So we are back this month on the subject of caring for your art. The previous column mostly covered room temperature, humidity and lighting. This month, we will learn about protecting and matting your art.
Protecting Your Work
As time goes and experience comes in, I have become more and more aware of what should and should not be done to my art. I think that any artist considering making a career selling his or her work should take the time to become well informed about the safe keeping of art. Why? Firstly, because your clients will come to expect that much of you as a professional artist. Secondly, because this will ensure that your work will keep its value over time. I cannot stress this enough: a work of art can and will decrease in value if there is any kind of damage to it. In a business point of view, art is usually a long term investment, so someone that will buy your work will not only expect to receive something they will love and cherish, but something that is worth as much as they paid for. So your job as an artist is to create, but also to safe keep these creations in a professional manner until that day when someone will purchase it.
Storage and boxes
A storage space should be created in the studio to prevent your finished work to be damaged by anything that could be lying around your spot: paint, liquids, x-acto knife, scissors, a dirty floor and also your pets! In ideal conditions, the storage space for your art should be reserved exclusively for original art, ventilated and even temperature controlled if possible. You could organize your work by size and even categorize your work for easy searching. I realise though that one must have a lot of art to have the need to categorise their work, but you could consider using this same space for prints and categorize these also.
Boxes can easily be made out of acid-free foam-cored cardboard to allow storage of paper artwork like watercolor, pencil or pastel art. To store more than one piece in a box, remember to put an acid-free sheet of paper between artworks.
A similar kind of box can be create for a mounted canvas. Keeping a canvas in a box will prevent it from getting damaged corners.
If your canvas is not stretched, consider rolling it using acid-free material and storing it in a cardboard tube.
Polypropylene bags (see right) are an easy and cheap solution for any artists. They are archival and come in standard sizes. If you do not have any boxes at your disposal, putting your paper artwork in a polyurethane bag will at least prevent to art to be touched by fingers (natural oil and stained fingers are a big no-no on art!) or to be stained by any kind of material that could drop on your work. If you wish to put a backing board along with the art, make sure that it is of archival quality.
Mattes and frames
Matting and framing your artwork is not only to make it all prettier. These methods of keeping and hanging art are also meant to be used as a protection for your work. Using archival material will ensure that the artwork is not touching anything that could potentially damage it in the long run. Remember that it is always safer to carry a framed or matted work than to carry it without any protection at all.
Matting Your Work
Matting is usually used to protect art on paper, but I have also used matting to protect unstretched canvases and it works very well. If it is at all possible, it is better to matte your work as soon as you can and store it once it is matted. For best protection, you can put the matted art in a scelled polypropylene bag.
This cannot be stressed enough. Any material touching the artwork should be of archival quality: the cardboard, the glue, the hinges, everything! Any acid material could result in damaging the artwork after some time. The first side effect is often yellowing. Ask your local art store to show you archival quality material. They will most likely be identified as archival. If it is not mentioned, do not take any chances!
Pre-cut / Hand Cut
Hand-cutting mattes doesn�t have to cost much since it can be done with a simple cutting mat and an x-acto, but if you feel the need to have the nice bevelled mattes, you will probably need to spend a little more and buy the more elaborate matte-cutting instruments (roughly between $100-800). If you do not wish to cut mattes yourself, you can always find pre-cut ones in standard sizes (5x7, 8x10 or 11x14) or purchase a custom size matte at the framing department in an art store. Make sure that the pre-cut mattes are of archival quality. Just like the cardboard, they should be clearly identified as such.
How to put it all together
This is the final look of the matte once it is mounted. For this small 5x7 painting, I used two 8x10 dark purple archival cardboard. For the window, I measure the actual size of the painted area of the illustration and remove � of an inch on the length and width of that area to be sure that the matte covers all the white space. A few simple math calculations will help me determine what I have to cut out to create my window. I mark all those measurements at the back of the matte. Then cut.
Once all the pieces are ready, I use some self-adhesive linen hinging tape to attach the two cardboards together.
I will finally adjust my painting until it is at the right spot and use my gummed linen hinging tape to hold it into place. As you can see, I use 4 pieces of hinging tape: two will be glued on the back of the artwork and two other will hold these hinges to the matte making sure that no tape, paper or glue is put on the front of the artwork.
Remember that these very simple extra steps when taking care of your work, like matting, framing or storing can have an impact on its value over time. Even if you do not wish to sell your work, you can take the time to care for it so that you can be able to show it to your friends and family for years to come.
The first three images of this column were scanned from 'Caring for your Art' by Jill Snyder. (a book that, again, I highly recommend!)
Next month, we will cover something fun and accessible to everyone : Pixel Art! Stay tuned!
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