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Artful Links: Conservation Edition

"Half as Old as Time" By Gwen Bragg
Half as Old as Time By Gwen Bragg
Gwen Bragg watercolor
“Half as Old as Time” by Art League instructor Gwen Bragg.

Have you dusted your paintings recently? Do you know what materials to use to keep your creations bright and colorful, year after year? In this installment of Artful Links, we’ve found some links for artists and collectors all about conservation — read on for resources on caring for artwork and repairing damage, and some stories from professional conservators.

  • Resource Center: The American Institute for Conservation’s Resource Center features loads of resources on how and where to find conservators, and tips on caring for your collection — for example, what temperature to store photographs at (probably 68 degrees) and when to dust your paintings (every four to six months — with a soft bristle brush, not a feather duster, and only after checking for flaking paint).
    • Members of the American Institute for Conservation’s Collections Emergency Response Team also wrote this series for MoMA’s Inside/Out blog after Hurricane Sandy, detailing how to care for wet paintings after a storm or flood.
  • Art Materials That Last: Because there’s nothing worse than yellowing paper or “fugitive” colors! Using archival materials to create your art ensures it won’t crack, fade, or fall apart and can last for years to come.
    • The website AMIEN (Art Materials Information and Education Network) has lots of help on its forums, where you can search past conversations ask questions of experts. For example, this post on creating long-lasting inkjet prints is a must-read for photographers and other digital artists who want to make their own prints.
    • Various standards exist for grading the durability of art materials over time. Lightfastness measures the amount a color may change over time due to exposure to light — look for the ASTM rating of I or II on your tube of paint. A lightfastness standard for colored pencils was only recently adopted; more information is written up by the Colored Pencil Society of Canada here. No standard exists yet for pastels, but UV-protective glass can help prevent fading, as explained in this Pastel Society of America article. For paper, look for 100% cotton rag or acid-free, buffered paper to prevent yellowing and cracking over time. More information on paper is in this article by artist Helen South.
    • Our staff at The Art League Store can help you find the right materials to create long-lasting artwork — almost all of the colors and papers we sell are suitable for creating durable, professional artwork.
  • Acrylic Paintings: An interesting article from the Smithsonian Museum Conservation Institute on the unique issues around cleaning acyrlic paintings, which are still relatively new to the art world. Acrylic paint presents its own questions for cleaning — including the fact that it attracts dust quickly — which conservators are still struggling to answer.
  • Matting & Framing Workshop: The Art League’s next Basic Matting & Framing workshop is coming up March 23 and 24. Instructors Eileen and Ron Yeager emphasize preservation techniques and archival materials such as UV-blocking conservation glass, suitable tapes for paper art, and acid-free conservation mats. Students will learn how to avoid browning artwork and peeling tape. The two-day workshop starts with a discussion on design, and also covers mounting techniques and fitting — more information is on the registration page.
  • From Our Library: The books Curatorial Care of Works of Art on Paper and Caring For Your Art can be found in The Art League Library (located in the Gallery!). Caring For Your Art, by Jill Snyder, focuses on the contemporary artist’s studio and topics such as matting, framing, travel, and the storage environment. You can browse the library’s collection here.
  • Art-Friendly Environments: The McMichael Canadian Art Collection has this handy tip sheet on minimizing light and environmental damage to art in the home, as well as some pointers on matting and framing. Some of their tips: Keep artwork out of damp basements, away from heat vents and fireplaces, and protect it from direct sunlight.
  • How the Pros Do It: The Washingtonian brings us this story of Elizabeth Steele, head of conservation at the Phillips Collection, and her quest to restore Degas’ Dancers at the Bar. The process took Steele the better part of a year. Even if your paintings aren’t worth $25 million, it’s amazing to imagine the process of testing, retesting, and cleaning something like that, inch by inch. (If your painting is worth that much, hire a professional.)
    • The Houston Chronicle wrote about the rush to repair a vandalized Picasso.
    • And here’s the latest in Inside/Out’s series about conserving MoMA’s Pollock paintings, in which they deal with widely different applications of paint in one complex drip painting.
  • Saving Daguerreotypes: Last, via the University of Rochester and George Eastman House, we bring you this clip about conserving early daguerreotypes and the astonishing detail they provide:

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