Tuesday, 12 January 2016

Studio Lighting Guide

It is essential to get the lighting right in a studio used for painting as it can affect the ability to accurately judge colour relationships and match pigments.

Natural Light

The ideal situation is to have natural light with characteristics that are consistent throughout the day and for this reason painters prefer North light.  It is not recommended to have direct sunlight because it will be subject to constant change throughout the day, according to the height of the sun in the sky and the weather conditions.

Ideally an artist would want roof lights in the form of Velux windows on a North facing pitched roof.  Avoid low windows because they can cause reflected light which occurs when the light comes in, then bounces off the ceiling, and bounces down again.  Velux windows positioned at a 35 degree angle from the canvas provide directional light without glare, which can be an issue when painting on an easel with oils.  The easel should be positioned opposite the light source so that the light comes in from behind and above as in Francis Bacon's studio pictured below.

Francis Bacon studio lighting

Artificial Light

Artificial light is important so that the studio can be used in the winter months and at night when the natural light is poor.  When designing a new artificial lighting scheme for an art studio it is important to take the following points into consideration before choosing your light fittings because the choices you make will determine your future ability to judge colour relationships and mix pigments accurately.

1. Correlated Colour Temperature (CCT)

The colour temperature of a bulb ranges from reddish orange via yellow and then to white and blueish white and is measured in the Kelvin scale.  Colour temperatures over 5,000 K are cool with a bluish white light.  The ideal range for an art studio is 5000 to 5500 K which gives a white light that is neutral enough not to interfere with the colour of pigments.

The most common colour temperatures of light are as follows:
  • A regular household incandescent bulb: 2,500K to 3000K and gives a warm glow.
  • Office fluorescent light: 4,000 K to 5000 K and gives a cleaner, cooler light.
  • Noon Daylight: 5,500 K.
  • North Light (blue sky): 7,500 K to 10,000 K.
A light fitting with a bulb that is too warm might have the effect of tinting your paintings a reddish yellow, whereas too cool a light can give a blue tinge.  For a good balance of warmth and coolness find a bulb with a CCT of 5500 K, the equivalent of midday sun. If you prefer cooler light, akin to north light, look for bulbs rated 6500 K.

2. Colour Rendering Index

The Colour Rendering Index (or CRI pronounced 'cree') measures the ability of a light source to render a full spectrum of colours perceptible to the human eye.  The CRI rating indicates the bulb's ability to illuminate colour.  Natural daylight is full spectrum and has a CRI rating of 100.  The ideal range for an art studio is 90 to 100.  It is really important that your light source is able to render colour so that you can mix pigments accurately so try to get as close to 100 as possible.  The the highest CRI rating lighting manufacturers produce with a 5000K – 5500K is currently around 98.

3. Lumen's

Lumen's refers to the brightness or luminosity of the lighting as perceived by the human eye.  Lumen's measures the amount of light which is emitted from the light bulb so the higher the lumen's rating the brighter the light.

lumens to watts chart

  • 40-watt incandescent bulb = 450 lumen's
  • 29-watt Halogen = 450 lumen's
  • 9-watt LED = 450 lumen's
  • 9-watt Compact Fluorescent Lamp = 450 lumen's
Lux  refers to the level of brightness at a distance in meters from the light source.  The recommended lux level for detailed drawing work is 1500 – 2000 lux.

4. Wattage

Wattage is the measurement of the amount of electricity a light source uses.  The lower the wattage the more energy efficient and therefore cheaper the lighting will be to run.

To achieve the consistent artificial illumination of the entire studio space and having taken all of the above into consideration, full spectrum fluorescent tubes have recently been the next best thing to natural North light.  Fluorescent tubes are described by the diameter of the tube.  The popular T12s have now been discontinued and even the T8s and T5s are being phased out in favour of more energy efficient bulbs.

LEDs are the latest on the market and offer the most energy efficiency but the range of designs of the fittings is currently limited.  Also, they do not currently fit all of the criteria discussed above.  I have struggled to find an LED that has a CRI over 90.  

5000-5500 100
1 Gardner & Scardifield Ltd Algebra LED 4000 >90
2 Gardner & Scardifield Ltd Floodline LED 4000 >85
3 Osram Colour Proof T8 5000 90

I couldn't find a T5 to match the specification and I was disappointed with  values of the LEDs.  Having enquired with three suppliers I decided that the Osram Colour Proof T8, which has been specified for use by graphic designers, photographers etc, has the best output performance. The downside is that it isn't as energy efficient but for me the lighting quality is essential.

