How to Care for your Artwork
Taking care of your investment is a relatively simple matter that will insure the beauty and longevity of the work for generations. By following a few simple guidelines, you can insure that no damage will come to your art. That being said, please note that the artists’ knowledge, and craftsmanship in creating a conservationally sound painting is vital, and I’ll discuss that in the next newsletter.
Once you get your work home, there are some things to think about regarding the placement of an oil painting. Enemies of art work include: extreme or frequent temperature fluctuations, high humidity, and environmental pollutants (dust, smoke, grease, etc.).
Never place an oil painting (or acrylic, pastel, watercolour or tempera) in a location that has high humidity such as a bathroom or sauna. Oil paintings are hygroscopic, they absorb moisture from the air. Humidity from these environments will quickly deteriorate the work by warping stretchers, support panels and the frame. Also, your painting will be subject to mold, mildew as well as expansion and contraction in response to the moisture in the air. High humidity and the associated temperature fluctuations can also lead to the paint lifting up off the canvas (de-lamination), cracking, and “alligatoring”. All of these problems will lead to a very expensive bill from the art conservator.
Avoid placing your art in the kitchen: humidity, smoke and grease from cooking are the enemies of artwork and will accelerate its aging and deterioration.
The fireplace: While romantic and beautiful, placing art above a fireplace is a bit tricky because of the smoke and temperature fluctuations. Before you place a painting above a fireplace, check to see how warm the temperature is on the wall it will hang. If you notice a significant difference (more than about 5 degrees) in temperature, and /or your fire tends to be smoky, it is not an ideal location for your art.
Light is not much of an enemy of oil paintings but avoid placing your painting in a location where it is regularly exposed to strong and/or direct sunlight as some pigments are not lightfast and will fade. However, a painting that is kept in a very low light (or completely dark) environment will very likely darken over time. This is a natural process. The solution to that darkening is to put them in a bright sunlit room with indirect sunlight. In a few days the painting will brighten up. This only applies to work that is created with natural oils such as linseed oil. Paintings created with petroleum based mediums such as Liquin, Galkyd, Neo Myglyp, etc., have completely different chemistry and physics and do not respond in the same ways to light.
Cleaning ( please note: this information is only for newer work, that shows NO signs of damage or deterioration. if you have older work, especially if there is any kind of deterioration, please consult a professional, accredited, art conservator! I will be glad to recommend one if you need.)
Rule #1: There is a lot of bad information on the internet regarding the home cleaning of artwork. First and foremost, never use any kind of cleaning product (including water!) on the art itself or the frame. The chemicals in cleaning products will interact with the painting (and the varnish) and cause deterioration; water can be absorbed into the painting causing expansion and contraction which will lead to cracking, de-lamination or worse. I’ve seen videos by people claiming to be artists who advise cleaning a painting with turpentine or a combination of turpentine and linseed oil - no, please, just don’t do it. You run a very high risk of permanently damaging a painting with these techniques!
For the frame, gently wipe the frame with a very soft, dry cloth - a fine micofiber cloth is ideal. That’s really all you need to do.
To remove dust and surface dirt from the painting itself, I recommend using a very soft, dry (e.g. sable) brush and gently brushing off surface dust. Lightly sweep the brush in small movements across the painting. Don’t press down or “scrub” it as you can damage the surface. If it requires deeper cleaning due to smoke, or other environmental pollutants, please avoid the temptation to clean it yourself. Call or email me and I will refer you to an accredited conservator.
I hope this helps, please email me with any questions!
All my best,