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Guy Marsden

Artwork Engineering

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Tom Paiement
"(Barely) Adrift in Maine"
March  2021

Exhibited at:

Greenhut Gallery, April-May 2021

(Barely) Adrift in Maine by Tom Paiement
painting dimensions 48 X 48"

I have been working with my friend Tom Paiement since the early 2000's when he first approached me to help him engineer the LED lighting in one of his paintings.  Since then I have installed LEDs in quite a number of his abstract works.  The early Fret series of paintings use LEDs to represent musical modalities, and more recently I incorporated LEDs representing night time lights in abstract landscape paintings representing Maine coastal scenes. 

For this painting Tom had a very clear concept that he wanted to represent  20 of the lighthouses in Maine from Kittery to Pemaquid with each one accurately reflecting the color and timing of that specific lighthouse.  Tom sent me very detailed information about each lighthouse and where they fit on the map/painting.   He wanted the lighthouses to light up in groups starting from the bottom of the painting and working their way up over a period of several minutes.  He sent me the map and chart of timing information below:
lighthouse map and timing chart
I decided to design small circuit boards for each light with a programmable microcontroller chip on it.  Each board has a four pin programming connector so I could plug a cable in from my desktop computer to change the timing and blinking sequences.
PCB top PCB Bottom
circuit boards
I met with Tom several times to identify LED colors, sizes and shapes that would be suitable for each lighthouse.  He then took those LEDs and embedded them in the painting himself.  He then brought the painting to my workshop where I connected each circuit board to the LEDs and wired power to each board.  I also used one of those boards to control the overall timing cycle of the painting. 
wiring the back of the painting wiring detail
It is not often that one gets to say that one has spent an afternoon wiring up a painting!  It took several hours to hook all of these circuits up!
The LED colors include warm and cool white, red and one green.  Tom took a little artistic license with the white colors, but there are actually lighthouses that blink red, white and one green one in Maine. painting detail showing LEDs
Tom brought the painting into my lab where we worked for several hours to program the timing and sequence of when each lighthouse lights up. 
programming the timing of the lighthouses programming lighthouses in the painting
He was very clear and specific about the way in which he wanted them to light up from the bottom of the painting to the top in groups.  It takes 5 minutes from when the first one lights at the bottom to the last group that lights at the top which point they stay on for a few minutes and then all the lights go off for two minutes.  We had lengthy discussions about this timing sequence.  I felt it ran far too long and that people would not have the patience to stay with it for more than a few seconds and would miss a large part of the experience if they encountered the painting when it was not lit.  But ultimately I considered it my job to be the transparent tool and enable Tom's vision.  Ultimately, it is a very satisfying painting to experience.

The video below shows the whole process of programming the LEDs:

See more of Tom Paiement's work on his web site:

email Tom Paiement at

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