Let there be light 2

Q. I’ve been told that the best artificial light to paint by is a combination of fluorescent and incandescent. If this is true, can you tell me where I can purchase such lighting and what I would ask for?

A. I think it’s true that if you can’t paint in natural daylight, the best you can do is find an artificial light that’s as close to it as you can get. Fluorescent lamps are notoriously bad at reproducing daylight, though there are two types of specialty lamps that come as close as possible: Lumichrome lamps by True Sun www.truesun.com and the well-known TrueColor lamps by Ott-Lite www.ottlite.com.

The trouble with these lamps, from my point of view, is that they’re neither very bright nor very large. The best you can do, therefore, is to use them to directly illuminate your painting as you’re working. To do so, you can purchase a device that allows you to attach the lamp to your easel.

Adding some incandescent lighting to your studio is also not a bad idea. You can use lamps and spotlights, or simply have some extra fixtures installed in the ceiling—I favor the latter for general illumination.

The final arbiter of whether your colors are accurate, however, should be daylight. When you’re finished with the painting, have a look at it during the day near a window. Also, be aware that most finished paintings are displayed in locations that are lit by a combination of daylight and incandescent light. Fluorescent lights, often the cheapest lights you can buy, are used mainly in offices and have fairly bad color-rendering capabilities.

Douglas Wiltraut of Whitehall, Pennsylvania, has received the Butler Institute of American Art Award, the Today’s Art Medal, the Knickerbocker Artists Gold and Silver Medals of Honor, and three times the Ralph Fabri Medal.

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