Wednesday, December 14, 2016

Sketch Lighting

A recent conversation with Leigh Marcos, the Content Manager, at LED Wired led to her organizing her thoughts about proper lighting for sketching:

How Lighting Affects Sketching
Without light, the only art to appreciate is sculpture, but even sculpture has a visual component that exists due to the effects of light. The changing qualities and angles of light alter the perception of all artistic media. Reflected light shapes, colorizes and gives texture to the world. Light also controls the perception of art from the chiaroscuro of Rembrandt to the perceiving of crosshatching in a pen drawing as shading. Here is how different lighting effects artist sketches.

Golden Hour Lighting

Natural Light
Whether outdoors beneath an open sky or through a window into a studio, sunlight is a continuous variable. Atmospheric phenomena from clouds to dust along with the perpetual travel of the Sun across the sky continually alters the angles, intensity, color and quality of light. Sketching outdoors requires quickly establishing the angle of light and placement of shadows while the basic structure of the sketch is laid out. Artists may be limited to short periods of time to capture details that light is revealing before it changes. The colors of the Golden Hour are an example. Also, the variability of outdoor light color, such as the Golden Hour light, can greatly affect how colors are perceived in sketches.

Artificial Light
Electric studio lighting can be incandescent, fluorescent or LED. Halogen bulbs are incandescent but are made differently than regular incandescent bulbs. Regular incandescent light bulbs have a tungsten filament that is subjected to electrical current. Resistance creates heat that emits a warm orange-yellow light. Nitrogen-argon is usually the gas inside the thin glass bulb. Halogen uses a tungsten filament inside a tough fused quartz bulb that has bromine in the enclosed space. The filament can burn hotter without burning out, and the extra heat makes the light appear whiter.

Fluorescent bulbs do not have filaments. Gas inside the fluorescent bulb is excited by electricity and glows. They can flicker and many give off a greenish tint. LED lights emit light from its basic structure, which is the photon. Light-emitting diodes can be made to give off any color temperature of light and color. Plus, LEDs only require a fraction of the energy to operate as incandescent bulbs require.

Color Temperature
Regardless of the type of artificial light used, the color temperature of the bulb is important. Color temperature is measured in Kelvins (K). Artists should strive to sketch in a studio that is illuminated in a neutral white light of about 5000K. Cooler-colored or warmer-colored lights will alter color perception. Colors will be warmer (redder) under warm light, and cooler (bluer) under cool lights. This can greatly affect how a finished sketch looks in another environment. A high Color Rendering Index (CRI) is also important, but the bulb, or LED, must also be color neutral.

Galleries choose neutral light to display art. Artists should create sketches in bright, diffuse color-neutral light. This way, the art will look the same in a gallery as it does in a studio. Though the artist cannot control the patron's lighting where their sketches will be displayed, informed patrons will also likely display fine art in their homes and offices under color-neutral lighting conditions.

Leigh Marcos,
LED Wired

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