Lighting Your Art Studio

Artist Deborah Secor’s new studio is almost ready. The walls have a coat of fresh white paint, the floor is easy-care cement, and her easel is all set up. Her only problem is light. “The space is a dungeon,” she says, “no windows, no skylights and, since it’s a rental, no options for either. I had to find the perfect lighting system.” She began with a trip to the local lighting store, where a patient sales associate helped her understand some of the elements she might consider.

• Watts:
A measure of the rate of energy used. Usually incandescent light bulbs use electricity at a rate of 25 to 100 watts, while fluorescent lights typically consume 5 to 30 watts of energy.

• Kelvin temperature: A measure of the color of light. Lamps with color temperatures below 5000 K tend to have a yellow/red cast; those rated between 5000 K and 6000 K are seen as white; and those over 6000 K look very blue.

• Color Rendering Index (CRI): A measure of the quality of light (wherein 100 is the best). A high CRI indicates that you’ll see natural colored objects with excellent contrast.

She also found that many different terms are used to describe lights, including “full spectrum,” “daylight lamps” and “high definition lighting.” Such phrases are better identified using the above statistics on each unit. “I decided that a light in the 5000 K range, which is generally defined as sunlight, with a CRI rating as close to 100 as I could get, would be most valuable to me,” says Secor.

In the August 2009 issue of Watercolor Artist, three popular watercolorists open their studio doors and invite you in to take a look around. See how they organize their spaces to best suit their processes and discover how you can turn just about any space into your own workable studio.

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