Friday, January 9

Like Plein Air Painting with Light

Unless you live on or near the Equator, then you experience changing light throughout the year. The farther north or south of the Equator you are, the greater the change. As you know, the light is more intense and brighter during the summer and diminished during the winter no matter the hemisphere in which you reside.

If you are a plein air painter, you have probably learned to live with this and adjusted your painting schedule, if not your personal comfort, to match the seasons. I hope you’re one of the lucky ones who lives in a climate that lends itself to year ‘round plein air painting, such as Southern California or the Mediterranean (lucky you!).

The rest of us have to put up with a changing (or less than ideal) climate and increasing or decreasing amounts of light throughout the year. In my case, living in the northern hemisphere, I have many more hours in which to paint from April to October than I do from November to March. I suppose I’m bringing this up in the Orbisplanis Art Blog since I’m currently in the “dark” period. I suppose I’m relatively lucky to live in the mid-latitudes rather than nearer one of the poles, where you experience total or almost total darkness for some period of time (really lucky, actually).

As I’ve mentioned before, I paint in a space with a large west window for natural light. I know northern light is the ideal, but I’ve got what I’ve got and no plans to re-model. It’s actually better in one respect: the western exposure allows the maximum amount of light in the afternoon especially during the months with diminished lighting. I don’t usually begin painting until after noon when the natural light is finally full strength enough in my opinion. I have about 4 ½ hours of “good” light. By 4:30 p.m., it is too dim to really see the actual colors unless I turn on an incandescent light, which unfortunately change the colors.

What to Do?

Fortunately, there is a solution. It’s artificial natural light. There’s a whole lot of information on this, and here’s a link to an article I found on the subject of full spectrum natural light and color perception, which I found illuminating (ha!).

It’s really very interesting, although a little technical when it goes into the Color Rendering Index (CRI) and such, but it talks about how “full spectrum lighting duplicates the characteristics of daylight in the blue north sky.” One source also said full spectrum means that a light source (lamp) must have a CRI of at least 90, but I can’t verify that. There are several manufacturers of full spectrum lighting and what seems to be called natural spectrum lighting. Even after researching it, I’m not totally clear what the difference is.

Anyway, I must have complained about my dearth of light enough so that I recently received a gift that remedies my poor lighting. It’s a floor lamp with either a full- or natural-spectrum light. Just what I needed. I'm not endorsing any of the manufacturers, so Im not telling you which brand I have. But I will say I am very satisfied with the amount and type of light it emits.

So, in the shank of the afternoon, around 4:00 p.m. or so, I just turn on my lamp and paint until it gets completely dark or I get tired, whichever comes first.

It’s great for productivity, your eyes, and your art!


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