Too Pretty to Touch

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By Ann Moeller Steverson (Artefex Ambassador)

“It’s so pretty, I’m scared to touch it.” It’s a sentence I’ve heard from many an intimidated artist when faced with a newly purchased and admittedly gorgeous copper panel. The pristine surface does fingerprint if you touch it and wait a few days. Back in the day, I shipped new panels with white cotton gloves so when you unwrap them, you can avoid these little imperfections. But I’ll let you in on a big secret, oil and copper belong together. Oil creates a bond and protective layer to the copper surface.

When I paint on copper, I am about as rude to my panels as anyone can imagine. I stuff it in my paint bag, let the surface get dirty, I touch it, and if I make mistakes and the mistake dries, I sand it back down to copper. I couldn’t be more irreverent to these perfect surfaces I paint on. Why, because I paint on them. And when I leave a bit of light or some exposed copper coming through, I’ve yet to have any noticeable imperfection. Besides, it’s our little imperfections that make us beautiful, right?


“Fine, Ann, fine. But what about if we want a large area of gorgeous, perfect shiny copper in our painting?” Well, good news. You can handle the unpainted panel with gloves. And you only have to sing MC Hammer’s “Can’t Touch This” the first time. If the panels are already tarnished or corroded, they can be cleaned by scrubbing any stubborn stains with Rublev Colours Copper Stain Remover and then rinsing with water and drying with a soft cloth. You can then apply a corrosion inhibitor available from Natural Pigments, Rublev Colours Copper Rinse. Spray directly over the clean, dry panel (rub it with a cotton ball if you want to avoid a slight haze), and then you have a greatly extended time to complete your painting without any concern for oxidation. You can also seal the beautifully finished work and any exposed copper to protect it from oxidation with Conservar Acrylic Varnish that Natural Pigments has specifically developed for use on copper.

Fear is my least favorite emotion, and I think the biggest block to creativity. Fear copper no more and shine on you beautiful people.

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