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How I paint in the dark

Blog about artificial lighting for artists

Hedgehogs and bears have the right idea about winter.

Bear asleep
Is this the best way to spend winter?

They hibernate and miss the dark winter months. I am finding this winter quite a struggle. In the last fortnight most days have been characterised by gloomy skies and poor light quality. In previous years I have struggled to get much painting done. I have spent hours tapping away on the computer looking up at the black sky outside my window, waiting for the sun to rise so I can start painting, and then often abandoning work at 2pm when the light goes. The best light to paint by is undoubtedly daylight, and my attic studio is blessed with a lovely northern light, but I needed to extend my painting time, to keep working.

A couple of years ago I invested in a “Professional” artists’ light. It was pretty pricey at £60 ($75US) but I hoped it would be worth it. I think it helped me paint on for about half an hour after the light had faded but not much more.

Daylight Professional Artists Lamp (old version)
Daylight Professional Artists Lamp (old version)

So I decided to add to it with a photographer’s’ daylight lamp. These have screw fittings so I had to buy a converter so that it would fit the clip fitting that I also bought. The whole set up did not cost much more than £12 ($15) so just on price it was likely to beat the expensive artist’s light. The bulb arrived, but when I opened it up I was so surprised it’s strange appearance (it was easily twice the size of the regular light bulb) that I laughed so hard that I dropped it, and it and smashed! Drat (not my actual words). I then had to order another one and wait all over again for a new one to be delivered.

Photography Daylight White E27 Lighting Lamp Bulbs 135W 5500k
Don’t Laugh! Photography Daylight White E27 Lighting Lamp Bulbs

It was worth waiting for. It was pretty good. It was cheap too. So I got a second one to place either side of me. This enabled me to paint on for an hour and half after the light had gone. This year, I have gone for a “full-Hollywood-lighting” with three of these beauties blazing away. The artist’s light has been relegated to acting as handy arm to clip the photographers’ lights to! I don’t even bother to switch it on, anymore, unless it’s really dark.

How artists see to paint in the dark
The two photographers lights clipped on the bendy arm of the artist’s lamp.

Now I think I can paint any time of the day or night (almost). It’s best for augmenting natural light and extending painting times. In yesterday’s gloom I was still struggling to see pale yellows and light greens. I am very tempted to see what a fourth one will do for me.

Artificial light in an artists studio
Lights on in my attic studio
Oil paintings of Donegal, Ireland
Recent paintings of Donegal painted (partially) under artificial light

Interestingly, despite all this artificial light I find I still need my SAD lamp to keep me relatively cheerful and regulate my sleep patterns. I have found that if I don’t get a good shot of SAD light around 7pm I awake at 4am bright-eyed and decidedly grumpy. That extra burst of light helps tell my brain that I should not wake up until 6.30, at least. That’s the best I can do most days. I long to sleep in til 9am but for some reason I just can’t.

What do other artists do to keep working in the winter months? Or you sensibly, wrap up warm and go to sleep for four months like hedgehogs and bears?

Sleeping hedgehog
That looks so cosy!

Here’s another artist’s solution to the dark days of winter.

To see my landscape painting click here 

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Glynn Vivian Open Exhibition

Christmas Shows (2 of 2)

In October 2011 the gallery was closed temporarily for a £6 million refurbishment and recladding of the 1974 extension. It wasn’t opened again until 2017. That’s almost 6 years closed.

_90901469_gallery2.jpg
The Glynn Vivian looked like this for over 5 years

Then this  summer it reopened.

So when the gallery announced that it was going to hold an Open Exhibition this December there was a lot of interest from Swansea-based artists. The opening event on Saturday was super packed. We had to queue to get in.

My two paintings were “Round the bend” and “Glamour Glamour”

Seamas, my husband (James Henry Johnston) also had a self portrait in the exhibition. I thought his painting looked really good!

There was lots of really interesting work there. I really enjoyed the fact that there was a lot of variety and the walls were packed with work. The standard was very high. I intend to return when it’s not so packed to have a another look.

“Round The Bend” Oil on Linen Canvas 55 x 46 cm unframed