THE CHICKEN HOUSE STUDIO part 2: windows (shades shut)

I have a lovely pastoral view from my studio. And when I first moved in I was thrilled to have clerestory windows to boot. More natural light! But I’ve pulled all the studio window shades shut in the front room where I spend most of my time. The painting room. Why you ask?

South side widows of the Petrulis Chicken House Studio as seen from across a lawn under the shadow of a black walnut that has not leafed out yet.
South side of the studio with shades pulled in the front room.

Because now I get it. I finally really understand why, historically, artists prefer studio spaces with diffuse northern light. As it happens, all of the windows in the chicken house studio face south. Bright harsh south. It casts distracting rectangles of light on my painting wall. The fact is I love strong light and shadow as a dramatic environment within a painting but just not as an environment in which to paint.

a black and white painting of two dogs viewed from above one in silhouette on a ground of cast shadows.
Shadow Legs, 2013-14, acrylic on canvas, 30″ x 24″, Elizabeth Lisa Petrulis.
a wall of wooden easels and two black and white paintings of horses with balls, among other canvases, disrupted by rectangles of light cast from a window
Painting wall with light rectangles cast from the clearstory window.

The practicality of the window shades extends to preventing reflections on the computer screen where I view and manipulate reference images, among other tasks. They also block unwanted light when I photograph a painting. For several years I taped black trash bags to the windows but in 2019 I finally bought some proper shades.

reflection on the laptop computer over the page where this blog post is being drafted
Reflection on computer.
a photo shoot on the easel wall featuring Cat Pile Up, 2019, shows photo lights in otherwise darkened room..
A photo set up showing photo lights in otherwise darkened room.

Back in 2014 we had a dividing wall (with glass doors and a large picture window) built to create two rooms and make heating and cooling more economical. Not wanting to lose the open feeling we looked for windows at the Habitat for Humanity Re Store.

a view down the long studio before the dividing wall in 2013 with two dogs
Before the dividing wall with Dino and Mookie in 2013.
Studio divided in half by a wall with window and glass doors, dog stands in front of the unpainted wall.
Dino in the front room with the new wall in 2014.

Those interior windows now also have shades shut. So I’m thinking I could have had a simpler wall and hung more paintings!, but I do like that I can open everything up.

a view of the front room of the studio now largely painted white with some canvases in view and shades drawn on interior and exterior windows.
Front room 2020 with interior and exterior shades drawn.

I am fortunate and grateful to have a big space all to myself (accessible during covid19 shelter in place no less). And well placed artificial light can do wonders. The studio, and my understanding of workspace ergonomics, is ever evolving and there are other improvements I’ll report in the future.

Have you had any ergonomic revelations? Let me know in the comments!

(For more about the studio read part 1: the beginnings and working on the studio. For more shadowy paintings see the original portfolio and horses portfolio. And to see the painting in the photo shoot (Cat Pile Up) see limbs 2 portfolio.)

a view from the darkened front of the studio through the window and open doors of the dividing wall into the naturally lit back room
Back room naturally lit as seen from the unlit shaded front.

2 thoughts on “THE CHICKEN HOUSE STUDIO part 2: windows (shades shut)”

  1. I’m struck by the different feel in my clay studio depending on the weather and the time of day. I also switch the temperature of the lights at night. Very good article and it is delightful to see into your studio.

    • Thanks Charles, I’m wondering how you change the light temperature? And I remember you saying that Sue likes to stand at the potters wheel. My easels are adjustable so I can sit or stand. Don’t you just love visiting other peoples studios?


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