Friday, 16 October 2015

The Accuracy of a Picture

Having been prompted by an interview with Sir Anthony Gormley on Radio 4 this morning I decided to revisit E H Gombrich's The Story of Art which I last read at art school over ten years ago.  This quote from page 26 is particularly relevant to my own practice:
There are two things, therefore, which we should always ask ourselves if we find fault with the accuracy of a picture.  One is whether the artist may not have had his reasons for changing the appearance of what he saw. ... The other is that we should never condemn a work for being inaccurately drawn unless we have made quite sure that we are right and the painter is wrong.
There is a danger for artists who manipulate the appearance of things by distorting reality to embody psychological states that it may be perceived incorrectly by some who may criticise it by saying that, to quote Gombrich again, 'things do not look like that'.  When appraising my own work at The Drawing Gallery the dealer Yvonne Crossly, PhD, RWA suggested that I should exaggerate the surreal qualities of the work to avoid any misunderstanding by the viewer.

In spite of enjoying surrealism and its link to psychoanalysis this felt, at the time, like a an awkward imposition on the work rather than a natural progression.  I have since questioned this decision but I still feel that liking a particular movement of art is no justification for emulation.  The natural distortion of the lense is something I enjoy because of it's subtilty: should I be concerned that in our fast moving world of imagery that people are unable to take the time to notice this?

Taking the time to notice has been an issue for me in the past, but not in such a bad way.  In 2008 the then Director of The Contemporary Art Society, Paul Hobson, when viewing my work on display at Aspex in Portsmouth, asked me if I was 'the artist who took the photographs of interiors'.  I was flattered that he thought them so accurate as to be photographic but at the same time it is a concern that my charcoals could be too easily dismissed as photography if rendered with too much realism and not enough surrealism.

Sunday, 30 August 2015

Women Artists Don't Understand Networking

The documentary about Tracy Emin caused me to think about all the evenings she has available for networking and how that time is well spent when you are meeting like-minded people with whom you can have conversations about shared interests, which may even lead to mutually beneficial opportunities.  I was reminded about the professional practice seminars I attended at art school when art dealers and artists all talked about the importance of 'networking'.  

This has long been an accepted way of progressing within the business world; one that harnesses relationships between entrepreneurs who recognise the value of collaboration.  Books about business skills tell you to attend events and strike up conversations with people and they will be relieved that someone has taken the first step.   You can then skip happily into the sunset together as you share contacts, ideas, and opinions.

In the art world this involves attending private views, lectures, or events run by publicly funded galleries and other arts organisations, which mainly occur in larger cities, particularly London.  Living in the countryside with two small children means that for me attending events in London is a huge deal involving a lot of organisation on the home front followed by a long journey by several modes of transport.  To make this worthwhile I need to feel that I have benefitted in some way (an enjoyable conversation at least) yet I rarely do.  Usually I come away feeling that most of the artists attending need not have bothered turning up.

At the last private view I attended I was snubbed by the other female artists I approached who preferred instead to huddle in a group with the people they arrived with.  Even worse, and not for the first time, I was introduced to another female artist by the host only to have her give me a cursory glance before walking away from me.  It couldn't have been made easier for them yet something prevented them from engaging in conversation.  What?  Lack of confidence, lack of interest, jealousy?

The men seem to be ahead of the game: over the years I have had much more success at being able to converse with the male artists who seem able, on the whole, not to feel threatened by me or insecure about their art.  But once the women see you talking to a man, particularly if he is important, the more confident ones flock around trying to direct the attention away from you to themselves - this has happened to me several times and I find it most annoying.

Perhaps the best way of ensuring that I fulfil my potential is to spend my precious spare time between my other roles in the studio, making and thinking about the work.  Then I can worry about how to get it out there once I have a body of work.

Back to work

Today I have been thinking about my imminent return to work. After almost five years looking after my two children I am planning to start on the creative process once again. I am still at the planning stage rather than the doing stage because first of all I need to build a new studio: the current one is very old, small, and damp having started life as a single garage back in the 1930s.

I have spent most of the summer with both children at home juggling emails, phone calls, and meetings with builders and architects. Finally we have agreed a price with the firm of builders we like and in a couple of months time, probably in November, I will have a much bigger space to work in complete with toilet and shower!

