Caring for your paintings – should I varnish?
Short Answer: Absa-freaking-lutely!
I’m a big offender in this area… I never got around to varnishing most of my early painting, and in the years since they’ve gotten scratched, dirty, and torn. The biggest reason to varnish your paintings is for PROTECTION. Wait about a month after you’ve painted them to make sure they’re really dry, then put on a heavy coat or two. If you’re paranoid, put on 5 coats and they’ll be practically impenetrable. This way they can get scratched pretty bad without having any effect at all.
The other reason to varnish is that paintings will just look better – they’ll have a shine and consistency, the colors will be brighter and the darks, darker. They will look more finished and thus more valuable.
If you don’t varnish, and they get scratched, you have t0 repaint the spots that look bad which can throw off the whole painting. (I did this today- again- as I do it everytime I take my paintings out of storage).
Where should I store my paintings?
Ideally – your paintings will always be hanging up! Having them anywhere else is dangerous. I usually stack them by size against a wall, and even so they get marked and scratched up (hence, the need to repaint and revarnish). If you’ve varnished well early, and your painting is protected, it’s easy to revarnish. If you can’t find a place to hang them, the safest storage is always to take them off the canvas, roll them up and put them in a tube. I did this once, and years later had them all restretched. Although I recommend it, I probably won’t do it again myself as it’s a major pain.