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Caring for Your Art
Behind the Art by Annie Rodrigue
Creating the art is always the fun part. We spend hours on every brush stroke and pencil stroke hoping that in the end it will become something unique, something appealing and worth seeing, something that speaks to us and maybe, if we are lucky, that will also speak to others. But once that piece of art is done, tangible, what should we do to keep it that way? Are there further steps that we should take to give extra care for our work? Yes. We will cover the basics of it this month and the next.
A Safe Environment for Your Work
While your house or apartment is not a gallery, it does not mean your studio should not be treated as such. While we are all aware that tools used in galleries to keep constant temperature and humidity are probably costly, there is still budget-wise solutions available to artists.
A Clean Space
Probably the first thing every artist should keep in mind is to have a clear and clean space to work at. This should also apply to the storage space where your original work is. Chances are that finished artworks aren't too far from your drawing table. If this is the case, keep in mind a clean space will prevent any accidents to happen. Food should not lie around your work. If possible, eat in the dining room, not in your studio. A well kept room will also enable you to reach your original work easily. There is nothing worse than trying to take one a piece of work and it getting damaged because something was lying around or because you tripped while carrying it around.
I have put humidity and temperature together because one can be dependent of the other. While strong humidity is known to create problems on artwork like mold, the extreme fluctuations of humidity and temperature can be just as damageable because it creates stress to the artwork. The stronger the stress, the more chances it will accelerate the aging of the artwork. Knowing this, we have a few rooms where it is not recommended to keep your art in (may it be for storage or to hang): the kitchen, the bathroom and any basement room where the temperature and humidity is not controlled.
While it is not easy to control temperature and humidity in every room, it is possible to select a room (the studio preferably) and control the environment of this room which should also help saving on electricity costs. An energy-wise way to control the temperature might be to install electronic thermostats, allowing you to program the temperature of the room depending on the time of day without worrying that temperature might go too low during winter in the storage room. A good ventilation system will take care of the humidity of the room. After checking my books, it seems that ideal temperature for storage would be around 70F (21C) and humidity should be around 50%.
Light and Sunlight
Light and especially sunlight can be damaging to your artwork. Sunlight that filters through windows contains ultraviolet radiation, which is one of the most damaging elements for art. It will cause the colors to fade if exposed on a long period of time. While the sun is the most damaging of lights, fluorescent lights also emit ultraviolet radiation but to a lesser degree. Incandescent lights are less damaging, but they do create a lot of heat, so there has to be a good balance between light and distance between the artwork and the light bulb.
A few easy ways to control the light without having to spend much money: turn off the lights in the studio when it is unnecessary to keep them on (it will also save electricity!). Install curtains to control the direct light of the sun coming through the windows (translucent curtains are good, roll-down curtains are even better). Different types of filters, either for windows or for lights, exist also for extra precaution, but might turn out to be costly.
Storage Within the Studio
We will be elaborating a little more about storage on the second part of this column coming next month, but keep in mind that to keep your work safe from all these elements, a storage case is definitely recommended. While it might be a little costly, it might save your work from a lot of trouble. Remember that a closed room is easier to control, and a storage case, probably even easier. Not only can you monitor the light coming in and out, but you can easily monitor the temperature and humidity. A storage system will also allow you a better classification of your work. One might not consider putting so much organization in their work when they start, but as the collection of work grows, it is safe to say that not only is it easier to classify everything, it also allows to organize some storage for prints, material and digital backups!
Knowing what could damage your work is just as important as learning to master a craft. Care for your art as it is not only a part of you, but it is also of value on the market you are aiming at. If I have but one book to recommend on the subject, it is Caring for Your Art by Jill Snyder. Most of the information provided here were learned from this book. A must!
We will continue on the subject, covering the more technical side: we will learn about the material to use, storage system and also how to mat our work!
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