There are many kinds of lights on the market made and marketed especially for artists, most of them claiming to be the equivalent of daylight.
The problem is, even if these lights really did what they say they do, we each see colors differently, so there’s no single light that will work for everyone, whether you're an artist, a knitter, a crafter or just picking out paint colors for your home.
I participated in an experiment at a science symposium at George Washington University while in high school. In the experiment, a laser beam was shined through a prism and projected onto a large white screen.
A band of colors every hue of the rainbow appeared across the screen, and different people in the audience were asked to go up to the screen and identify the width of each of the colors they saw.
Surprisingly, though there were some trends (most people saw narrower bands of blue) everyone without exception saw different amounts of individual colors. The results were as unique as the individuals.
Further studies show that people with light colored eyes are more sensitive to light (don’t need as much light to see well) while darker eyes need more light. The people who took part in the seminar who saw very narrow bands of blue? Chances are blue is their favorite color – because they see less of it, scientists conclude.
My perception of colors was in the middle range in that experiment, and my eyes are hazel (not light, not dark), so you might conclude that I have color perception that’s in the middle range.
But I cannot see colors well enough to paint accurately under artificial light. Period.
I have tried many types of lights. With some lights I’ll use far too much yellow because the light absorbs the appearance of yellow while I'm painting, with some way too much blue, with others too much red.
I personally prefer to see the results I’m getting as I paint!
Below is an example of the top rated major brand of artist light out there vs. natural north light on my new, still wet, in-progress oil painting, Crossed Paths.
I think (depending on your monitor or mobile device) that you’ll see a wider range of colors in the photo taken with natural light vs. the one taken under artificial light – and more detail. (The natural light photo was taken in the evening when light was waning, so I'll take another in the a.m. and post it here.)
When you paint by natural light there is an added bonus: no matter what artificial light the painting is seen in, the colors will remain balanced because they were painted in a light-balanced situation. -- Ellen
This is a question retiring newcomers to this area often ask me. I could give multiple answers, but for me, it all starts with one.
My first suggestion – and last – is to learn the basics of drawing and develop a strong foundation in its principles before even considering moving into color. Pablo Picasso had a strong foundation in representational drawing, and if you study the works for which he was best known, you can see his understanding of perspective, light, shadow, hues and value from his traditional training in all of it.
When I teach, basic drawing is where I start.
I have painted professionally with watercolor, pastels, pastel pencils, acrylics and oils, the latter of which I’ve stayed with for the last 15 years. (Mouse over images to see the medium used.) But before I ever worked in color, I mastered the art of drawing. My first job illustrating for publications was doing black and white drawings for a weekly newspaper for 8 years. It was great training.
Whether you want to paint realistically, impressionistically, expressionistically, abstractly or all of the above, knowing the basics of light, shadow, hue, value and perspective are key.
Here are some examples of drawings and paintings in different mediums that illustrate the importance of having a foundation in drawing. As I went through my paintings and drawings, I think I could have chosen every one for this purpose. There's not one that did not require at least basic drawing skills.
If you'd like to ask me any questions, click the word Comments at the top of this blog and I'll be happy to answer. - Ellen