Ask a Gallery Owner: Let’s Talk Framing

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.

Starving to Successful

StSBookSHave you always wondered what it takes to show your work in galleries? Is your work being seen by qualified collectors?

In his Amazon.com best-selling book, Xanadu Gallery owner Jason Horejs shares insights gained over a life-time in the art business.

Learn more and order today.

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About the Author: Jason Horejs

Jason Horejs is the Owner of Xanadu Gallery, author of Dad was an Artist | A Survivor's Story and best selling books "Starving" to Successful & How to Sell Art , publisher of reddotblog.com, and founder of ARTsala. 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. Connect with Jason on Facebook

29 Comments

  1. I see many framed paintings in galleries and assumed that was the preferred presentation for completed artwork. So glad to hear from your podcast today that you feel gallery wraps are very popular with customers. I prefer painting around the sides for a fun experience from all angles. I just started selling my paintings, and it doesn’t seem to matter if it is framed or not if someone likes the paintings. However, my sales so far are only to “locals”—not sure what collectors prefer. Your question to artists is a good one, and I posted it on the home page of my website. I’d like to know what people interested in my paintings prefer before I start stocking up on gallery wraps again!

  2. Exceptional post as always! I was wondering if it would be possible to suggest a post topic. It would be amazing to know your recommendations on how to prep for an upcoming art exhibition in order to maximize sales during and after the event. Thank you in advance for your help! Paola

  3. I frame my own pastels. Plexiglass is preferred in order to enter competitions, but what do buyers prefer? So far, I’ve had no complaints using plexiglass, but I wonder if it is a deterrent to some possible collectors. (My paintings are mostly framed with a hidden spacer, double ivory mat, and simple thin black wood frame.)

    1. Buyers are fairly ignorant of the quality and options available in framing plexi. The assumption generally is that it’s lower quality than glass. The reality is if done correctly they can’t see the difference and the quality is equal if not superior to glass in some instances. I think the average person has seen cheap thin, “polystyrene” not plexi, used in low end ready made frames that warps, scratches and does nobody any good.
      As a long time framer I would never advise plexi on any pastel. The static charge can pull pastel off the piece. Catch 22 I guess for competitions. Optium Museum Acrylic is an option it has an anti-reflection, anti-static, abrasion resistant coating and UV filter and but it’s costly by comparison to almost any other option.

  4. Thank You, Jason for this valuable information. For the last several years I have framed my artwork in a uniform manner. I used simple black contemporary wood framing first and then switched to all white and shadow framing. This seems to fit my overall color intensive paintings and gives them a “fresh” feel. A question I have pondered in regards to framing watercolor media or multi-media pieces, are folks still interested in buying wall hanging artworks framed under glass?

  5. Too bad artists see framing as an extra expense.
    It is an investment with a good return. If you compare with any other product, selling paintings gives us a great mark up, so it’s financially reasonable to spend money on framing.
    I buy bulk directly from the manufacturer, I buy one style that works with all my art pieces. Also in Canada there are grants available for framing.
    Well framed painting always look more professional.

      1. If you have an exhibition booked at a space, and have confirmation of the dates- well ahead of the date, in writing, you may be eligible for an Exhibition Assistance Grant. Check at your local public art gallery and they may be able to help you. Some Galleries in Ontario are on the list as granting institutions. The Arts Council allocates a certain amount to the various ‘granting organization’ Galleries and it is up to each one to allocate funds if you meet their requirements. There are deadlines each year and not a lot of funds available. Information is available online.

  6. In my early years I worked on gessoed untempered Masonite . I beveled the edges and mounted it on a simple 1 x2 frame of clear fir. It was very similar to a gallery wrap. It was very effective. More recently I have been using a gallery wrap. There was a period I worked on paper and so then I used a suede mat with the work floated on it, and a simple silver frame. Consistency in a show is so Important.

