In this week’s live session I’ll answer a question about the best way to frame artwork. Framing can be a real challenge. Watch as I share several key considerations for selecting the right presentation for your art.
About the Author: Jason Horejs
Jason Horejs is the Owner of Xanadu Gallery, author of best selling books "Starving" to Successful & How to Sell Art , publisher of reddotblog.com, and founder of the Art Business Academy. Jason has helped thousands of artists prepare themselves to more effectively market their work, build relationships with galleries and collectors, and turn their artistic passion into a viable business.
I exclusively do gallery wrap and it makes it so simple to not have to second guess what the buyer might like. Some times I paint the edge black, or white, or a nonconflicting color, or wrap around the image from the front. From today’s presentation, I gather I should stick to one style for consistency. You didn’t mention the back. I see some framers cover the back with a paper layer as if to be a seal against dust, perhaps? Is this needed? I would like to keep the back open as that is where I sign and date and name my work.
I do pastels and am no longer using mats how do you feel about that in a gallery? I guess I need to be more consistent with my frames unfortunately I’ve been doing more to each piece. Thanks!
Beverly’s comments are almost identical to what I would have written. I, too, am a pastelist and have picked frames that are complimentary to the painting. This can be time consuming and frustrating, especially when you’re then criticized for not having picked a gold frame!
Your comments were interesting from the standpoint of where one is visualizing the final placement of the picture – gallery or private setting. Understandably, to group one’s work in a gallery with similar frames is the least frustrating and makes a statement; however, I believe most artists are hoping for people to purchase their work for the clients home or to blend in with decor in a semi-private location (office, etc.). Thus the frame would need to “marry” the painting with the decor of the location which could be an impossible task unless the artist knows the decor of the client. Also, a generic type frame may not compliment the painting at all. A frustrating revolving door!
Matting also complicates the issue. Beverly stated she doesn’t use mats and sometimes I don’t either. However, there are times they make the painting appear more finished. Then should one stick with one of the myriads of white or cream mats or should one use a color that brings together the colors of the painting and the frame? And then there’s the question of the width of the matting….
I very much appreciated your comments. As you can tell, I find this a frustrating aspect of painting, especially with the high cost involved, and would appreciate any further thoughts and answers to questions.
I’m slightly surprised that people aren’t using mats for pastels–how are you keeping them off the glass?–especially since it’s easier to pick a standard mat color than decide between wood and metal, matte or glossy…
I did a few shows where I brought watercolors (I’ve since focused more on acrylics); I just laid a bunch off my paintings out, asked “What looks good with most of them?” and ordered a pack of “antique white.” Though it may not work for a gallery, you can buy “sandwich packs” of mat, backboard, and self-sealing plastic sleeve, which makes them easy to store and transport (both for you and the customer) if you do any fairs or shows. Then you can let the customer worry about framing (If they’re really lazy, then can even frame them in the sandwich packs)
Some of the great master’s that worked in pastel, framed soft pastel directly on the glass. I do as well, sometimes. Depends on the size of the painting, and whether or not I have placed it in a gallery that doesn’t agree with that method. But, If it’s ok with Picasso, and many others, I suppose it’ll be just fine with me.
I work frequently in pastel and have found that framing them as a float in a frame with space between the floated piece and the glass works well. Even after a number of years and despite not using any fixative, I’ve yet to see any pastel dust accumulate at the frame bottom. This might be a problem with really thickly applied unfixed pastel, and is the usual reason for a mat.
Thank you, Jason for an informative discussion. I have been painting my pieces on primarily Gallery Wrapped Canvas (the 1.5″ depth with the exception from time to time of a 3/8″) I’ll paint the sides in black creating the visual effect of a frame. Ive found that most of my collectors prefer no fram but i like the finished look of the black paint. I’ll tape off the back to preserve the canvases from getting black paint on the backs. (It was a learning curve for the taping). I do have some pieces framed with Floater Frames. These allow the work to stand out some, still look framed but also not outdo the painting. I’m finding that more people would rather have no frame.
I exclusively use a gallery wrap canvas with a 1.5 inch depth for my wildlife oil paintings. The edges are finished with a continuation of the painting. Years ago when I first started out, I had my paintings professionally framed with expensive coordinated wooden frames. Two buyers, looking for a bargain, offered me 50% of my asking price to buy the paintings without the frames. I declined their offers and by eliminating the frames have not had that issue since.
My work is contemporary. I used to present my work in gallery wraps until one gallery wanted the all framed. The reason they gave was that I could get “so much more” money for the artwork if it was framed. Now I’m using all floater frames. I do like the look. The down side of floater frames is they add weight to the painting and I have to charge more to recoup the cost of framing. What’s your opinion on floater frames.
Mainly I’m doing gallery-wrap (1 1/2–2”) with continuous flow of painting around the edges. Occasionally if I paint using a different medium (watercolor), it is matted (white or black) and finished with a simple black frame.
Thanks Jason! This subject is always great to chat about and never gets old. For my artwork, I like to use gallery wrapped canvas and/or 2” cradled wood panels. I paint around the sides to give the paintings a three dimensional effect. Then, I design and build a semi-shadow box style frame (aka, wide floater frame). This allows the viewer to see the painted sides, yet gives the painting a polished look. This may add substantial weight to the painting but the beautiful part is, it’s easy to disassemble and may be changed out for the buyers personal preferences. However, I won’t pretend to say that framing is easy! It’s a steep learning curve to just get it right. Though, at the end of the day, my objective is to create high-quality art. There’s no better way to do that than just taking action! A positive mindset is essential to survive the framing blues. And I always ask myself, “How can this painting (or frame) be better?” So, that I learn and grow from each piece I create, whilst striving for excellence.
