lighting art properly

Shannon at Funston Residence

Photo by Ken Gutmaker

Have you ever noticed that the pretty girls are more likely to wear a touch of makeup and have nice clothes? The ones who don’t even need it, you think.

But reality is this: so often they look amazing *because* that lipstick is so perfect with their skin! *Because* that neckline frames their face so well!  And it’s just the same with art.

When people look at art that’s beautifully lit, their first impression is that THE ART is amazing! A quality giclée, bathed in a halo of light, will invariably attract more attention than an original oil painting stuck in a dark corner. (Apologies to my artist friends, but you know it’s true… you know it’s true more than anyone does!)

So my suggestion is to light the art that you currently own, as beautifully as possible. This doesn’t have to be an expensive proposition, and it will make your home look a thousand times more elegant right away.

Here’s how to do it:

1. When lighting art, use halogen or LED fixtures only. No incandescent, no fluorescent. End of discussion. If you’re not sure which fixture to buy, here’s a great one to check out.

2. You’ll need a dimmer switch. That’s because the natural light is changing throughout the day, and you’ll want to be able to adjust the lighting on your art accordingly.

3. It will probably take you a couple of tries to get the field angle of the bulb right. No problem – just experiment! The field angle refers to how wide the beam is that comes out of the fixture.  If your ceilings are 8-10 feet high, I suggest starting with a 25-degree MR16 bulb, and adjusting from there.

It’s really that simple! Of course you can make it more complicated, just like you can make putting on lipstick more complicated. And there’s a reason that both makeup artists and lighting designers exist! But doing this at the basic level is really not that hard. 🙂 If you want some help, of course feel free to call me; or if you need a referral to an electrician here in the San Francisco Bay Area, I’d be happy to help you with that too. Good luck and have fun!

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