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Choose the Worst Studio Lighting for the Future of Your Paintings

Choose the Worst Studio Lighting for the Future of Your Paintings

When that longed-for day of your first professional exhibition arrives, guess where your art will be shown? Yes, that's right: on a wall inside a gallery lit by electricity. If you're lucky, it will be in the form of warm, incandescent spotlights. If not so lucky, the hit may come from halogen bulbs. This light is favoured by jewellers because it enhances the brilliance of diamonds.

Works on paper will suffer fading over time but for oil-paintings, the halogen is bad news from the start. This is because such light bounces from the surface of the work instead of travelling through the layers of paint to reach the white primer on the canvas and return, revealing the full depth of the work to its viewer.

  •     In the worst scenario, galleries will have white neon tubes installed. This form of lighting may well soften the bite of the gallery's utility bills. It does little to enhance the gallery's ambience and even less for the paintings.

Worse may await your artwork when the buyer takes it home. Many people enjoy putting original art into their homes or boardrooms but few engage the services of a lighting expert or ask advice from the creator of the work. Your painting may be hung above a fireplace, where damage from years of heat and smoke may need restoration the buyer can ill afford.

  •     For these reasons, I have four white neon tubes above my easel. It's the worst choice of light for viewing artwork but if a painting looks good in the studio, it will look good wherever it ends up. Despite prevailing opinion, you might give thought to what lighting will best serve your art, even after it leaves your studio. I'm interested in other opinions, so please leave a comment. ©Dorothy Gauvin

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