

I was fortunate to have spent enough time at Charles Cecil studios in Florence, that I knew what changes to make to the studio.

The best natural light comes from a single, high-facing source, preferably to the north. Northern light is the most stable throughout the day. If you can't use northern light, you may have to deal with shadows and highlights that vary considerably from hour to hour.

Another goal should be to minimize the amount of light reflecting around the studio. A high facing window reduces light reflecting off of the ground or surrounding buildings. Cutting down on the number of light sources simplifies the image, making the artist's job easier.

The 19th Century studio of George Inness. Note the single, large window light source.

The studio before I moved in had more than ample light. The windows to the right are facing north. The other windows will need to be covered.

I don't own the studio, so I couldn't make any major changes to the structure. I needed to use non-destructive means to block the light. The windows didn't have shutters, so they were covered by paper and cloth. The cloth was either attached directly to the wall, or hung from curtain rods.

The complete studio. A few things may need tweaking down the road. Everything has been covered, except the north windows immediately in front of the work. The lower windows have been blocked off halfway as well.

The light piece seen extending out from the top of the skylight, is a piece of foamboard. This directs the light down towards the workspace, cutting down on reflections off the opposite side of the ceiling. Ideally, the whole studio would have been painted black or draped with curtains to cut down on reflected light, but this would not have been practical in this case.

I set up a quick informal still-life, to observe the quality of light with real objects.

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