Oil Paintings, Care and Feeding


If you're an artist, you probably know how to care for your artwork, RIGHT........Well, I did not!  I will cover some basics here, some of which I was not aware of even though I created the original oil paintings.  Whenever someone buys one of my paintings, I try to explain to them the basics of caring for the work, but I often wonder if the guidance are followed/remembered. One trip to the National Air and Space Museum restoration facility and you will quickly gain an appreciation for the damaging effect of hand oils and sweat on metal, canvas, and paint.

Here are just a few basic rules:

1. Never lean the front or back surface of a stretched canvas on a pointed or sharp object, no matter how small. This will leave a dent that will disfigure your work.  I have just had a perspective gallery do this to one of my works - darned frustrating!  If you must lean it against something, lean it on the wood of its stretcher bars so that nothing presses against the canvas.

2. Prolonged exposure to direct sunlight will fade the colors in your oil painting. Indirect sunlight is also a consideration as UV rays can still "bounce" around onto the painting.   Do not hang your artwork in the direct sunlight.  If moisture seeps through a wall or chimney, immediately move your artwork.  I have lost original art when condensation from my chimney (art mounted over the fire place mantel) caused mold to grow within the frame/foamboard/matboard.  The way that you display your artwork can make all the difference in how long your pieces maintain their depth of visual field and beauty. Fluctuating humidity, UV light, fireplaces, candles, cigarette smoke, and heating vents can all take their toll on your art, causing them to fade and deteriorate over time. Displaying valuable artwork in a kitchen or bathroom is never a good idea, due to the grease and humidity in the air, so you’re better off hanging your non-sentimental and easily replaced pieces in those rooms. 

There are an abundance of options available for protecting art from fading, including UV filtering glass (the museum quality glass, although expensive, may be worth your investment if you desire to protect your art from UV light damage) and picture shield inserts.  For my oil paintings, I will have applied a UV protective Danmar varnish approximately 6 months to one year after the oil paints have "dried".  This ensures the oil painting is still not off gassing solvents and allows the varnish to adhere properly to the upper surface of the painting.

Don’t forget that UV filters are just that: filters. They don’t provide complete protection from the harmful light coming from the sun and some types of indoor lighting, so if possible, it’s wise to circulate your artwork seasonally to ensure that sun exposure is limited.

3. You might want to dust your painting regularly, so that a thick layer of dust does not build up which will dry out the paint and possibly result in cracking and peeling. Do not spray anything (like pledge) on the work. Dust with a soft, dry cloth. If the surface of your painting looks dry and dull, you may want to have it varnished. Most artists will offer to varnish the work, if they haven't done so already, at a new owner's request and free of charge. Varnish is a protective surface which will not only enhance the image, but will keep the surface intact and safe from cracking (except under extreme circumstances, of course).

4. If you must transport the work, lay a flat piece of cardboard, mat board or similar firm material over the front and back surfaces, and then wrap it in bubble wrap or styrofoam wrap. Try not to keep it wrapped up for too long as to avoid moisture buildup which might cause damage to the work.

5. Never expose your painting to extreme heat, extreme cold, or to extreme humidity. (Yes - this means a flood. Yes - this means a fire. Yes - this means snow. This could also mean an attic in the summer or a damp basement or, as I have accedently done, hung on your chimney fireplace mantel which is sending moisture into your painting).


Give me an email or phone call anytime if you have more questions.  
email: timothy.wilson2@yahoo.com, timothy.wilson2@twilson2.com
phone: 757-619-5183


Tim Wilson Aviation Art

Aviation themed art