Water Wars: Battling Humidity and Its Impact on My Art (and Life)

I live in Singapore. I love to make art, but sometimes the humidity gets in the way and I am often left frustrated.¬†The picture above is of my paint palette (when I have not touched it for a while). ūüėÖūüė£¬†
Below I share some of my frustrations about the weather, how I deal with it, as well as my reflections and how I have learnt to embrace it. 

Enemy #1: Moisture Mayhem

  • Slow Drying Times: Paint, glue and everything take¬†a while to dry. This commonly¬†leads to smudging, running colours, and extended project times.
    To help me, I often use an old hairdryer (start with on low heat/fan!) and a whole lot of patience. 
  • Mold and Mildew Growth: Organic materials like canvas, paper, and wood become breeding grounds for mold and mildew in high humidity, destroying my artwork and even attacking my paints (such as the picture above)! For precious items, such as camera equipment, a dry cabinet is very useful.

    Good ventilation is also key, so I keep the fan on¬†to help with air circulation, and avoid blasting the air conditioner, as condensation can worsen the problem. Dehumidifiers are also great, but those "thirsty hippos" need constant refilling ‚Äď which I often forget and find such a hassle!

    A year ago, I discovered the wonders of spraying isopropyl (70%) alcohol. This worked very well on a bouquet of preserved flowers I gave to my mother which was attacked by mold. You can probably try it out on other things, but always test a small area first!

    I often swap out MDF board backings on framed pieces for plastic ‚Äď mold hates plastic! I also encourage clients to hang their artwork away from high-humidity areas such as the kitchen, bathroom, or next to a window. Hanging artwork away from direct sunlight also prevents premature discoloration.

Enemy #2: Material Mischief

  • Degrading Materials: High humidity can warp and buckle wood panels, canvas, and paper. This happened to my art supply drawer (an ALEX Ikea drawer)‚Äď the base kept warping, and eventually gave way. The weight of the art materials I was storing didn't help either!¬†I searched online, and gave it a coat of paint and a reinforcing strap, something like this video, just that I used a staple gun instead.¬†

    Watercolor paper also loses its sizing. For those of you not familiar with this term, the humidity adjusts the fibres of the paper, so there is no layer on its top surface for water and paint to mix, but it is absorbed straight into the paper right away, making blending colors impossible.

  • Varnish Blues: High humidity can make varnish dry unevenly, become cloudy, or attract moisture. For this reason,¬†I wait for a hot and sunny day to do varnish my completed commissions outdoors.¬†

  • Electrical Worries: Humidity can damage electrical equipment like lighting and printers. Keep your equipment in an area with good air ventilation and away from humid areas.

Enemy #3: Limited Selection

  • Material Pickiness:¬†Some art materials, high humidity is not to our favour. For this reason, I tend to paint more with acrylic paints as compared to oil painting, which takes weeks or months to dry. Layering paint thinly and allowing each layer to dry completely is another trick.

Embracing the Humidity (Kind Of)

Believe it or not, there are some upsides to the humidity:

  • Slower Drying Times:¬†This can be a blessing in disguise, giving me more time to blend and work on my pieces. In a fast-paced world, this also encourages me to slow down and not rush the process.
  • Cleanliness Check:¬†Knowing the risk of mold growth when I do not clean my palette properly encourages me to be more diligent in cleaning and storing my art supplies properly after I am done with them.
  • Curb My Spending:¬†Humidity has curbed my impulse purchases of art supplies. Knowing things can get moldy fast, I have¬†learned to buy what I need for confirmed commissions. This also solves my storage issues! As an artist, I still have multiple mediums and supplies on hand, but I am working to create in a way that I am free to explore, but also not waste too much.¬†

Beyond the Material: A Heavenly Perspective

As I penned this article, I can't help but think of this passage from Matthew about Laying treasure in heaven. 

“Do not lay up for yourselves treasures on earth, where moth and rust destroy and where thieves break in and steal, but lay up for yourselves treasures in heaven, where neither moth nor rust destroys and where thieves do not break in and steal. For where your treasure is, there your heart will be also.
Matthew 6:19-21

I take the humidity challenges as a reminder that material things do not last. Why do I still make art then? For me, it's more than the art as a material object. It is the heart I am sharing, the love I am showing, the encouragement of God's love I am bringing into the world. 


What are your weather woes? How could you see this as a way to focus your heart and attention of things of eternal value in God's Kingdom?

1 comment

  • Love this sharing, Emily and even as you embrace the humidity and talk about slower drying times, cleanliness check and curbing your spending ‚Äď i see how these lessons can also be embraced with God‚Äôs lessons for our spiritual life. A slower dryng time ‚Äď God often want us to pause and wait for the end product (in this case, our lives at work and in progress) and we tend often want to ‚Äėrush Him‚Äô but I have learnt and am learning to trust in His timing. Cleanliness check ‚Äď reminds me of doing a stop check and self check or reflection on ourselves ‚Äď have we been faithful in spending time with Him so that we remain ‚Äėclean vessels‚Äô for His work; similar to curbing my spending ‚Äď are there things or activities that i have been indulgent and hence taking away my time with God? I am encouraged by your sharing and insights. Thank you!


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