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          Light: Creator of Art, Destroyer                                                   of art.

There's a beautiful demon living in your home. He's warm, cozy, nice to look at and gives generously of himself. He makes everything in your home, from plants to gerbils, happy. He even keeps you alive! And does it all for free — almost. All he asks in return is a little something to chew on. That's not an unreasonable thing, is it? He'll eat just about anything, but if you let him loose to grab whatever he can, he'll go for the same thing every time: art. All those nice, juicy colours, mmmmm, much tastier than some drab old carpet or a boring old couch! He wants you to know that he's extremely grateful for all the good things you've provided so far but I'll let you in on something: he'd be none too happy about everything I'm about to tell you.

Solace In Cobalt 1. Acrylic on Board with Glass Frame. 48 by 48 inches.

The same beautiful thing that allows me to create art and you to enjoy it, also destroys it: light. Too much of it and sooner or later, all those wonderful colours fade into oblivion; too little and your living room got all dressed up for nothing. As in all things, balance is required.

Light consists of many frequencies, some of which we can see, some not. The two that most enjoy munching on art (and furniture, and everything else) are infrared and ultraviolet (UV). Both natural and artificial light contain these frequencies. Intense, direct sunlight can and will cause cause cracking, yellowing of varnish, lifting, and changes in pigment colour. Leave your painting out there long enough and it looks like a ninety year old beach bum in a Speedo, which isn't art to anyone, except his wife of seventy years, who loves him more than strawberry waffles ( probably because he reminds her of strawberry waffles). Any direct sunlight falling on your art is not so good, especially if it's long term, such as a large window that allows the sunlight to make contact for hours at a time. If you are blessed with a home that has access to a formidable supply of sunlight, I strongly suggest you make a conscious choice about where you place your best art. Indirect daylight is far less harmful and should be fine for anything you don't plan on keeping for a lifetime or two. In controlled laboratory tests, bright, indirect daylight had a noticeable affect on pigments after one hundred years; so it takes quite a while, but it does happen.

Miro Mirror 1. Acrylic on Board with Glass Frame. Approx. 38 by 38 inches.

Pretty much the same goes for artificial light, but less so. There are generally only two dangers you might encounter from home lighting: strong, high intensity light from a spot or flood, or (it hurts to even say it) fluorescent bulbs. The only way most types of home lighting are going to be a problem is if they are very bright and very close to the art. Galleries point bright lights at art all the time, but they're at a distance, allowing the light to soften and spread out. Fluorescent bulbs are very high in UV and have very poor colour rendering capabilities. Using fluorescent bulbs of any type is like taking your art for a nice drive in the country — by dragging it behind your car. The best bulbs for lighting art are LED and Halogen.

Modern, professional grade artist's colours, such as those used in oil, acrylic
and watercolour paintings are generally quite light-fast and can withstand many years of moderate light. Artists will often also apply some kind of varnish over the piece, offering additional UV protection. Compared to oils and acrylics, watercolours are the most susceptible to UV damage. Other forms of art, most notably mixed media pieces that may contain elements such as hand made paper, magazine or newspaper clippings, cloth, etc., may be much more subject to UV damage. There are coatings the artist can apply that will help protect the piece, but not all artists know, or even care, about such things. This doesn't mean you shouldn't purchase mixed media works, just that you should do a little questioning. Ask the gallery or the artist about the UV protection used in the piece and listen to feel out whether they are giving you an answer that sounds clear, real and true, or like the beginning of a dog and pony show.

You don't see them very often any more, but remember those little lamps that attach to the top of a painting? Not so good, too close.

Controlling light is not a difficult thing. Close the blinds or curtains on really bright days when you're not using that room, choose the right bulbs, and when it's time for a new home, or just new windows, consider looking into windows that partially block UV radiation. This doesn't have to be a complicated affair, just pay attention to what the light is doing in your home until you see how the whole thing works, make whatever adjustments are required, and forget about it.

Museums spend many hours and many dollars sorting out how to keep their precious works from composting because they want their art to last for generations. If you have some serious art that you'd like one day to be sitting on your great, great granddaughter's wall, or hope to sell so you can buy a boat and float the heck away, you might want to do a little more research, here is a good place to start:

Many of us have had our art on our walls for many years and it all seems to be just fine. Well then, no point in worrying about nothing, carry on enjoying. But on the other hand, wouldn't it be nice to know how to avoid one of those nasty little surprises that sneak up on you? And are you really so sure there's not something nasty taking place at this very moment, right under your nose?

It's true, there is somebody in your home at this very moment, and yes, he is licking his lips in anticipation of that new oil painting you just hung up. But you can't really blame him; park anyone in front of a buffet with all their favorite foods and they're going to get a little "enthusiastic" — who wouldn't?  And the last thing you'd want is for him to get upset and leave. He just needs a little direction, maybe some distraction. Throw him some drapes, maybe a couch, even a chunk of carpet to chew on; just keep him away from the art.

Look for an upcoming newsletter on how to light your art. Until you've seen it for yourself, it's difficult to imagine the difference proper lighting can make, and it's easy to accomplish. I suggest reading my upcoming newsletter “Illumination about Illumination: Lighting Your Art”..

"Radiance". 55 by 30 inches. Glass and Acrylic. 

Jay Roma Lamb

Studio Clean Out Sale Now On! Most works 50% off!

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