Q. Ive recently renovated an 800-square-foot chicken coop into a studio. Ive moved into it, even though we havent finished insulating, adding drywall or installing air conditioning and heat. Ive noticed some of my pastel paper buckling, as well as one canvas bending. Will the canvas stretcher return to flat once the humidity is gone? What do I need to consider for storing both paintings and paints?
A. Im glad to hear that youre in the process of insulating your new studio and trying to regulate the air inside it. Its a good idea to have both heating and air-conditioning in your work space so that you can have some control over the fluctuations of the outside atmospheres temperature and humidity. Unless this is a very tight construction, however, youre unlikely to achieve museum conditions of stability, which are about 72 degrees Farenheit and 55 percent relative humidity. But its not so much a problem of maintaining these ideal values as its about slowing down the rate of changes that occur.
The best solution for keeping your work intact is to have a separate space for storing your finished pieces. It should be closed off from your regular work space and insulated away from an outside wall—perhaps you need to build a false wall with air space between it and the outside wall. That way, youll have a clean area where atmospheric change is minimized.
Its possible that your supports will return to their former condition once the studio environment stabilizes, but this depends on many factors, including the structure of your studio and the weather conditions in your area. Your paper is more likely to flatten out than your stretched canvases; if your stretcher bars are warped, chances are they wont straighten out again. I wouldnt worry very much about the storage of your inks or paints, unless your studio gets cold enough to freeze them. Artists paints, at least, are manufactured to tolerate a number of freeze/thaw cycles so they can be shipped in the winter. But, in any case, you want to try to store them in an average indoor environment of 65 to 75 degrees Farenheit with moderate humidity (if you can control it).
Steve Smith is senior editor for The Artist’s Magazine.