Is there an artistry to lighting? The complexity of illuminating three-dimensional artworks
Painters tend to depict a leftward light source more often in works of art (Mamassian, 2008) and even non-artists will light a painting from the left (McDine, Livingston, Thomas, & Elias, 2011). This bias does not appear to persist across mediums, however, as Sedgewick, Weiers, Stewart, and Elias (2015) found a slight rightward lighting bias when non-artists illuminated three-dimensional (3D) sculptures. Given the unexpected finding from 3D stimuli and considering that the majority of aesthetics research uses stimuli which are two-dimensional (2D), we thought it prudent to attempt a replication of Sedgewick et al.’s findings with a simplified version of the sculpture lighting task. We also used the greyscales task, recruited a group of bilingual native right-to-left (RTL) readers, and made additional comparisons with professionally lit sculptures in native left-to-right (LTR) and RTL reading regions of the world. We found a left lighting bias among LTR professionals and an opposite right lighting bias among RTL professionals. LTR and RTL non-artists both showed no bias for lighting and a leftward bias on the greyscales task. However, both professionals in galleries and non-artists in the lab demonstrate congruency between posing and lighting directions. The attenuation of the leftward lighting bias, which is normally observed, may be related to the complexity of illuminating a sculpture. Illuminating more complex stimuli appears to extinguish the bias in non-artists, whereas the leftward lighting bias persists for more rudimentary stimuli from artists and non-artists alike.