So, you’re an artist. You draw, sketch or paint, mostly on paper. You’re starting to sell your work and getting a name for yourself. Your sales are increasing, but you still don’t sell most of your art, so you store it. Often you need to travel, so you leave your work, in your studio, unattended, or course, because, well , it’s not like a pet that can wander off at night, right? But to safely store your work require some forethought and planning and chances are that you’ve been so busy that you haven’t given this topic much thought. This is where this post “The Artists, Their Art , Their Studios & The Environment” comes in, giving you a reminder list with some of the hidden, unseen, but very real and possible dangers of careless storage. To begin with, are you a smoking artist? If so, not only is smoking bad for your own health and the art you create, but can you completely sure that you fully extinguished the last cigarette you were smoking while working in your studio ? ... studio?
We won’t go on or expand about the damage smoking causes to both your own self, your art and the environment, as these have been well documented in the press and online and are pretty much common knowledge to everyone. But stopping anyone and everyone from smoking within and without your studio is an excellent preventive measure to avoid or at least, greatly lessen, smoking-related damages of losses to your stock your art, your portfolio and studio.
If going away or leaving your studio for any length of time, contact a Security 9 (or similar) firm to visit and monitor you studio, but if this cannot be afforded, then perhaps ask a friend or relative to do so by way of favour. Either way, you will at least some reassurance that a trusted person will look on or in you art world and step in, should something untoward occur during their visits.
Many fires have been prevented, smothered or extinguished by people hearing odd sparking noises or smelling the beginning of a fire. If you have wood picture frames stored, as many artists have, that’s even more reason to be alert and vigilant. Even inexpensive ready-made frames LINK made from MDF are quite combustible.
1) Again, and in particular when absences are foreseen or planned, it is prudent to check for ceiling leaks, mould spots on wall and ill-fitting windows. All either indicate the proximity of, or possible entry of, rain, house water, or storm water with concomitant damage and undesirable consequences. While it is not possible to completely cocoon your studio in a weatherproof tarpaulin, the commonsense precautions detailed herein can be of help.
2) Most artists feel, know or perceive that hot, powerful spotlights on their work may not beneficial in the long term. But they also ought to switch off, lessen, decrease, diffuse, control or moderate all lighting, both natural and artificial and as much as possible. Direct and ambient sunlight ( the natural light that comes through the windows ) is known to damage paper-borne art. This is because Ultra Violet (UV) rays are diffused by all light, including fluorescent and incandescent. UV is one of the leading causes of fading . The rays weaken and destroy the inner bonds of all emulsions including photographs, oil paintings and watercolours pigments. This unwanted decrepitude is known as photolysis.
3) Cleanliness is next to godliness, even more so in studio environments that satisfy artists’ souls and feed their bank accounts. Food leftovers, instant meal residues, anything organic for that matter should not be habitually stored outside the fridge or left overnight. Ants, spiders, cockroaches, mice and rats, to name some, all love yesterday’s pizzas or Chinese takeaways. When they find some they attract and invite their kith and kin, leading to proliferations and infestations. When these gregarious insects and creatures abound in your environment, they will not cease and desist after gorging on your discarded comestibles, but will most likely, will carry on and ovulate, urinate, defecate, live, die, chew, pierce, hole, soil, nibble and eat with and on your art well.
4) Rubbish disposal is not high on the list of damage prevention but artists do have a habit of keeping old paint, papers, boards, wood and frames forever. Doubtlessly this is done with thriftiness careful spending in mind but storing too much of these items and products can become a fire hazard. To that end, the old maxim comes to mind. If you’ve had something for more than 12 months, chances are that you’ll never need it again, so don’t store, it, chuck it out!
5) Cleanliness includes the air and atmosphere in and around your studio. Are you aware of what Volatile Organic compounds (VOCs), such as paint, have the potential of the damaging your art ?
If you store more than a reasonable quantity of cigars, cigarettes, paints, kerosene, petrol, diesel, solvents, thinners, adhesives, glues, disinfectants, pesticides, etc, than be aware that when opening and using these, VOCs maybe released by way of gases. If presents or lingering more than momentarily, these VOCs vapours can cause deterioration, especially paper-borne art.
6) A city like Melbourne does not have frequent and wild fluctuation of temperature and humidity, but other cities such as Darwin and Brisbane may well have them. It follows then if you ply your art close to the Tropic of Capricorn or in quite humid zones you should then monitor and seek to mitigate or alleviates extremes of these two disparate, but often related, atmospheric conditions. Humidity is one of the main contributors to mould and foxing, both of which can easily damage art, especial art on paper . Hygrometers, thermometers, de-humidifiers, air-conditioners and fans all can help in alleviating both excessive heat and humidity.
7) Next, how do most artists store their art? Hopefully by not just dumping it on floor, sheet upon sheet, board upon board or panel upon panel. Paper art conserves best and stays pristine when store flat in archival, acid-free, storage or solander boxes, interleaved with acid-free, archival tissue sheets or polyester sleeves. However these are quality products and materials which do cost and many artists are perennially short of cash. Whatever it’s done or however the art will be stored, do yourself a favour and do not roll up and put away your art in old postal tubes. There are two huge problem with doing this. Firstly, paper has a “memory” and when stored in this manner it will retain that shape even when unrolled. Trying to then flatten it may well result in the art cracking and splitting. We’ve actually seen this happen a few times with Customers bringing art which had been rolled up for a long time, months and years. Secondly, all the postal tubes we’ve seen are acidic, made from plain cardboard. This means that whatever is rolled up inside the tube starts to be contaminated with lignin acid as soon as it’s put in.
8) Lastly, on storing wooden picture frames. Most artists don’t store their framed work, they sell it, but a fair few artist buy inexpensive, empty, pre-made, or Ready-Made, picture frames or poster frames, for Do Your Own framing and quick sales. They tend to do this because custom picture framing tends to work out a bit expensive for many Customers who want their art cheap. If artists put too high a price tag on their art, often it won’t sell. And while ready-made frames aren’t that expensive, these still have to be kept and stored right.
Many of these inexpensive frames are made for MDF and that’s highly susceptible to heat, humidity and moisture. Therefore storing these frames in the attic or in a garage is not recommended. The frames should be stored upright, rather than pancaked or on top of each other, in a dry, clean and well- ventilated room such as a studio. Regular inspections of these frames, and any other stored materials for that matter, are advisable.