How to take care of Artwork
You have spent many hours and a huge amount of energy to make your art so you really should think about what will happen to it once it is finished. Not least because anyone buying your work could ask all sorts of questions and if you can’t provide answers, they will lose confidence in you and may not go through with the sale.
You will need to protect your artwork once completed using the appropriate finishing for the medium used. So, let’s start with artwork you are going to hang on the wall.
Regardless of any protection you add to your artwork before hanging it, it is hardly ever a good idea to hang a piece in direct sunlight. If you have varnished your work, it could crack, and the varnish would need to be removed and replaced on a more regular basis. Even so, the work will, very likely, fade. Keeping it away from the window is the safest bet.
The only time when I would suggest that you do hang work in the window is if the artwork uses phosphorescent paint, which is commonly known as “glow-in-the-dark” paint. This paint needs sunlight (or an artificial source) to make it glow at night.
Looking after your canvases
Do be careful about stacking canvases together. The best thing to do when storing canvases is either to pack them in giant Jiffy bags (or something similar) or stack them with cardboard the same size as the canvas, against them. What may look OK when you stack different sizes together will, over time, start to indent and, in some cases, rip the canvas.
If you are going to put your artwork into long-term storage firstly opt for a space which is tucked away with very little movement of people around it. The area should have a constant temperature as fluctuations will cause your canvas to slacken and, in turn, this will cause cracking to the paint and it can then flake off. If the atmosphere is too moist mould will grow. Avoid attics and basements as the conditions are unlikely to be suitable. If you can locate a space which has a constant temperature of around 21°C (that is 69.8° F for my US readers) and a humidity level of around 55%, then you should be OK.
All your works should be wrapped with storage blankets which need to be tight around the work. Use packing tape to hold the blankets in place. Next attach hardboard, the same size or slightly bigger to both front and back of the artwork and tape in place.
When hanging artwork on your walls, it isn’t always easy but do try and hang artworks away from messy, dusty or greasy areas. Artwork will accumulate a thin layer of grease, dust and all manner of other undesirable elements, so best not to hang a treasured canvas in a kitchen for instance.
However careful you are though, there will still be a need to clean your works from time to time. The best policy is to dust your artwork lightly on a weekly basis. I know, I know, life’s too short, but that is best practice. A microfibre duster rag is your next best tool and if your work has suffered from storage or being on the wall the varnish you should have used on it when you finished it, is removeable. In fact, that is the whole point about varnish.
With acrylic paint you should put a couple of isolation coats on your work so that when the varnish needs to be removed and re-applied, the acrylic won’t be harmed. With oil paintings you must make sure that the paint is fully dry (this can easily take six months) before you apply the varnish otherwise you will run into problems with the artwork later.
Regardless of the medium used you need to ensure that your work is not subjected to extreme changes in temperature as it will suffer long term.
If your artwork does get damaged, unless you know what you are doing, trying to mend it yourself is not a good idea. Most artists will know how to repair a torn canvas but not everyone does. So, if you are the artist and you don’t know, ask someone who does to do it for you. If you are the purchaser, take it back to the artist if possible and have them repair it for you.
I will be covering this in another blog but if you are transporting or sending artwork via the postal/courier system make sure that you have a heavy duty piece of cardboard to protect both the front and back of the canvas and then cover your artwork up really well in bubble wrap.
Instruct your purchaser to remove the bubble wrap as soon as they can, as storing artwork in any kind of plastic over a long period of time, particularly in a humid environment, will cause mould to grow on the work, damaging it. If you are storing works for a long period of time it is best not to store them with the glass in place as artwork needs air to circulate around it to avoid becoming mouldy. The best way to cover works is with sheets of cotton.
It is not best practice to place oil paintings under glass. I have this argument on a regular basis, particularly with people who grew up in industrial or mining towns. Traditionally, oil paintings were stored under glass to protect them from fumes and smog. These days our air is far cleaner, so this practice is not necessary beside which it can cause the paint to go mouldy, damaging your artwork.
It is a good idea to check your work on a regular basis to make sure that it is in good condition.
There are a few extra things to consider when creating and hanging works on paper.
It is best to use non-glare glass when framing paper artworks. This glass has an ultraviolet (sunlight) protective coating which will help to preserve your artwork. However, my earlier advice on keeping away from direct sunlight still applies. Works on paper that are subjected to sunlight over a long period of time are likely to become brittle and start to crumble.
You should also ensure that the matting use for the backing to your artwork is acid-free. If you have your artwork framed by a professional, they know the correct products to use. If you are framing works yourself, you need to buy acid-free card and tape. These will help your artwork from being damaged by moisture and the acid in cheap card, which will start to burn your artwork from behind.
Finally, when hanging your artwork, do make sure that you are using the correct hooks for the job. First, you will need to check out the wall you intend to use. If it is a cavity wall made from plaster board, you will need a different type of Rawlplugs (raw plugs) and screws to those required for a solid brick wall. Unless your piece is really light, Velcro picture hooks should be avoided and if you have to use them, for example because you are in a rented property, then pick ones which can take double the weight of the piece you are hanging. I have seen artworks finish up smashed on the floor because the Velcro couldn’t take the weight.
Glass and Ceramics
If like me, you love glass and ceramics here are a couple of tips to looking after it. I have very little knowledge about making artwork in glass or ceramics beyond having taken short courses in both, but I love having it in my home.
First, avoid putting liquid in them. Obviously, extremely hot or cold liquid could crack the glass, but liquid allowed to stand over a long period of time can stain or even etch the surface of the glass, causing damage.
When cleaning your glass, a solution of warm water with liquid detergent is the safest way to wash them. Use a plastic washing up bowl, rather than placing items straight into metal or ceramic sinks, where it is easy to chip them.
The general advice is to use the solution to wipe down glass or ceramics, rather than to immerse them in the water. I find that if you are careful, full immersion is the easiest way. I use towels laid out ready to stand the item on until the water has drained off. I then gently wipe the item dry before replacing it in its home.
It is not a good idea to put art glass in a dishwasher, even on a glass setting. It will get damaged and crack or brake. The same applies to ceramics and earthenware is equally likely to suffer, so please follow the same rules as above.
With ceramics it is not a good idea to use the metal display prongs often sold for plates. They cause cracking and discoloration to work.
Finally, if your glass or ceramics are damaged, they can often be repaired but do take them to an expert or the original maker if possible. A bad repair can lower the value of a work and could look unsightly, too.