7 Tips for looking after your artwork

As a fair skinned gal living in a part of Australia where it is hot and humid, with most days reaching a UV index of 13 (Extreme), I can appreciate good weather protection. I wear SPF50 sunscreen 363 days, and a light jacket the other two. 

Artwork is an investment that needs to be protected. But how do you look after your shiny new art once you get it home? 

As my lovely assistant will now demonstrate, there are some basic tips to consider. In addition to drawings on paper (which I specialise in), these tips can be applied to a variety of art media such as photography, art on canvas, prints, posters etc. 

1.     Unroll it. Like me, a lot of artists ship artwork in tube packaging. As soon as you receive it, with clean hands, very carefully unroll it. Frame it immediately. If you are having it professionally framed, transport it carefully in a clean, flat protective folder. If the artwork stays rolled for too long, it will form a ‘memory’ and will be more problematic to unroll later. 

Left rolled too long will make it difficult to display later

Nicely unrolled and flattened makes for the best display

2.     Avoid direct sunlight. UV rays have the potential to cause art to fade or yellow and materials to deteriorate. This can be the case for all types of art, not just drawings on paper. See tip #4 for some additional tips to reduce the impact of UV.  

Cats love direct sun, artwork not so much

3.     Avoid heat, and humidity. Hanging artwork where it attracts dust and moisture or where it may come into contact with liquids or heat can produce mould or cause warping. This includes areas such as bathrooms, kitchens, proximity to aquariums and active fireplaces etc. If you’re in an area prone to salt air you want to be mindful to frame your art and clean it. 

Do not place artwork where it can be affected by flicking liquids and other damaging conditions

4.     Frame it. At a minimum, drawings should always be framed to protect them. I recommend finding a professional picture framer who can discuss options with you. Here are some tips to consider:

·      Glass/acrylic - Obtaining a frame with UV protective glass/acrylic can help protect against the UV damage mentioned above, as well as dust and moisture. Depending on how you want the piece to look, you may wish to opt for an anti-reflective surface when making your decision. For larger framed artwork, clear acrylic is often a good choice as it is lighter than glass and often has better thermal qualities. Acrylic is shatter proof but slightly more prone to scratches. 

·      External frame - The choice of outer frame really depends on your taste and what suits your decor. The frame aims to enhance, not overwhelm the artwork. In my home I generally choose versatile colours so that I can relocate it within any room of the house. Smaller artworks can become eye-catching centre pieces if you opt for a much larger frame and matting. 

·      Matting - A mat is the ‘window’ material between the artwork and the glass. It separates and protects the artwork from smearing and from dust and condensation. Mats should be acid free. Simple neutral colours generally work best, otherwise the mat can compete with the artwork. 

·      Mounting - Mounting boards are the material used behind the artwork to keep it flat and stiff in the frame. Mounting material should also be acid-free.

Framing is important. Framing materials should protect and enhance the artwork.

5.     Hang it properly.  It is important to make sure your artwork is hung safely and securely. Use appropriate hooks and wires capable of carrying the weight of the framed piece on the particular surface it is to be hung on. Do not use temporary stick-on hooks. There are plenty of decorator tips out there that show you where to hang your artwork and curate a room. 

Poorly hung artwork can slip and fall. Equipment used must be able to support the artwork.

6.     Clean it periodically. Unless otherwise specified, dusting the frame with a soft cloth is usually all that is needed. Cleaning the glass/acrylic semi-regularly will keep your piece looking great. 

Clean with a soft cloth as needed

7.     Ask for information. All artwork I sell comes with a maintenance and care info sheet, so buyers know how to look after their investment. If you are purchasing art, I recommend asking the artist or seller for more information on the materials used and how to care for them. 

Looking to add to your collection? Browse artwork for sale.

You may also be interested in reading ‘Acid belongs in margaritas not art supplies’ to learn the 2 most important things artists and buyers should look for when buying art or art supplies. 

x Candy (and Hazel)

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