This is the first post that I really feel like an artist, and the reason for that is I’m about to start whinging about the quality of light in my artist’s studio (spare bedroom).

incandescent-lightbulbI live in Cumbria and have little experience with sunlight but I’m told north facing light is the thing all artists need. You need a decent sized window looking north and then you’ll get lovely diffused light filtering through onto your canvas (if you live in the southern hemisphere it’s a south facing window). The higher up the window the better. A lot of artists have large Velux ceiling windows which will give great light all day or tall windows with blinds to block out unwanted light reflections.

But let’s get back to reality and my spare bedroom.

The window is smallish but the good news is it faces just about north so the little bit of light that squeezes through is good stuff. Unfortunately quality isn’t quantity no matter what they tell you.

On an average Cumbrian day, doesn’t really matter what month you choose, the inside of my spare bedroom can be described as dingy, let’s go as far as gloomy. Just me and my 60W bayonet cap. Now you’re not going to tell me that the colours I experience in the corner of my room will be the same as the colours I would experience if I had a north facing garret overlooking the Mediterranean?

‘Mediterranean me’ would make art so colourful and vibrant they’d make the cones in your eye weep. Cumbrian me needs a new light bulb.

 

Here’s what I’ve found.

There are three units of measurements you need to know about when buying the perfect lightbulb.

Kelvins (K) – this is colour temperature. For painting, you need a bulb with a nice white light. 5000 Kelvins will give you a nice white light.

Lumens – this is brightness. For a medium sized room 7000 lumens is enough, just for your information a candle emits 12 lumens.

CRI – this stands for Colour Rendering Index and it’s a measure of how much of an effect the light has on the colour of an object. It’s measured in 1 to 100 and the higher the value the more natural the colour will look (daylight has a CRI of 100, no shock there). 80 CRI or above is good.

My 60W bog-standard (incandescent) lightbulb produces about 800 lumens of yellowy light at about 2400 Kelvins and I haven’t a clue what the CRI would be.

 

There are a number of choices:

Compact Fluorescent Lamps (CFL) – 125 watt bulb emits 7000 lumens, with a colour temperature of 5000K and CRI 80+

Halogen lamps – 70 watt halogen bulb emits 1250 lumens, with a colour temperature of 2500K and CRI 90+

Solux Bulbs – 75 Watt bulb emits 800 lumens, with a colour temperature of 3500K and an amazing CRI of 98+. This bulb is used to illuminate the Mona Lisa.

Full Spectrum Fluorescent Tubes – 36 Watt tube emits 2600 lumens, with a colour temperature of 5300K and a CRI of 98+

 

The Full Spectrum Fluorescent Tube sounds like the best solution but that would involve a bit of electrical work so the easiest solution would be to replace my existing bulb with a 125W CFL.

I couldn’t find a 125W CFL bulb online so I ordered a couple of 30W ones and put one in the room light and another in a lamp closer to my easel.

D’you know what? When I’m go in my studio now I swear I can smell baguettes and hear Enrique Iglesias

Thanks for reading.

Ian Young

I need a new light bulb
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