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Monday, August 2, 2010

Random thoughts

North light...conventional wisdom has it that the perfect artist studio MUST have north light, a big window or two facing north. North light is never direct sunlight (well, at least it isn't direct sunlight in the northern hemisphere, I guess) but is clear, clean light that gives one true color rendition.


The problem I see with that theory is that the painting, once completed and exhibited or sold, will probably never be viewed again under north light. At best it will be viewed under color-corrected lamps. Back when we did a lot of art shows where we had a booth with paintings hanging, our lights were either incandescent or halogen. Incandescent lights especially are very warm, and make reds really pop and blues really weak.

So...what is better, to paint under perfect light and then have the painting look entirely different once it is hung, or to paint under some kind of light that will be fairly close to the usual light in which the painting will be viewed?

Jim Hautman, one of the Hautman brothers famous for winning the federal duck stamp multiple times, once said to me, only half joking, that he painted all his entries under a 60 watt bulb because that's about as good a light as they would be viewed under by the judges.

Another thing that really gave me fits back in the heyday of limited edition prints was the fact that paint on paper or canvas reacted to light very differently from printing ink on paper or canvas. The printer would do an initial proof under their high class color-corrected lights, with the original right there under the same lights for comparison, and it would look great to them. Then they'd send it to me (this was when I was with a publisher in Minnesota who had their printing done in Minneapolis, so it didn't make sense for me to be there at the printer's). I'd look at it under the lights in which I painted the original (not color-corrected) and the two images would look totally different. Thing is, there is at least a chance that an expensive original would be hung under color corrected lighting, but practically no chance a cheaper print would be...they'd all either be under incandescent, or fluorescent lights. So I figured they should be proofed under incandescent lights. It took a while for the printer to get used to my insistence that they check the proofs under an incandescent light before sending them to me.

Chances are that, due to their environmental impact, incandescent lights are on their way out. Which now brings up even more of a problem. The fluorescent lights that are phasing out the old incandescents are not only not color-corrected and not exactly the color temperature of incandescents, but also vary considerably in color temperature. It's enough to make me pull my hair out if I dwell upon it.

So my solution in the studio is to have a variety of light sources. I've got east light, which is almost as good as north light after lunch (!). I've got south light that is okay in the summer but I have to keep the shades down in the winter when the sun really slants in. I've even got a little west light. I have a couple incandescent bulbs shining around. I have compact fluorescents in two different color temperatures. I figure I've got just about every possible light covered, and the overall light is a pretty good average!

Keeping time...

I have one of those calendar books that have one month for each two page spread, with room on each date to write things down. I've kept one of these each year as a "daybook" of sorts since 1994. In it, I write down all the time I spend doing art-related things, in several different categories. One is actual painting time, the time I spend with the painting in front of me and the brush in my hand. Another is development, the time I spend working up ideas for paintings. A third is lumped under miscellaneous, and that includes everything from straightening the studio to framing and shipping to filing photos. And then I keep a record of days spent in the field gathering reference, days spent at shows and seminars, days spent doing business-related things away from home. And...days spent fishing, in which I write down the highlights of my fishing trips.

At the end of each month I list the paintings and other artwork I did that month, how many hours I spent on each piece of art, the medium used, and the final size of the image. I also add up the different categories. And at the end of the year I add everything up to give me the total working hours and days I spent that year.

It's interesting that those total hours don't really vary all that much from year to year, even though I don't keep "regular" painting hours.

If a person works a 40 hour week for 50 weeks a year, that's 2000 hours of working time. In my case, if one doesn't count the days spent at shows, gathering reference, etc., my actual time in the studio averages something around 1200 hours per year. So I guess I don't work very hard!

Actually, though, it isn't so easy to quantify "working time" when there are a lot of snippets of time I don't count, such as the time spent in the evenings reading about my subjects or about art, thinking about paintings, and even doodling ideas on scratch paper. I also haven't counted the time spent typing this, even though it certainly qualifies as art-related time!

More random thoughts later...

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