Spring News

When I’m painting there are a few key elements that have to come together to make a half decent piece. At the top of the list for me is lighting.

In a way it was lighting that first got me into painting to start with: I’d been amazed by Caravaggio’s dramatically dark set pieces in Rome, seemingly lit by a single light source, usually from above and to the left somewhere. It was later when I was reading of a lodging that he’d “modified” by knocking a hole in the ceiling to achieve that light source that I felt the need to experiment myself. In Caravaggio’s case his landlord sued him for the damage to the ceiling, and I took the more cowardly course of playing with artificial lighting sources instead. For my first pieces this meant moving a bedside lamp around to the best position, but I soon moved to a home handyman’s halogen lamp to achieve stronger directional light and more dramatic shadows. These days my best lighting friend is a brilliantly designed dedolight, just perfect for studio work and film noir effects. As brilliant as this light is though, funny how I keep moving it around looking for that little piece of Caravaggio inspiration – the kind he achieved with a hole in the roof.

While on the subject of lighting, I had for some time struggled with being able to paint at night – under artificial lighting the whites on the canvas looked fine at night but would be a train wreck come morning in natural light. I was saved by Peter Shelton at the Zimmerman Gallery who provided me with a fluoro tube with a colour temperature very similar to natural light. An ingenious modification by my father-in-law then tailored the mounting of the tube to the studio environment.

Caravaggio’s lighting is one of the reasons I paint. With my dedolight and my fluoro tube I can now do it anywhere, anytime!

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