Studio Smarts

Q. I’m trying to set up a studio in my home. It’s a small room, 9×10 feet, with one south-facing window. I’ll be using it to draw, paint with oils and work on other crafts as well. What color should I paint the walls, and what kind of lighting should I use?

A. It’s a good practice to paint your studio with flat white latex wall paint. This will make a small space appear larger, increase the amount of light in the space, and prevent colored light from reflecting on your subjects.

Your south-facing window could cause some problems by allowing bright direct sunlight to illuminate portions of the space at certain times of the day. This might disrupt setups (especially if the light moves across the room) or affect your perception of the colors in your projects. It all depends upon the time of year, your location, and whether you have trees or other structures that shade the direct light. You might opt for opaque venetian blinds (not the cheap, translucent plastic variety) or an opaque shade to control the natural light.

For additional artificial lighting, I recommend trying one of the new color-corrected lighting systems (talk to your art supplier for suggestions). These can be configured to light specific setups and your work space and do a pretty good job of simulating natural north daylight. On the down side, the cost can be significant if you purchase multiple fixtures or try to light an entire space this way.

A less expensive route is to install a mixture of overhead fluorescent lighting, using high-quality daylight bulbs, and incandescent spot lighting for direct work areas. You can purchase clamp-on reflector spots at a home center: Try to get lamps that allow the use of high-wattage bulbs. This solution isn’t as good as either natural north daylight or a color-corrected system—because the light’s coming from different sources and can be uneven—but it’s better than nothing.

Betsy Dillard Stroud is a signature member of both the American Watercolor Society and the National Watercolor Society. Her book Painting From the Inside Out (North Light Books) comes out this spring. Stroud teaches workshops nationally and lives in Scottsdale, Arizona.

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