Friday, November 21, 2014

how to remove stains from your art

The latest issue of the TMS Newsletter has just been mailed out. Here is my usual Friday excerpt...

Winter weather hit this week. We have gone from a lovely autumn with above normal temperatures to snow and strong winds. I have scrambled to find my warm winter boots and dressing in many layers suddenly became a necessity. The animals are not happy about this abrupt change in the weather. Chickens love to spend their days scratching around in dirt and leaves looking for yummy worms and bugs. They don’t even like to walk across snow. This morning I swept some paths for them. J It has become time to hook up the heated water buckets! Frozen pails of water already?! Sheesh...

This week our topic is what to when our art gets damaged. Suzanne P. from Toronto wrote me with an urgent call for help. Her art had met with an accident and she was wondering if there was anything she could do to fix it.

Suzanne’s almost finished artwork was lying on a table. Her young son was walking around the room, eating some fruit and he was telling his mother about something exciting that had happened at school. Suddenly the plate tipped a bit and his fruit plopped down onto the drawing!

Suzanne quickly removed the few of chunks of watermelon and a strawberry off of her art. She dabbed at the paper with a piece of paper towel.

What was left on the paper were a few small blotches of stain, pale peach ones where the watermelon had landed and a brighter pink one where the strawberry had been.

To make matters worse, the fruit landed on a part of the drawing that will not be covered by dark pigment. The art work is almost done so it is too late to change the drawing. The white tablecloth in her still life is the area that got hit. So, hoping to cover up the stains isn’t much of an option.

Suzanne has tried to remove the colour by gently erasing with an ink eraser but the stain has penetrated the fibers. Now she is concerned that she might damage the paper if she continues to try to rub it out.

My suggestion for stains like this is to try applying bleach. I have used this a few times with much success.

Accidents do happen.

A tiny bug can land on your paper – and even a teeny weeny insect can leave behind body fluids of some kind. Goodness, a fly can poop a small dark dot onto your paper. Ever had a pencil slip from your fingers? Of course the pencil falls with the point facing downward. Suddenly you have a dot of strong pigment placed somewhere you didn’t want it that won’t completely lift off.

My advice is to pour a very small amount of household bleach into a container. I use the bleach bottle cap. Next I dip the tip of a cotton ear swab into the bleach. Soak up a very small amount. Then dab this onto your paper. Let the bleach sit for a moment and then lift it off by pressing the area with a bit of tissue. If the stain is still there, re-apply and let the bleach sit for a little longer. Have patience and be gentle.

Of course this probably only works on white paper. I would assume that you would bleach the dye in a coloured piece of paper and you don’t want to go from a coloured stain to a pure white/bleached spot. Having said that, stains would be easier to cover on coloured paper as you need to add your whites. For example, on a dark sheet of paper, Suzanne would have to draw her white table cloth versus leaving it the white of the paper.

While we can’t prevent all accidents here are a few tips that will help:

·        Cover your art when you are finished working. A simple sheet of paper or tracing vellum would suffice. If you have a cat that might jump up onto your table, go further and store your art somewhere that your cat will not be able to get to – lie it flat in a cupboard – and make sure this is a safe place, i.e. no one will come along and set something down on top of your art.

·        Have a no food or drink rule. I don’t eat in my studio and I am very disciplined with my beverages. I never place a cup of anything on a table where I have unframed art, no matter how far apart the art and the drink might be. When I am working at my drafting table (which is slanted, positioned on an angle), I place my water, tea, or glass of wine J, on a table nearby. I sip while working but my sipping doesn’t take place over top of the art. I may spill coffee down my shirt front but it won’t hit my paper.

·        Close all windows at the end of the day. I have a habit of shutting all of my studio windows in the summer or if it is really warm out, I leave them open just a wee bit. I do this to control the dampness that can get into the room (dampness isn’t good for fine art paper) not to mention any rain that may blow in during an unexpected storm overnight.

·        Don’t feed your children fresh fruit. Just kidding...

 Does anyone have a different solution on how to remove stains? I would love to hear your remedies.

File:George Henry Durrie - Winter Scene in New Haven, Connecticut - Google Art Project.jpg

Winter Scene in New Haven, Connecticut circa 1858, oil on canvas, by George Henry Durrie 1820 – 1863, (image now public domain)

Isn't this painting gorgeous? I love all of the detail. I keep seeing something new every time I look at it.

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