Today’s post comes in response to a reader question that asks one of the most important questions any artist can ask: How to Light Your Art Studio.
I reviewed some of your newsletters I get but didn’t see any thing on lighting. I’m curious about desktop lighting and whether your have any recommendations on the best way to go for desktop lamps.
If you have any advice—or even resources you can point me too, I’d appreciate it.
Thanks so much.
First of all, I want to thank Tom for his question. It’s a fantastic question.
And he was right. As long as I’ve been writing about art in general and colored pencils specifically, I’ve never talked about lighting. It’s such a vital part of the art equation that I’m ashamed I didn’t think of it sooner.
So that’s the subject for today.
There are so many lighting options available, that the best way to answer Tom’s question is to share my lighting experiences.
How I’ve Lighted My Studios in the Past
For most of my studio life, I’ve worked with a combination of natural lighting through windows and standard overhead lighting. Usually 60 watt or higher incandescent bulbs in ceiling fixtures. To be perfectly frank, I just didn’t think about lighting. It was necessary, but not vital to what I was doing.
I worked that way for decades. The only variations were the clip lamps I used at horse shows and the floor lamp beside my favorite drawing couch at home. Those also used ordinary incandescent bulbs. Usually 60W or higher.
Then my husband and I were wandering through a local furniture store that sells new and used furniture, and came across a floor model OTT light. My husband (an engineer and someone always looking for the best ways to do things) said, “Would you like that?”
I’d heard of OTT lights, of course, and knew a lot of artists swore by them, and this one was inexpensive. So I said, “Yes.” It replaced the floor lamp beside my favorite drawing couch and I used it for years.
At some point, however, I noticed it was no longer seemed bright enough. The problem was no doubt aging eyes, but I gave the lamp to hubby and looked for other options.
How I Currently Light my Art Studio
I’m back to ceiling fixtures but now they have daylight LEDs in them. The rooms where I usually work also have large windows nearby, and during daylight hours, I make use of natural light. Natural light is my favorite way to light my work while I’m drawing, by the way.
I tend to look for inexpensive, easy to implement solutions to everything, so the current setup is perfect.
But there are other options.
What Other Artists Are Doing
Some time ago, I heard an artist comment that his lighting solution was a couple of clamp lights of the type mechanics use. They are inexpensive (under $10 usually) and you can put whatever type of bulb in them you want.
I bought a clamp lamp for my H-frame easel. It has a 65W A1 flood light in it and it’s nearly perfect. I can move it from one side of the easel to the other as needed, or clip it to something else if I need to position it further from the easel. The only way it would be better would be to have another!
Goose Neck Lamps
I also recently heard an oil painter Andrew Tischler talking about his studio lighting. He uses several light sources for his painting area, including two goose neck desk lamps. They can be positioned side-to-side, up-and-down, and various distances from the painting he’s working on.
In addition, he puts a cool bulb in one and a warm bulb in the other so that the combined light is nearly white.
He talks about lighting in a couple of videos on his YouTube channel, including a couple that focus on budget as well as lighting. I recommend both.
The video I suggest first is Studio Lighting/How to Light Your Art Studio on a Budget. It even includes a shopping list! What could be better?
The other video is My Studio Setup – How to Create an Amazing Art Space (on a Budget). This video is geared more toward general studio setups, but it includes lighting.
NOTE: The big bonus with the second video is storage! I especially like Andrew’s comments on artistic hoarding. (Anybody else subject to artistic hoarding?)
If I Were Setting Up a New Working Space
If I were setting up a new working area, I’d look for the following things.
Flexibility is important if you work in a lot of different sizes. Look for a light or lighting system that allows you to focus the light on small areas as well as larger areas for big drawings.
If you do more than draw in your workspace, then take into consideration a light or lighting system that lights those tasks, as well.
I don’t have a dedicated work space for art. There are places throughout the house where I like to draw, and I also like to draw outside. That’s why overhead lighting and natural lighting play such big roles in my “studio lighting.”
If you work in more than one place, look for lighting that’s easy to move and set up in as many of those areas as possible. That way, you’ll have the same lighting in every place you most like to work.
The most important thing most of us need to consider is price. You can spend a lot of money for good studio lighting, but you don’t have to. Take time to look around and see what’s available. Talk to other artists and find out what they’re doing.
Then look for inexpensive alternatives. I’m not talking about cheap, here. Cheap will usually end up being more expensive in the long run.
Look for the best combination of quality and price to find the best value.
How to Light Your Art Studio: What Do You Think?
My thanks again to Tom for asking the question in the first place!
Do you have a question about lighting or anything else about colored pencils? I’d love the opportunity to answer it. Click here to send me your question. Who knows? You may ask about something I’ve never talked about before but need to.