Thursday, 31 March 2011

Architectural Lighting Design as a Work of Art: Painting with Light

Lighting Design in Space: The Cityscape, The Bridge: Art by Clara Song
Original artwork, oil on canvas paintings by Clara Song, artist.
2011 @
The process of lighting design in a space often resembles painting a picture.

Recently I was looking at paintings from one of our local artists, Clara Song, and I was struck at the notion that the process of creating a picture is similar to that of lighting design.

First you choose a focal point, the important feature of your painting or space, the one the eye drawn to immediately, and then you emphasize it, make it stand out. As in painting, lighting effects are often about contrast and intensity ratios. In The Cityscape the eye wanders immediately to the building at the end as it stands out in stark contrast to the other buildings doused in various shades of grey with hints of colour. The end building feels like a destination.

Now, imagine you have a lobby area where the reception desk is at the far end of the space. By using the same technique and making the area around the reception desk much brighter than the other areas, the visitors to the space would know immediately where to go. This does not mean the other walls in the space need to be boring; they, as the buildings in the picture, just have to be of a lesser importance.

The Bridge is in stark contrast with the background. In the painting the choice of colours accentuates the bridge. In lighting the effect would be achieved by back lighting the object with a hint of light to the front to show the details of the object. If only back lighting is used the object will be in silhouette and will lose all definition on the front.

In The Piazza the important area is surrounded literally by lights. Though, the other elements in the picture are still teaming with interest and life, they are not as important as the group of people in the square. A similar technique can be used in a space, where the most important part is somewhere in the middle: meeting points are prime examples. It may not be feasible to surround the element with torches or streetlamps, but one way is to light the surrounding vertical surfaces such as columns and creating a space within a space.

The Flowers painting uses a similar technique as The Cityscape, just with colour. Here by layering the colours depths is created and a focal point. Light can be used in the same way. It can lengthen and shorten a space by lighting surfaces and objects selectively. By-the-way colour and light are interlinked. By introducing colour on the surfaces it will alter the appearance of the light. If done properly colour can emphasize the effect.

The idea of painting with light is to create spaces that evoke emotions in us. Emotions such as excitement, feeling safe, calm, stimulated and many others. Not all spaces can be as dramatic as Clara’s paintings, most spaces have to fulfill a function as well, but nevertheless all spaces should have some elements of drama. Architectural lighting will effectively set a mood and will help you to transform your spaces inside and outside. The art of painting with light is to combine the drama with the necessary light levels, safety requirements, energy guidelines and costs limitations. With light you can create your own canvas.

Martina Ernst
Wo-Built Inc. - Innovative Design and Build

Flowers, by Clara Song - original artwork, oil on canvas paintingsPainting with Light: The Piazza, The Flowers: Art by Clara Song
Original artwork, oil on canvas paintings by Clara Song, artist.
2011 @

Clara Song lives in Toronto and she exhibits her paintings at Agio Ristorante in Corso Italia, Toronto.

For more information on these paintings and other works, please call 647-348-4814.

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