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Caring for your Oil Painting


*Instructions for care of your painting when not covered by glass, either in a frame or a loose cradled fiberboard.

Touching & Handling 


Before touching the painting, your hands should be washed and dried to avoid moisture damage. The most important tip is to avoid touching the surface of an oil painting. Touching the surface creates the risk of adding dirt or oil from your hand (even after washing your hands), and can also affect the varnish (the top and final sealant used to protect the painting). This is essential so not to disturb the drying (curing) process of an oil painting.

Please do not be alarmed by the word “drying”, I’ll provide a quick explanation. Oil paintings dry through oxidation, meaning nothing evaporates; the paint needs to react with oxygen and harden. It is highly recommended to wait for a painting to fully dry (oxidate) before varnishing it; a painting that is ‘touch-dry’ (feels dry to the touch) is not considered fully dried. Unfortunately, an oil painting, even with a thin application like mine, can take at least a couple months to fully cure. As an artist that wishes to give her clients their artwork within a timely manner, I do work with a varnish that can be applied when the painting is touch dry. This varnish, Gamblin’s Gamvar, is permeable and allows the oxidation process to occur underneath the varnish. That all being said, it is important to note when you receive your painting from me,  the painting is still going through its drying process. Therefore, please refrain from covering the artwork’s surface with anything, at least for a few months. Please see the next section “Transporting” when taking into consideration of the shipping of a painting.

When removing a painting from the wall or picking it up off an easel, place your hands on the sides of the frame. If the painting does not have a frame and is a cradled fiberboard, only briefly touch the sides in order to hold the back of the painting in the palm of your hands. Make sure there is nothing on your body that is likely to scratch the painting (i.e. some rings, belt buckles, watches, etc.).  Do not leave the painting near or on pointed objects, as these sharp edges could inflict dents or cuts on the painting. If you are transporting the painting outside the home, it is paramount to care for the surface, which is discussed in my section “Touching & Handling”. In order to protect the painting, especially if it is still curing, please lay the painting in a box with nothing touching the surface or sides.
If you plan on shipping the painting, please wrap the painting with several sheets of Glassine paper. This paper is grease-resistant and less likely to adhere to any tackiness that may linger from the varnish or oil paint. Afterwards, lay a flat firm material, ideally foam (cardboard works too), to the front and back of the painting, and wrap it in bubble wrap or Styrofoam wrap. Covering the corners with extra bubble wrap is recommended. There needs to be at least two inches of bubble wrap between the painting and inside walls of the shipping box. Try not to keep it wrapped up for too long as to avoid moisture buildup that will damage the artwork.


Relocating & Shipping


Are You Gifting a Painting?


Are you intending on gifting a painting? If so, please read my “Touching & Handling” section. Do not use tissue or wrapping paper. Instead, carefully secure the artwork in a box wherein nothing is touching the surface. Also carry it gently so that the artwork does not tumble and hit the inside of the box. 


Finding a Location for Your Painting


There are a number of things to consider when finding a home for your painting. Please keep in mind the following. Avoid hanging in direct sunlight or in a dark room. Any prolonged exposure to direct sunlight will fade the colors, and prolonged stay in darkness will darken and yellow the colors in a painting. Never expose your painting to extreme heat, cold, or humidity. Places that produce extreme heat include directly over fireplaces, radiators, or heaters. Fireplaces and also areas with candles or incense can create smoke damage and leave a film of tar on the painting. Places of high humidity encourages mold and mildew, and can cause paint to separate from the painting’s surface. Therefore it is best to avoid steamy kitchens, bathrooms, and rooms with long running humidifiers. Also refrain from using non-LED picture lights attached very close to the painting, as they become quite hot.


Home Cleaning Vs. Professional Cleaning or Damage Restoration


If you’ve had a painting for a while and it has collected some dust, it can be tempting to pull out your cleaning supplies. However, using these products will most likely create irreversible damage. Please read the following carefully to understand how to care for your painting.

If you wish to treat some of the dust that has collected there’s one thing you can do. First, wash and dry your hands. Set the painting on a clean surface and lean the artwork at an angle with the bottom nearest to you so the dust can fall off the painting. The recommended tool to remove the dust, is a very soft brush about one to two inches wide, that’s it. Refrain from using a cloth, stiff brush, or a feather duster as they can scratch or catch on rough parts of the painting’s surface. Never use water or any other cleaning product, even if it is an all-natural product. The use of an air compressor is also not recommended as traces of water and/or oil can get trapped in the line. Some referrals have expressed fixing this by having a filter on the compressor to catch anything. Albeit, I believe the safest option is to use the brush. With the soft brush, gently brush the surface, working from the top and moving across the painting and proceeding downwards. If the painting has a matte surface, be especially careful not to brush for too long or with too much pressure so you don’t burnish the surface, making it shinier in spots.  

If anything happens to the painting, such as it incurs a scratch, stain, dent, damage to the varnish, discoloration-  please contact your nearest art restoration company for a consultation. It is worth the money to hire a professional rather than attempt a DIY project. 


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