My biggest fear is not having the time to be able to spend doing anything constructive in it. I recently watched a documentary about Tracy Emin and got an insight into her typical working day. She isn't married and nor does she have children (having famously aborted one baby that we know about) so she has no distractions or responsibilities taking her away from what she wants to do.  Yet, she did complain about how the business side of showing the work takes her away from the making of it, which is something all artists have to reconcile if they want to be successful.

A single woman can still be 100% dedicated and focussed on being an artist and has the opportunity to fulfil her potential as an artist, which begs the question can a wife and mother also accomplish this in between school runs, housework, and childcare?

Today it has taken me four hours to get around to sitting down to write this piece. I had the idea as I emptied the dishwasher this morning and I have been prevented from being able to think about it by my household jobs and the demands of my children. I am now mentally exhausted from having to deal with bad behaviour (the eldest) and tantrums (the youngest) and frustrated because every meal we sit down to as a family is like a chimps tea party. It has been a very stressful day so far and I now feel resentful that the time has passed without my being able to articulate my thoughts about women and art.

Only three days until my youngest starts nursery and my eldest starts reception.

Wednesday, 1 April 2015

Book Review

Drawing Projects for Children
by Paula Briggs
Black Dog Publishing 2015
ISBN 9781908966742

Being both an artist specialising in drawing and a parent who wants to inspire my own children to draw, I was glad to have discovered this book. Although pitched at an older child to read and follow independently, it offers guidance for parents and teachers who want to lead activities at home or in the classroom. The layout is simple and pleasing with contrasting fonts in different sizes. It is fully illustrated with colour photographs of children making the work alongside examples of materials and drawings at differing stages of completion, which makes it both engaging and easy to follow. No prior experience is required so anyone can start immediately with the items already available at home. I particularly like the way the author moves away from the traditional model of seeking to make a finished product though a series of specific steps to a focus on different techniques and the enjoyment of using materials in an experimental way, gently pushing at the boundaries of what children can achieve. Drawing in charcoal by torch light, the picnic drawing party, or being your own art installation are things that I would never have thought of doing. I haven't had any experience of teaching children so I feel much more confidant that I will be working with them at the right level. Packed with ten warm ups and 26 projects with three levels of difficulty it offers value for money for any adult who wants to enjoy some creative time with children - a must for the holidays!

Friday, 14 December 2012

London Art Fair 2013

London Art Fair 2013
Business Design Centre, 52 Upper Street, London N1 0QH

15 January to 20 January 2013

Stand 18 - Long & Ryle Gallery

Long & Ryle will be showing two new drawings which take film as point of departure:

House by the River, references Fritz Lang’s gothic noir film of the same name in which ominously billowing curtains move out of the shadows to strangle a murderer.

The Conversation, considers themes of obsessive secrecy, privacy, and the ambiguous nature of a conversation overheard in a hotel room taken from Francis Ford Coppola’s film of the same title.

Other Long & Ryle artists being shown on the stand include John Monks, Katharine Morling, Simon Casson, Geoff Routh, Helen Napper, Su Blackwell, and Ramiro Fernandez Saus.

The 25th edition of London Art Fair brings together over 100 leading galleries from across the UK and overseas. Museum-quality Modern British art is presented alongside contemporary work from today's leading artists, covering the period from the early 20th century to the present day.

Opening Hours
Tues 15 January
(Invited guests / Preview & Six Day Ticket Holders) 
6:30pm - 9:00pm
Wed 16 January
11:00am - 9:00pm
Thurs 17 January
11:00am - 9:00pm
Fri 18 January
11:00am - 7:00pm
Sat 19 January
10:00am - 7:00pm
Sun 20 January
10:00am - 5:00pm

Friday, 24 August 2012

Artist & Illustrators

A feature on my work written by Martha Alexander was published in the September 2012 edition of Artists & Illustrators magazine.

Dark Places by Martha Alexander

Artist Fran Richardson is always on the look out for new and unusual ideas, so her award-winning drawings are inspired by everything from saints and architects to ‘uncanny’ psychology.

