Caring for your artwork
Michelle Snead Portrait Artist of Raleigh, North Carolina
The first step in caring for your artwork is ensuring that the painting is properly framed and hung whether it is an oil or a pastel. Michelle suggests small rubber bumpers on the back of the frame to allow air circulation, help keep the painting level once hung, and prevent marring of your walls.
Care of Oil Paintings
- Durability: Oil paintings are quite durable. They are only delivered when they are dry, so touching the canvas will not cause harm to the surface of the artwork.
- Transporting: When transporting the painting to your home or to the framer, make sure that no objects lean against the canvas from the front or the back. Even a rounded object such as the edge of a car seat can make an indentation in the canvas. Sharp objects can puncture it.
- Framing: Michelle puts most of her oils on high quality heavy duty stretcher bars which hold up to the pressure of stretching primed linen canvas. These bars are wider and deeper than other cheaper ones. Nicer frame shops sell moldings which can be built up to the depth of the canvas if the client does not desire anything protruding from the back; however, in many cases this is not an issue since paper will cover the back and hide the canvas. Sometimes a framer may suggest taking the portrait OFF the nicer stretcher bars and restretching it onto cheaper, narrower ones. Do not accept this advice. First, the framer takes a chance of damaging your artwork. Second, the original stretcher bars authenticate the work since Michelle writes the subject, the date and copyright, and the phrase “Ad Maiorem Dei Gloriam” on the back. This would all be lost.
- Hanging: When hanging an oil painting, make sure to use one, preferably TWO, heavy duty picture hangers. It is recommended to anchor the picture hangers in a wall stud rather than in the drywall alone. It is possible for paintings to fall off the wall if they do not have enough support. If you do not trust your picture hanging skills, please consider hiring someone with experience to hang your picture. Michelle suggests contacting your local framing store. They should be able to provide hanging services or have a list of trusted professionals.
- Cleaning: If your oil painting requires cleaning it must be dusted. Do not blow on it or use "canned air" to remove the dust. These methods can deposit particles on the surface of the painting. Instead, lightly brush the dust away using a clean, soft bristled watercolor brush or a very soft feather duster set aside just for cleaning your artwork. Do not handle the canvas with your fingers or touch the bare canvas on the back side. If the canvas is soiled, its cleaning is a job for a professional conservator who has both the skills and the equipment needed to clean and repair your oil painting.
- Fading: Hang the painting away from direct sunlight which can fade ANYTHING, including your painting. An option for oil paintings is to have them varnished about a year or longer after they are completed. The varnish is a UV protectant, and it will even out the sheen of the surface. Varnishes can be matte or shiny. Michelle can varnish the painting; however, she would want the painting brought back to her out of its frame. Contact her for more details if this is desired.
Care of Pastel Paintings
The pastel medium is a pure pigment. Many of history‘s most noted painters used pastels with lasting results. Pastel paintings created over 200 years ago, receiving proper care, are as fresh and bright as the day they were painted. Pastel paintings and their color brilliance are very resilient over time, as long as the surface is protected. In order to prevent damage, the surface of a pastel painting should never be touched and should be protected from water and excessive humidity.
- Proper Framing = Durability: Pastel paintings are durable as long as they are framed properly. Michelle does NOT use a fixative on the pastels because it slightly dulls the colors. If the surface is touched, it can be smeared, so one must be VERY careful in both transporting and framing the pieces.
- Protective Glass: Pastels, whether on paper or boards, must be framed with glass. Museum glass is recommended because it is archival. Ultraviolet rays are prevented from reaching the painting, and it is not as reflective as regular glass. Do not use Plexiglas since static can lift pastel particles off the painting. Framing may be done with or without a mat. With a mat, remember to use acid free, archival materials. If you do not choose a mat, then your framer should place an acrylic spacer between the artwork and the glass so that the two do not touch.
- Transporting: When transporting the framed artwork home, keep the picture face up so that pastel “drift” (small pastel particles from the surface of the painting) does not fall onto the glass.
- Hanging: The weight of the glass will make the painting even heavier than an oil, so it is best to use TWO, heavy duty picture hangers. It is recommended to anchor the picture hangers in a wall stud rather than in the drywall alone. It is possible for paintings to fall off the wall if they do not have enough support. If you do not trust your picture hanging skills please consider hiring someone with experience to hang your picture. Michelle suggests contacting your local framing store. They should be able to provide hanging services or have a list of trusted professionals. As with oils, keep the painting away from direct sunlight.
- Cleaning: Most of the time, wiping with a clean cloth over the glass is sufficient to keep dust off. If you get fingerprints on the glass and wish to use a liquid , then make sure to spray the liquid onto a paper towel instead of spraying directly on the glass where drips can run to the bottom and seep underneath the glass. Moisture can hurt a pastel painting.
- Protect Your Investment: Because a portrait is a monetary investment as well as a sentimental one, Michelle suggests you check with your homeowner’s insurance company/agent to ensure that the painting is covered. In one case, a fire destroyed a family’s portrait of their three girls, and the insurer paid to have Michelle paint a replacement. Your bill will document how much you paid for your portrait.