44th Annual Meeting – Paintings Specialty Group Tips Session, May 17

This year’s Paintings Tips session focused predominantly on a range of commercial products that can be adapted for specific uses in paintings conservation.
Gordon A. Lewis, Jr. recommended powerful LED and UV flashlights for examination of paintings in-situ, which are available from Amazon.com. In addition to other uses, he demonstrated the suitability of these lights for transmitting a strong light through the back of a canvas to reveal tears and other structural issues.
Dina Anchin introduced the audience to the ProScope Micro Mobile, a hand-held, high-resolution microscope that attaches to one’s phone and allows the capture of photomicrographs. This is particularly useful when examining paintings in-situ or on research visits.
Alexa Beller presented on behalf of herself and Joyce Hill Stoner on miniature “Humidification Chambers,” using a moistened blotter placed within the lid of a pigment capsule (such as used for a palette of dry pigments) and positioned over the area of the painting requiring humidification.
Josh Summer recommended miniature hand mixers or milk frothers as a helpful and inexpensive tool for preparing emulsions and gels.
Erin Stephenson presented on behalf of Sarah Gowen, who has researched and tested a number of materials potentially suitable for filling cradled panel paintings prior to obtaining an X-radiograph. These fillers include Elvacite 2045, Elavacite 2044, Elvacite 2046, Poly(vinyl alcohol), Butvar B-76, Paraloid B-72, and wood flour. Of this list, Sarah recommends Elvacite 2045, as other materials tend to clump, are too visible in the X-radiograph, or produce slippery residues.
Claire Winfield described the recipe for a “milkshake” paintable fill (1 part Modostuc or spackle, 1 part acrylic gesso, dry pigment and water to taste), so-named because it is mixed to the consistency of a milkshake. This fill material can then be brush-applied within areas of loss and is particularly useful in retaining some canvas texture.
Gwen Manthey pointed out that many websites including Pinterest show helpful flat-lay pack methods when packing tools for on-site conservation work.  She also mentioned that shaving brushes are often made of badger hair, and shaving product companies can be a useful source for these brushes.
Judy Dion presented a number of product recommendations, including washer head screws for attaching backing boards (such as Teks Lath Screws), a muffin cooling fan for low solvent extraction from studio spaces, and small LED spotlights with flexible necks for microscope work . Judy also demonstrated the use of a T-track for clamping, easel construction, or a height-adjustable armrest for working on large paintings.
Rustin Levinson spoke about the recent construction at ArtCare Inc. of a mobile paintings storage rack consisting of marine ply and PVC with clear vinyl flooring. The entire rack can be covered and moved around the studio.
Rob Proctor recommended a number of tools, including 1 mL calibrated glass droppers and vacuum nozzles adapted as handles for burnishers. To minimize shock to a painting during structural treatments, he also demonstrated using a nail pusher to insert tacks and using a clamp to gently push in keys.
A few attendees volunteered last-minute tips, including a portable Miroir projector for on-the-go presentations, and the brand Muji for black Q-tips, useful for testing sensitivity of light-colored paint passages.
The session ended with an update from Elise Clifford about the Reverse of Paintings Database being developed at the Fine Arts Museums of San Francisco. The completed database will allow users with a login to upload and search information related to the reverse of painting such as labels, canvas stamps, and stencils. If you are interested in participating in beta-testing of the website, you are invited to email Elise.
Thank you to all of the presenters for such valuable tips!