Wednesday, 5 October 2016


by Sea Dean
3.5" x 2.5" Pre-Cut Pastel Paper

I've been studying local sunrise and sunset times which are currently making the day shorter here by half an hour a week. That's a substantial loss of light and as you know, lack of light is an artist's worst enemy. As an artist and also as an art buyer, your best defense is to learn all you can about interior lighting so you understand how to use it to your advantage.

Imagine what it was like for artists before electricity.  We've all see those early images of artists painting in skylight attics and warehouses with huge windows because it was a necessity to glean every hour of daylight they could. For them light equated directly to income. When the world moved from candle and gas light to electricity it must have made a huge difference to art and the life of the working artist. Suddenly everything was starkly illuminated forcing the artist to decide what to include and what to eliminate. Portraits with brightly lit focal points fading into the darkness were instantly out dated and new ways of painting the world arrived almost overnight.

The Impressionists popularized painting natural light in the 1870's by taking their paints and canvases outdoors and it took a while for art lovers to become accustomed to the bright colors this produced. Popular art for a couple of centuries before the Impressionists was rife with black, brown and dimly lit interiors. Almost concurrently the first electric light bulb was invented in November 1879. These two events changed art forever.

Likewise for the modern artist lighting has changed radically in the last 10 years. Most of us were raised using incandescent light which gives a warm glow to interiors at night. If you paint using these light bulbs your work will look different than if it is painted in natural light. The warm light affects the way you see your paint and lighting also effects the way your patrons see your work in their home. 10 years ago it was a safe bet that when your patrons hung your work in their home they would see it in the same light it was painted at least some of the time - natural light during the day and incandescent light when it got dark. That is no longer the case.

If you paint in natural daylight and your paintings are viewed in natural daylight they will appear much as you intended, but consider that most of your patrons work during the day and will be see your work in unnatural light after dark. If your work is purchased by a commercial business it is likely to be seen under much different light (cool bar lights) than if it is purchased for a home environment (a panoply of more expensive lighting). There is also the consideration of how your work will be lit in a show or exhibition and how that will effect sales.

Gouache, printing ink and oils are probably least susceptible to color change under different lighting. Acrylics, especially opaque acrylics and watercolor tend to be more fussy when it comes to correct lighting.

All of these points show that it is most important that paintings are properly lit to bring out their best and it's a good idea to talk to your clients when they commission a piece and observe where it will hang and how they will light it. The more you know about this aspect of selling your work, the more likely you client will be happy with their purchase.

Now we are heading into winter in the northern hemisphere, I will be talking more about this subject in future blogs. Perhaps now is the time to start thinking about the light you are painting under and whether you should make some changes.

No comments:

Post a comment

I love to hear your views and connect on a personal level so feel free to say hi.

All work by Sea Dean protected by International Copyright - No printing, copying, electronic transfer or any form of duplication allowed without written permission from the Artist.