Monday, March 17, 2014

Working in the Semi-Outdoors

Here's a painting in oil by Carl Larsson  correction: William Blair-Bruce from the National Museum in Stockholm Sweden.

"The Open Air Studio" by William Blair-Bruce, Nationalmuseum, Stockholm Sweden.

The woman is working under the diffused light of a large wooden frame covered with paper or fabric. The frame seems to be supported by thin ropes up to the edge of the awning.

This diffusing frame makes an ideal light source for close work because the light is bright and indirect. It evens out the light if the sun is going in and out of the clouds. For close work and accurate color discrimination, diffused south light can be preferable to studio north light because it's brighter and its spectrum is closer to the standard of pure white sunlight. The only problem with diffused south light is that cloudy conditions make it so variable.

The other benefit of the semi-outdoor studio, of course, is that it gets you out in the fresh air, especially good if you're dealing with toxic fumes. My friend William Stout has worked for many years on the front porch of his California home.

You can make your own frame out of 1x2 inch lumber or PVC pipe. I have found the best diffusing material is white rip stop nylon. The fabric can be thumbtacked to the wood, or sewn with a hem that goes around the frame.

I have several specialized homemade diffusers for plein air work and video lighting that I'll share in future posts.

Dagnan Bouveret's Greenhouse Studio
White Umbrellas


Allen Garns said...

I used to have a studio that had a bank of 5 tall south facing windows. I covered the windows with rolled tracing paper. It made for a wonderful brilliant yet diffused light and prefer it to the north light I presently have. Delcroix designed his studio to have a large south window which he covered with a translucent material.
thanks for another interesting post. I love your blog.

Tom Hart said...

Yet another gem of information! I don't recall ever having heard of a diffusing screen.

On an off-topic note, I see that the tablecloth image is coming through the foreground chair...

Unknown said...

Good idea! That looks like a lovely place to work in. There's something about all kinds of art studios that is so inspiring!

Thanks for sharing.

Chris said...

There is always so much hemispherical bias in artistic lighting terms!
I assume artists below the Equator have to swap north and south terms, would that be correct, James?

I always enjoy your blog posts, thank you.

Larry MacDougall said...

William Blair-Bruce was a Canadian painter studying in Europe at that time.