Looking at her large-scale charcoal drawings of domestic interiors, your assumption might be that Fran Richardson is a stickler for disciplined realism and absolute accuracy. And though that’s true to a certain extent, what you might not appreciate is that while they are flawless in their execution, they actually portray imagined spaces. “I take ideas from different places,” she says. “I am interested in the way that perspective is disrupted. Quite often the composition will not follow the laws of perspective and it brings up the idea of looking strange or unreal. It’s all deliberately done with the intention of people looking at it and thinking, ‘that’s not quite right’.”

Viewers often comment on the photorealistic finish to the drawings and it is an observation that Fran welcomes. “The idea it that it looks real but when you look closer it looks wrong,” she explains. “It can be very subtle.”

Fran’s approach is borne out of an interest in the idea of psychological or dream spaces – in other words, imagined settings comprised of the jumbled up elements of a variety of domestic interiors. Her interest in the concept came about as part of the research for her BA in painting from the City & Guilds of London Art School. The artist has always had an interest in psychology and it was only then that she began reading about dream theory. “I found out about the link between the house and the mind,” she says, explaining how the psychologist Jung had dreamt of a house with multiple levels – cellar to attic – and how he related these levels to the subconscious. “Then I went on to read Freud who wrote about the ‘uncanny’ – when the familiar suddenly becomes strange or threatening – so those two lines of enquiry became a starting point for all the drawings in my BA show.”

Fran’s reading has naturally slowed down a great deal since she graduated from her subsequent masters course in 2006. However, given that her work is so anchored in psychological concepts, research is an integral part of her practice –even if some of it does sound slightly surreal to the point of bizarre. “A year ago I had my first solo show at Long & Ryle and the basis for that was [prominent 16th –century Spanish mystic] St Teresa of Avila, who described the spirit as like a crystal. She related the crystal to being a castle with many rooms.”

Nevertheless, such unusual and multifaceted starting points help to keep Fran’s work fresh. “Every so often something crops up – I read about it and it directs my drawing into different areas, but I don’t deliberately go out to read lots of theory.”

Her training at City & Guilds of London Art School wasn’t all purely theoretical however: “The schools is unusual in that it has a lot of focus on drawing as a basis of research and the tutors really support drawing.”

Life drawing classes were offered to students on two evenings of each week and observational drawing was likewise encouraged in the painting department. Unusually, despite studying both a BA and MA in painting, Fran’s affinity for draughtsmanship was such that her final degree show consisted entirely of drawings. That body of work has since formed the basis of the work she is producing now: “My masters and beyond was all about developing the work.”

Fran’s large-scale drawings are underpinned by collage: she collects old books and magazines, the pictures from which will often end up forming part of her completed works. “I tend to keep my inspiration in files so if I come across a book or magazine feature that might be useful, I file it away for reference so I can come back to it later,” she says. “My studio is full of works in progress, notes to myself or just white walls.”

Visiting old building to sketch is an important part of her process. Where possible she tries to get permission to take photographs, too. Fran especially likes Sir John Soane’s Museum in London. Situated in the legendary Bank of England architect’s former home at Lincoln’s Inn Fields, the museum now houses his collections of art and antiquities. “It’s a depository of history and a brilliant starting point,” says Fran. “Not only the objects in the building but the way [Sir John Soane] changed and altered buildings to manipulate light sources. He would have a really dark corridor and put a skylight in to bring a shaft of light down to focus on the different areas. He was playing with chiaroscuro and that’s something that’s still filtering through my work now.”

That use of tonal contrast in her drawings might be inspired by classical architecture, but it is very much down to her, given that the rooms she depicts are ultimately imaginary: “As the drawing develops, I’ll move the light source around and make it very dark, black and velvety.”

Fran was recently shortlisted for the Jerwood Drawing Prize and her pleasure at the acknowledgement goes beyond simply the prestigious nature of the prize itself. “It was really nice to be selected by Rachel Whiteread because I looked at her work a lot when I was working towards my BA dissertation and wrote about the uncanny. Her sculpture came into it – the way she subverts the domestic. I really admire her drawing, too.”

In just five years since graduating, Fran has also been awarded the drawing prize at the National Open Art Competition and a visitors’ choice award at Brighton Festival. Buoyed by her success, she now feels it’s important that artists who focus on drawing are given the recognition they deserve in open art competitions. “To be exhibited alongside painting and sculpture is a huge development if you look at the history of drawing. It was always considered to be secondary to painting and sculpture and it was seen as just something that came before them. It’s good that drawing is starting to be considered as work in its own right.”

For a PDF version go to: www.longandryle.com