Great conversation! Thanks Jason! I paint in several media and, for branding purposes, have locked in on a couple frames I use consistently. For canvas works, I paint on splined or back stapled gallery matted canvas (1 1/2 inch). I always paint the edges black or neutral. I then frame these in a simple black floater frame which has a very slight distress to it. My watercolors are all matted in neutral white mats, some are double matted, and all use a simple, deeply rabbeted wood frame. I have worked with one frame company for over 30 years due to their excellent pricing and great quality. The frames come assembled and I keep the boxes for shipping the work to shows or collectors afterward.
Thank you for this video. It’s a subject that weighs on my mind all of the time. I wont be placing photos of my framed work as it depends on where it will hang and what the subject is and just how much I expect the patron to cough up. I listened to your blog and for the most part it doesn’t apply to me fully. I do mostly oil pastels and soft pastel and they, of course will not be framed any way but under glass. With that said, if I am honest about it, I’d say that 50/50 my sales are for the painting and only the painting. In fact, I’ve sold some, that have not even left the easel. Talk about pressure to finish the piece. (I was part of exhibitions where the artists were in a “studio” of sorts, and the public could come and watch the artists do their stuff.) The rest, I’ve bought the frame to enhance the subject but not detract. (style, color, size.) In one case the frame is actually not given much notice. It sort of was an extension to the painting. Sold. This has worked for me, somewhat. But if I depended on my sales for my dinner, I’d starve. However, I did have one exhibition that was mostly graphite and Scratchboard. Those were entirely framed in slim black with white mats. It made a very outstanding display. I was so proud of it. So, you see, I frame not only for the piece, but for the venue. Incidentally, out of 35 pieces, I sold only one. Disappointing, to say the least. Bottom line is, do you feel I am thinking this the wrong way? Or perhaps, overthinking?
As you and I have discussed in person several times, it depends on your style and your MARKET. I paint in a more traditional style, so gallery wrap/floating frames do not always do it justice, nor would they fit in the galleries I am seeking…and there lies the rub. I can tell you from experience that in some places a gold, quality frame is the only way to go. And in others, only black. Here in Santa Fe, gold is preferred, although on contemporary work, floating frames. Almost no gallery wrap. Depends on style. In Sedona at the plein air show, black with maybe a gold fillet. On the east coast, particularly points south, no black at all. I think the only way to approach a gallery is to use a frame style that compliments your work AND is similar to what they show on their site. Almost every gallery has photos on their website of openings, etc., and you can gain much information from that, if you can’t visit in person.
I would like to add a concern I run into as a plein air artist that often displays in pop up gallery or alternative spaces where staff or patrons may not be realize how easily damaged some plein air frames are. I have given up on the standard gold or silver frames because people put stickers or tape on them and the gold or silver lifts off leaving an ugly scar. I’m switching to either gallery wrap or plain white frames because this has caused me problems and I think cost me sales. I can sometimes repair damaged frames but not always. I used to show work in a gallery that also did framing and they were great but now I’m doing my own and my skills are limited.
Thanks for another great informative blog.
You are one of a kind. The galleries I have shown work don’t offer that kind of information.
The email I signed up for RedDotBlog is not my artist email. In the fields below I will add my artist email.
By the way there was a phishing scam to my IG and website similar to what you described in a blog not too long ago. Glad I read that and was smart not to fall into a scam.
Although my work is predominately aluminum and acrylic, for framed prints I never think of a consistency of frames and mattes because I know that when I do decide to frame and mat a print it is because the print is a special composition that requires special considerations to colors, mats ,etc. to complete and homogenize the subject and my end goal to please the eventual collector with my final presentation.
Used to be a professional framer.
Reasons to use frames:
1. Visually separates the piece from the background.
2. Work on paper looks more professional when framed.
3. Frames protect the work from mishandling and accidents.
4. Can enhance how the ambient light works on the piece
4a. Spanish frames push the artwork into the light
4b. French frames, usually with gold leaf, are supposed to capture light and focus it on the artwork.
1. White or cream mats can often kill a work or reduce it into insignificance; mat colors should complement the work
2. A too-wide or too-narrow mat can subtly make the viewer uneasy with the piece.
3. Wood frames outgas, as do non-archival papers…buffered or archival mats will protect the paper the art is on from becoming brittle.
4. When a customer reframes, he/she will almost always keep the mat.
1. The are multiple choices of glass and plastics. They range in price and reflectivity.
2. Glass is never needed on oils.
3. For those who lay glass directly on artwork, you should know that condensation does occur when moving across country.
Dust covers…that piece of paper taped over the back:
1. Both dust and bugs will get through the dust cover, but fewer of each.
2. A dust cover should not be used on oils or other cloth surfaces which are sealed on the viewer’s side with paint and varnish; you do need the air circulation to keep the cloth/canvas from rotting
1. Purchasers of artwork frequently remove the frames which come with the work in order to put on frames that work better in their homes or minds. (Used frames can be found in almost ALL frame shops and are reasonably priced)
2. If you have to ship, you are paying for the frame and that comes out of your income. (metal frames are lightest and frequently cheapest)
When painting, I now do gallery wraps, painting the edges to merge with the image. If I have to frame, then I use a floating or shadowbox frame. When I frame monochrome drawings, I use a mat which is slightly darker than the paper.
I’ve recently started framing my painted canvas artwork in deep silver frames, which in my opinion, really elevates the overall piece, giving it a modern and glamorous look.
The framing cost was higher than the cost of producing the painting, but the final result is stunning
I’ve received a lot of positive feedback regarding the modern metal-frame look…it’s worth a try!