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  • Writer's pictureIoana Pioaru

Why I wear gloves when I draw

If you follow my activity on social media, you've probably noticed that I'm wearing cotton gloves pretty much all the time while I'm drawing. In fact, not just while drawing but whenever I handle paper.


Let me start by clearing up a common misconception - I don't do this to prevent smudging, because gloves cannot do that. If the ink you use has a long drying time, there's not much you can do to prevent smudging, apart from avoiding to touch the inked areas or using blotting paper. The ink I use dries super fast so I don't have that problem.


So, why do I use gloves?

Quick answer - to prevent the acid in the skin from damaging the paper.

Long answer - acids can be harmful to paper over the long term. Our skin naturally produces oils and acids, and when we handle paper with our bare hands, these substances can be transferred to the paper, contributing to its degradation. The acids cause the cellulose in the paper to break down and leads to a weakening of the paper fibre, making the paper brittle and discoloured.

Therefore, the less direct contact with the paper, the better its chance of long-term preservation.


Should you be wearing gloves when working with paper?

It is a matter of personal choice, of course. If what I said above is of interest to you, then you might want to consider either this or other methods to prevent your skin from touching the paper.

Cotton gloves can be quite awkward for some people, because they make it difficult to hold drawing tools and handle them with precision. If that's the case, here's a quick and easy trick: cut off the thumb, index and middle fingers of your glove with scissors, like in the image below.

This will free up the three fingers that hold the pen, while covering the two that most often touch the paper. These gloves are inexpensive and easy to find. I got mine on Amazon (at the time, I thought I was only buying one pair but they turned up as a pack of twenty pairs or so😄).


Alternatively or additionally, you may also want to use a sheet of card or plastic to stop the moisture in the hand getting to the paper. I sometimes use both.


Why is it so important for me to preserve my drawings long-term?


Each of my drawings holds great significance to me; they are my legacy in this world, tangible manifestations of my thoughts, feelings, and experiences, encapsulating a part of me within their lines and strokes. I can't predict where these drawings will end up or how they will be cherished. However, what I can control is the intention and diligence with which I craft each piece. My hope and dedication lie in ensuring that my drawings continue to spark joy, evoke emotions, and resonate with viewers for as long as possible. As an artist, there's no greater fulfillment than knowing your work has a lasting impact, and I pledge to strive for this in each artwork I bring into being.


Therefore, looking after my work is a form of self-respect, respect for the time I invested in a drawing (which is not insignificant) and also respect for whoever might own it in the future. By the way, this is also why I pay special attention to preventing possible mishaps during the drawing process.

 

In conclusion, it's important to handle paper artworks and fine art prints with great care. If possible, wear gloves (nitrile, latex, or cotton), but if they aren't available or practical, it's important to wash and thoroughly dry hands before handling. In addition, acid-free materials should be used for mounting, matting, and storage to prevent acid migration.


I hope you'll find this article useful whether you're an artist handling paper or an art lover cherishing your precious collection of paper-based art.


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