Caring for Fine Art Artwork: In order that your artwork will retain its beauty for many years to come, and potentially increase in value over time, this should be a brief but helpful guide to caring for fine art artwork within your home. In alphabetical order only:
Even a small amount of water from a leaky roof or pipe or can do significant damage to artwork. If objects get wet, seek repair advice from a professional immediately. However, in general, it is important to dry paper right away before mould starts. Wet objects in frames must be removed from their frames. If you are hesitant to handle the damp paper, expose the object by removing the backing from the frame. Your insurance should cover such accidents, but it is a good idea to check with them at the time of policy arrangement.
Dust frames and the surface of oil paintings and prints on canvas with a duster or soft brush. Avoid water or cleaning fluids on the frame or artwork. If water or a cleaning fluid has to be used on the glass or surface of an oil painting, apply lightly to a cloth, do not spray the glass or painting. If the surface of an oil painting cannot be cleaned with a duster, very carefully use a damp cloth with warm water only. Never apply water or a wet cloth on the surface of a print.
Avoid locating artwork in an area prone to large or sudden temperature changes from hot to cold. The room temperature and relative humidity should also remain reasonably constant, as large temperature changes cause expansion and contraction of both the artwork and framing materials, which can lead to structural damage in paper or canvas, weaken the attachment of artwork, and cause a small rippling affect. Ideally, the temperature should remain between 10 and 25°C and between 40% and 60% relative humidity. If you are located in a humid or coastal area, consider the use of a de-humidifier. Smoking within the same room should be avoided if at all possible.
Framing should be done to the highest quality affordable, using acid free materials that will not interact with the artwork, and to enable it to be proudly displayed for optimum visual effect. Good quality framing needn’t be expensive and is well worth the investment. Oil paintings on canvas stretched over wooden stretcher bars can sag over time and the artwork should be taken to the framer for tightening or re-stretching if this happens. Similarly, if the framing tape at the back come unstuck.
All my pastels and oil paintings, sketches & studies produced on loose canvas are provided double mounted and framed behind non / anti reflective glass by default, unless specifically requested otherwise. This provides protection for the pastels especially, which although sealed with a light fixative, are still delicate. Also the loose canvas needs careful mounting to avoid creases, though I do allow several months for the oil paint’s surface to oxidize before framing and the double mount keeps the glass away from the surface. The non / anti reflective glass has an etched surface which diffuses the reflection and although it very slightly dulls the appearance of the artwork, it allows the artwork to be better viewed from all angles without distracting reflections and is less prone to visible scratches from cleaning and handling. Plain glass is available as an alternative upon request, and conservation UV filtered non / anti reflective glass is also available at an additional cost upon request. Perspex is both prone to scratching and the attraction of dust due to static electricity following wiping, so I don’t recommend it.
Unframed artwork should be handled as little as possible, and where artwork must be handled, ensure that your hands are thoroughly washed immediately beforehand and are free of grease, lotions or moisturizers. Never lift unframed artwork (not on a stretcher frame) with bare fingers by the edges or corners, or touch the surface. Either wear photography gloves, use tissue paper, or lift from beneath using cardboard to support as appropriate, and hold the cardboard, not the artwork. Artwork should always be adequately protected during storage and transportation. Framed artwork should be held firmly on both sides whenever carried or during transportation and not carried by the hanging wire. When stored, framed artwork should be stacked vertically and with the fronts facing each other so that hangers don’t damage the frames. Most art and craft stores stock suitable protective materials and can offer advice.
Artwork should be hung using high quality, heavy duty, low stretch, polyester hanging cord, attached to the frame via double D ring swivel jointed eyes, and suspended from heavy duty wall hooks, securely fixed. Heavy and framed / glazed artwork should always be hung from two hooks, each easily capable of supporting at least double the weight of the artwork for safety reasons.
Always specifically insure artwork against theft and accidental damage. A small investment now could be invaluable in the future.
Invest in a high quality picture light that washes the entire artwork and shows it off to its full potential, illuminating all of the details.
(Location, location, location..!) Avoid locating artwork in direct sunlight. Fading due to UV sunlight rays is cumulative and irreversible. If possible, display in a room with blinds or curtains that can be closed during the day. Do not locate above a radiator or other heat source, or directly in the field of any forced ventilation. Whilst the height and location with respect to a surrounding artwork collection and other wall mounted objects is entirely a personal choice, consider locating unglazed artwork out of reach of children, and even on a wall above an item of furniture, so that over enthusiastic adult admirers cannot easily reach across and touch the surface! And don’t worry about grouped or multiple artwork frames being exactly level with each other or adjacent door frames etc. If alignment is required, align the top edges, if not, try staggering them, as it’s extremely difficult to be exact and a randomness creases a more interesting effect, though they should always be around eye level. It’s extremely important however to display artwork and be proud of it, as it’s yours. Artwork does not belong in storage or hidden away from view.
All materials that I use are the highest quality available to me, irrespective of cost. I use Artist’s oil paints manufactured by Windsor & Newton, Rowney, Grumbacher, Pebeo and Holbein and canvas manufactured by Daler Rowney and occasionally Pebeo. Specific information regarding the exact oil paint and canvas used in the production of any individual artwork is available upon request, though please tell me why you wish to know in order that I can offer the right advice.
Areas of a painting that to a painting that has sunk (become dull) or lost its oil to the layer underneath may easily be restored by the simple application of an oil medium. Artist’s painting medium should be rubbed sparingly into any sunken areas with a clean cloth, wiping off any residue, allowing to dry for a few days and repeating as necessary until an even sheen is obtained throughout.
To protect from airborne dust, grime and pollution, especially in urban areas, ensure that artwork is routinely cleaned. Glazed artwork should be gently wiped with a damp soft cloth. Unglazed artwork should only be gently dusted and should anything ever stick to the artwork, have it professionally cleaned. However, the safest way to keep artwork clean is to locate it in a clean environment. If you are located in a dusty or dirty area, consider the use of a de-ionizer.
Varnishing is an aesthetic decision and I recommend that paintings are varnished unless the buyer truly dislikes the appearance. All of my original oil paintings are provided varnished by default, for protection, using Gamblin Gamvar gloss picture varnish as it breathes and allows oxidization of the oil paint below to continue. If need be, it’s easily removed by an experienced buyer, or a specialist restorer, using Gamblin Gamsol odourless mineral spirits, or equal in accordance with Gamblin’s recommendations. Varnishing is not essential, however, can be undertaken by an experienced buyer, or a specialist restorer, in order to protect the artwork for display, give it a desired matt, semi-gloss, or gloss surface finish, or simply to enhance the surface lustre after a period of time. Varnishing also gives a uniform surface appearance to oil paintings, as different oil paint types and colours can harden with a slightly different surface ‘sheen’, especially where glazed or at areas of overlapping between painting sessions hence I do recommend it. However, only specific mediums must be used and in strict accordance with the manufacturer’s recommendations, and for regular varnishes not for at least 6 months following painting of the original to allow sufficient hardening. Please note that oil paint usually takes around 40 years to thoroughly dry!
I also recommend that prints on canvas that are not framed behind glass are varnished.
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