Setting Up Your Studio Space A Pre-workshop guide to the Still life Painting workshop

What is Sight Size?

The left is the real-life set-up, and the right is the painting. Drawing a straight line across shows us that they are indeed the same size.

Sight-size is a specific method used to achieve a high degree of realism when working from life. You will be painting your objects the EXACT same size as you see them, as shown above.

Sight-size needs things to be set up in a certain way or else it won't work. Because of this, it's going to be important that you set your space up in the way I describe in this document.

The Sight-Size Set-Up:

The Essentials: On the left, a shadow box on top of a stand/shelf/table. On the right, the canvas, held by your easel, set at the same height as your shadow box so you can work directly across.

The Essentials:

  1. Shadow Box (Here's a link to the IKEA one I use. We need to block the light- this one is great, and only $4.)
  2. Stand (The height should be around your chest level. You can use a dresser, bookshelf, anything sturdy that will allow you to place your shadow box on top of it.)
  3. Easel (Here's the link to the one I'm going to use - it's my travel easel. You can use any easel as long as it is perfectly straight up and down, not tilted back as you work. There are ways to raise it up to hold your canvas at the right height. We can talk about that if you have any issues.)
  4. Still Life Objects - 3 objects only - no more, no less. 10 days seems like a lot of time, and it is- but including more than three objects will delay your finish, and you'll feel rushed.
  5. Lighting. (See below.)
  6. Space to Step Back. (Sight size requires you to step back a LOT. We will also be standing. This is VERY important. So when setting up your space, choose an area that allows you to step back roughly 60" from your canvas.)

Lighting is EXTREMELY Important.

Position the light as stated below.

Lighting Needs (Quick and Economical Option):

  1. Clamp Light (Here's the Link. This clamp light is an easy $8 solution that I often use. It is way better than track lighting and can be found at Home Depot.
  2. Light Bulb (Here's the link. These are LED Daylight bulbs, not too bright, and not too yellow. If you don't like the look of these you can get the Bright White ones, here's the link.)
  3. Extension Chord (Just in case.)

Alternative Light (More Expensive, All-in-One Option):

NEWEER light: LINK HERE. Fancy but awesome, it is an LED panel on a stand, is dimmable, and you can change the warm and cool effect. (I am going to use this.) It comes in a pack of 2, with everything you need.

Positioning the Light Source:

We will use ONE light to illuminate both the set-up and the canvas. You want to have your light up above you and to the left, about 4 feet back and 7 feet high. It should be at about 45 degrees to your canvas. (We can talk about this more during class before we begin.)

Important Lighting Note:

The rest of the light in your room should be contained so that it doesn't hit your objects or canvas. This often means using shades on windows, cardboard, blackout curtains, or black cloth to block any light from coming in.

You will also want a table for your stuff (like your coffee!). It's best to have it in front of your still life stand, not the easel/canvas. It should be off to the side so you can step back easily.

Optional Video Link:

ARA Instructor Julie Beck made a video describing setting up a studio space for sight size. It's with a cast, not a still life, but much of what she says dives deeper into what I'm talking about here. It may help, so here is the link.

If you have any questions, please feel free to email me at mastrangelo.fineart@gmail.com. I'm happy to help!

Sincerely, Christina