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Taking Care of Your Paintings

These are several tips on how to take care of your paintings.

Your paintings are your creations.

You invest a lot of time, effort and creativity in bringing your masterpieces to life.

It is logical, then, that you should know a few basic tips on how to take care of your paintings, so that they can last for long.

And taking care of your patings not only involves the painting itself, but also the canvas. Not only you should know how to protect your painting canvas, but also - heaven forbid! - how to repair it if the worse case scenario happens.

You must also take care of the back of the canvas, particularly when sending your paintings to an exhibition.

There is always the danger of a dent or a hole being made in a canvas when several are stacked together.

This can happen in your studio as easily as when they arrive at an exhibition.

A piece of strong heavy cardboard, cut to the size of the painting and tacked to the wooden canvas strips, will minimize this danger.

If a painting is damaged by a tear or a hole accidentally poked through a vital spot, it can be repaired by re-backing the canvas.

The canvas must be perfectly dry.

Remove the tacks and separate the canvas from its stretchers.

Cut a piece of new canvas with a margin (including the tacking area) about an inch larger than the damaged canvas.

Place the fresh canvas right side up on the floor and spread a heavy layer of white lead, cut with linseed oil, evenly over all of it.

Now place the back side of the damaged canvas against the new canvas and apply even pressure over the entire area.

Any surplus white lead that oozes out will be deposited on the 1-inch margin of the fresh canvas and can easily be scraped off.

Put a sheet of waxed paper cut to the size of the damaged painting over the face of the painting and place everything under a flat drawing board.

Let it dry for several days. Remove the board, trim the margin, and restretch. It is not always necessary to re-back or reline the entire canvas.

For a small tear, a patch made from new canvas can be applied. Whether the painting is patched or re-backed, some re­touching will be necessary if the hole or tear is of any size.

Oil paintings that have been stored for some time in a closet or on a curtained rack may darken or yellow.

They will brighten considerably if you place them where they will be exposed to constant daylight (not direct sunlight).

Keep this in mind if you are planning to exhibit any older paintings, so that they will be shown to best advantage. It is also possible that a new coating of varnish will help; some dull spots may have developed because of color sinking into the canvas.

It is good practice to keep a case history of paintings that are the result of experimentation.

This experimentation can be the paints used for an underpainting, new colors that you have added to your palette, time allowed for paint layers to dry, or any new approach.

This information can be written on the back of the stretcher strips and will often provide vital data for future paintings.

Your water colors will give you less of a preservation problem than your oil paintings.

They can be stored in portfolios with hinged flaps to keep out the dust and placed in a horizontal position to prevent warping.

A water color that has been soiled by dirt or dust can be cleaned with a kneaded eraser.

Bread crumbs can also be used as a gentle means of removing accumulated dust smears.

If a water color has a crease in it, moisten the back with clear water on a sponge.

Then rub the under side of a spoon gently over the crease to help smooth it.

Put the sheet between two clean blotters and place it under a drawing board, using some books for added pressure.

Allow it to press for a few days before rematting.

Back to the top of Taking Care of Paintings.

Rokeby Venus, by Velazquez


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