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If these walls could talk

Lighting Your Home Part 5 -- Your Questions Answered

07/01/2008 - What is the best way to light artwork?

If you have a wall full of various two dimensional art--- paintings, photos, prints, tapestries or other items that are mostly flat, and hung on the wall, the easiest form of illumination can be provided by several wall-washer, spotlight fixtures, on a ceiling mounted track. This kind of light will illuminate the entire wall and everything on it.

If you have a single larger art piece, or a scattered few, you may want to invest in the absolute best lighting. They make what are called "framing projector fixtures". These are basically spotlights with "barn door" flaps. These lights are aimed from ceiling height at the artwork. When the flaps on the light fixture are adjusted, the light that falls will precisely cover the size and shape of the artwork--- leaving the wall around the frame dark. This is glowing and dramatic--- the perfect enhancement for the art.

Your third choice, the most economical, but the least effective, is to use small clip-on frame-top fixtures. Light from this close is somewhat glaring and uneven, and the fixture itself can be distracting. For this reason, these fixtures are best used as a last resort. When lighting three-dimensional art such as sculpture, more than one light source is needed. Experimentation to find the best effect is usually necessary. Try aiming lights down from ceiling height, up from floor level, and out from mid-wall height.

When lighting sculpture, I personally fall back on the rules I used for photographic work. These rules suggest using from two to four spotlights. The strongest "main" light aims directly at the object at approximately a thirty degree angle. A second weaker "fill" light comes in from the side. A third much less intense light can aim straight down to brighten, accentuate, and create highlights. Finally a fourth light aimed at the wall behind the sculpture will eliminate unwanted shadows--- that is, if the shadows detract from rather than enhance the three-dimensional quality of the artwork.

This question was the only one sent in by a reader about home lighting. I'm delighted to have the opportunity to help with any home decorating plans or dilemmas any of you may have. If you have a question about a home decorating project, send it to julieanne777@hotmail.com or to Julie York, Window & Wall Gallery, 1214 West Collins, Casper, Wyoming, 82604

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