One of the most fascinating aspects about experiencing a sculpture is how many ways there are to do it. The setting, lighting and point of view can all have a dramatic effect.
The process and decisions involved in lighting sculpture can go in a number of directions depending on a handful of factors. Here are the top 3 things the team here at Pedestal Source ask our customers to contemplate when lighting a sculpture:
What your sculpture is constructed from has the greatest influence on the approach you take with lighting. From a illumination standpoint, all mediums fall into one of three basic categories: clear, semi-opaque and opaque.
- Clear: Glass, acrylic, crystal, etc. Sculptures made from a clear medium have the most options when it comes to lighting. These range from spotlighting, ambient lighting, overhead lighting and back lighting.
- Semi-Opaque: Lightly colored, milky or frosted glass, acrylic, crystal and so on. Lighting requirements for sculptures in this category vary dramatically. Spot lights are generally not able to penetrate deep enough to have an effect on most semi-opaque pieces, leaving ambient lighting, overhead lighting and back lighting as the remaining options.
Quick Tip: If you are unsure of your art piece’s level of opacity, we recommend grabbing a high powered flashlight and holding it directly under the base. More opaque pieces will only allow the light to pass an inch or two from the bottom, and ambient lighting would not be recommended.
- Opaque: Examples range from densely colored glass, acrylic and crystal to bronze or stone. With opaque sculptures, lighting is typically limited to its ability to amplify levels of contrast via cast shadows. Options include ambient lighting and overhead lighting.
While smaller scale art pieces can be adequately lit by a light source embedded within a pedestal, larger scale pieces may require an external source to get the job done right. Here are some general rules when it comes to lighting large scale pieces:
If your sculpture is…
…large and opaque, a directional light emanating from a ceiling mounted light source is usually the best choice.
…large and clear or semi-opaque, a combination of ambient light, back light and/or an overhead light would be ideal.
…large and broader at the top than the bottom, ambient lighting typically works best and overhead lighting would be out.
…large and broader at the bottom than the top, overhead lighting typically works best and ambient lighting would be out.
3. Warm or cold?
No, this is not in reference to your personality or your sleeping temperature. It is about the desired mood of your art piece. Standard lighting elements are typically one of two flavors: yellow (warm light) and blue (cool light).
For most sculptures, selecting a light color is entirely personal preference. The questions you should ask yourself are:
- When I first laid eyes on this art piece, how did it strike me from an emotional standpoint?
- Was that emotion more on the calm and soothing side or the intense and dramatic?
- Now that it is in my home/office, is that still the mood would I like it to convey?
While there are many predefined rules for lighting a sculpture, there is plenty of room for creative expression. Lighting is a medium just like anything else. We recommend you take the time to experiment and see what lighting method best captures the spirit and mood of your art piece.