Thursday, June 12, 2014

Right studio, right light

Greetings everyone! After a brief blog hiatus, I'm finally back to blogging again. The reason for the delay was my recent relocation from Savannah, Georgia to Houston, Texas and it has taken a while to accommodate and find the right space and time for my studio and getting everything back in order including this blog. Now that I'm back & painting again I shall post more blog entries not only about  content behind many of the narratives in my work but also painting techniques which I'm sure some of you will be interested in reading about.

At this moment, I'll take the opportunity to talk a little about setting up a studio and finding the right light to work with, since this has been an important issue for me for the past several years moving from one studio to another. In the past 14 years, I have relocated my studio from Puerto Rico to El Salvador, to Florida, Georgia and now Texas. I noticed that the further south I was, the brighter the light, but no matter where I painted,  the biggest difference came down to the angle and type of light you get when you change the position of your easel. North light has always been the best ally a painter can get. It is a neutral consistent light that makes the most sense when it comes to paint.

This is why when it came to choose an apartment unit at this new location, I made a conscious decision to take the one that had windows facing north. It is not only the best light to work in by day but also the best to take pictures of the work as well. I've worked in spaces with windows facing west and this became a problem at sunset when the Sun just blinded my vision and I simply could not work in the afternoon without messing up the contrasts and values in my paintings. I've also had to work on spaces facing east and you get the same problem in the mornings. Spaces facing south are as good as north because light will be spread evenly throughout the day and will not blind you. Light coming from above probes to be better than light coming at eye level because it will not create shadows or reflections cast from your extended arm over the canvas. But since most windows are at eye level, try placing the easel at the right side diagonally from your nearest window if you paint with your right hand. If you are left handed place your easel on your left side. This will help by not having your own arm cast shadows over your painting surface.

I'm a big fan of big doors, large windows and balconies but  I've had to get used to working inside as weather conditions often change and some other factors that are out of my control like visiting flies and mosquitoes. Overall, when setting up a studio I will not have a predetermined set of rules in mind but rather set up the space in a way I feel completely comfortable to work in. For me it is really important that the space becomes, intimate, personal and sacred. I try to stay away from distractions as much as possible and will surround myself with images, books and objects that will inspire me to paint. Music is also a vital component for me to work with so I always install a small set of speakers at a safe distance from my painting area. A 5 x 7 feet rug is placed under the easel and an extra monitor right beside it. I've noticed that working from a screen is much more advantageous than working from printed material as you can zoom in and out and able to appreciate more values and better contrasts.

Studio space does not have to be very big unless you work mural size paintings, big sculptures or become a hoarder. I've learned to keep my studio clean and ordered because it helps me stay focused and be more productive. I separate drawing from painting area but they are usually side by side, separated by the rugs under my drafting table and easel. I place both right next to my window and keep my computer and extra monitor on small portable tables or stools so I can move them around easily. Years ago I followed some of the Feng Shui principles to order my studio but same as with my own painting process,  things became more and more intuitive in time and I guess you just end up setting up and working in the most flexible, practical, organic and natural way possible. Allow the studio to become an extension of your soul and the rest will just flow.