Wednesday, January 21, 2009

The studio

Here I am. I took this photo myself in my studio mirror which is behind me as I work at the easel. I can easily turn and see my canvas in the mirror. That's important. As you work on a painting you become used to seeing it and its mistakes. The mirror gives you a "fresh eye". Often a problem in a painting will jump out at you when seen in reverse. If you don't have a mirror in your studio , I suggest that you get one. Even a ladies compact will work nicely and can be had at the 5 and 10. I actually don't know if there are still 5 and 10s or whether ladies still carry compacts, I will assume there are still ladies. This small mirror, I can hold against my forehead, so that looking up into it, I can see my painting on the easel both upside down and backwards.
Here's a shot of my studio, with its north light windows. I have a 14 foot high ceiling, but my studio is only 11 feet wide. It is 20 feet long. That's not very large but it does give me room to back up and see my work . My traditional artists studio faces north because the sun goes over the building to the south. I get consistent, cool light and if I set up an object to paint, it's shadow doesn't move throughout the day. Ideally I would have the easel on the opposite side of the room so the shadow from my hand ( I am right handed ) would not be thrown across the area on which I am working , but my studio is actually oriented slightly northwest and part of the year I get direct sunlight coming in through my windows on one side of the room. The sun shining in on the painting sitting on the easel would make it nearly impossible to work. The basic design is borrowed from the historic Fenway studios in Boston, where I was trained .

My studio is a tool for someone who paints every day. You probably don't have a custom built studio and may have to work in a room with windows that do not face north , that can often be dealt with by putting an inexpensive sheer curtain over the window next to your easel. You may even have to work in your basement under artificial light. I will address artificial lighting for studios in a following post. I have painted in every conceivable sort of space over the years, and almost any room can be made to work. A small corner of a room actually used for another purpose will suffice. The great French
painter Leon Gerome created his masterpiece "The Cockfight" in a tiny garret studio.
If you are a reader of this blog I would urge you to forward any questions that you have, through comments, as I am trying to guess what you will need to know and I would be delighted to hear about the things I have certainly forgotten to include.


marybullock2 said...

HI Stapleton:
So glad I found your blog. Great tips on the lighting. I think I will be able to learn alot from your blog and I will keeping checking back.
I moved to Maine about 2 years ago and just love it. It really lends itself to painting landscapes - which is something I am trying to get better at. I am mainly a figurative painter.
The Figurative Realm of Mary Bullock

Stapleton Kearns said...

Great to know someone is reading this blog now. I enjoy the idea that I am writing for an audience Until I know someone else is out there I shall pretend I am writing this to you, like an open letter. I too loved Maine,I lived up above Belfast. My wife misses it terribly, and would move back tomorrow, however we have been sending our kids to a private school in Lexington, Massachusetts and until we get the younger daughter through, we will remain here in New Hampshire.