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Lighting your Sculpture

   Collectors' most frequently asked question is, "How do I light the sculpture?" The answer has previously, usually, been rather unsatisfying "however you want to." I hope to mesh the lightness of that statement with a few details that will make it simpler for you to decide just how you want to. 

The sculptures are created in a studio where the light source is 12 feet away from the wall that the shadows from the sculptures are projected onto. I use track lighting mounted at ceiling height (8 feet), and the light beam hits the sculpture right at the center of the piece. This projects the shadow on the wall behind the sculpture, typically mounted on a base 36 inches tall. Since my light source is to the right of the sculpture, the shadow is projected on the wall slightly

to the left of the sculpture, like the "Betty" shown here. I took the picture from the left of the piece to convey the shadow. From the front, the piece and the shadow appear to be an almost double image. The double image is easily distinguishable as sculpture and shadow by the eye but looks strange in a photograph. To me, This is the ideal shadow for the sculpture. I like a clean, strong shadow with as much detail as possible. Like "Anna", shown below. For this look, the shadow should be clear and dark with a minimum of distortion.


To light the sculpture in such a way as to see the shadow this way, position the light fixture (details below)10-15 feet away from the sculpture and around 3-4 feet higher than the sculpture pointed directly at the center of the piece. 


I ordered a variety of light fixtures recently to find the ones I like the best. Links to them are here

Not what you're looking for? Keep scrolling. 

"Betty" Sculpture by CKCooper 

Wire Mesh Sculpture of "Betty" a nude woman with flowing hair with a shadow projected on the wall.
Shadow of a wire mesh sculpture of an outstretched hand projected on a blue/grey wall.

 Hand detail of "Anna" sculpture by CKCooper

That said, not everyone wants a clean, perfect look. Some like a more distorted shadow. In that case, you would really need to figure out what you like. Blurry? Twisted? Highlighting the contrast of the imperfections in the shadow to the seeming smoothness and perfection in the actual sculpture? To get a blurrier look from the shadow, you'll want an LED light source that has more than one diode. To get the twisted look, you'll move a flashlight (I use the Duracell 500 LED or a feit electric LED flashlight) around the piece until you achieve the look that you're going for, and then put the light source in that place. 

Experimentation is your friend during this process. You can project the shadow across distances, creating a significant size differential. The Tritera shown here measures around 3 feet and is projecting an impressive 8 foot shadow. You will lose some clarity in the shadow projecting over distances, but the look is impressive. This look was achieved using the lamp below or a single diode-led spotlight. 

FEIT Electric LED flashlight
Duracell LED Flashlight
Lotus sculpture light with an LED bulb with multiple diodes for a blurry shadow effect

LED flashlights

"Giant Lotus" with diffused shadow by CKCooper and Randy Cooper

"Tritera" sculpture by CKCooper

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Light Fixtures

The light needs to be a powerful spotlight, single source, so only one diode on an LED if you're going for the clean or projected look. 

The fixture I am using now is Ajbvp 3-Color LED Track Lighting Heads

12W Dimmable, Adjustable Beam Degree 15°/24°/36°/45°/60°,

3CCT/3000K/4000K/6000K,H Track Light Ceiling Fixtures

Art Lighting,CRI90(Black)

Depending on the height of your ceiling, you could mount the light on the ceiling or on the wall. Alternately, we have found a lamp that makes incredible shadows, which works well on top of a bookcase or other tall structure. (This is the lamp that produced the shadow for the Tritera and for the hand shown above)


Single Diode LED Spotlight

Thoughts or suggestions?

I'd love to know what worked for you when lighting your sculpture or what you're going for in the shadow. Please feel free to send me a message on the contact form

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