  7. hi jason, i was hoping that i could attach a photo to my comment, so instead i added an image to the sidebar on my blog/portfolio at karenpiehl.wordpress.com. i have been doing all my acrylic painting on bristol or watercolor paper, and so am mounting them onto 1 1/2″ deep cradled panels. Sometimes i leave a border of 1/4″ to 1″, but mostly i have been trimming them flush and painting the sides a warm dark gray, taupe, or brown (depending on how this color harmonizes with the work). i like the look. sometimes i think a piece would look good with a border of 3″ and would like to ask what you think about mounting onto a larger cradled panel that i paint off white? i really don’t relish the whole mat and glass presentation.

    one thing i don’t like is when i am in a show with other work that have mats and frames and the works are put altogether too close together and so my borderless piece looks bad!

    thank you so much jason. i love these podcasts, karen

  8. I am just learning to make galley wrapped stretchers and think I’m on the road to success. However, what do you put on the back? Do I just leave it open to the structure or put a piece of brown paper over the back? I am in the “do-it-yourself” category but if I ever sell I want the most polished finish, front and back, as possible.
    Thanks

    1. I prefer to avoid paper on the back. While it can initially help with the appearance of the back, once it’s in a gallery and moving around a bit, it’s almost inevitable that the paper is going to get ripped, causing more work for the artist or gallery. Just try to keep the back orderly and presentable.

  9. Thanks Jason for all the work you put into your posts. When I paint on silk, I “frame” it by sewing a border in dupioni silk or a silky fabric and treat it as a banner. Other artists frame it, but then the exoticness of the silk is lost, in my view. Lately, when working a watercolor, I will glue it to a cradled board that I have painted and protect all of it with cold wax. Finally, when painting directly on a cradled wood panel in acrylic or oil (I have been using composite metal leaf underneath a lot lately), I have been painting up to the edge and simply painting the sides in a solid color to match the painting overall. Down the line, I will be using the composite leaf to create a border around the painting itself as well as on its four sides. I do not see how I can include a snapshot of my silk. No website yet but I am on Facebook.

  10. As I am painting, I am imagining the gallery and then the home my pieces will live in. I thought everyone did that. Usually, I work on Ampersand Art cradled panels. I love the consistency of the wood cradles. Only works on paper may get matted and then a plain black frame. But even those may get mounted on cradled panels and then sealed. I think this consistency helps me keep not get side tracked by frame shopping.

  11. My work is very abstract and rigorously geometric. I have been in the habit of framing in metal frames. Until- a good friend of mine asked why not wood. My answer was the cleanness of the metal and how it reflected a kind of preciseness. He suggested that without some sort of “warmth” that wood gives, the work was unapproachable strong and well presented as it was.
    I switched to a “museum” frame which is simple wood. I use a light oak almost exclusively.
    Wondering what you think.
    My paintings are gallery wrapped but I’m less and less able to do that myself.

  12. A couple years ago I converted most of my new work to be gallery wrapped. I am a watermedia artist creating either watercolor or fluid acrylic paintings and spent a lot of time developing a mounting and wrapping process that works well with watercolor paper. Because of the paper I varnish these pieces to both provide UV protection and to protect the paper from the environment.
    Prior to that I have a very consistent, traditional watercolor presentation using a white mat and modern brushed silver frame for most of my work. Occasionally if the colors of the piece screamed for a more bronze color versus silver I would you the same style moulding in bronze.
    My local gallery carries my work with both presentations: gallery wrapped and framed under gazing with white mat and frame. She seems to sell more work with the frame versus the gallery wrap. This gallery is on the east coast and the modern gallery wrapped style doesn’t seem quite as popular. So I put now have about a 50/50 split between gallery wrapped or varnished and framed without glass or mat in my new work.
    I’d love to include a photo but see not method to do that. Will look at providing by email.

  13. As always, you have pretty much covered the subject. I have been an artist and custom framer (my day job) for over 50 years, yes 50. I have managed framing operations in NYC, a variety rural and suburban locals. Years ago framing was the default although sometimes it was acceptable to put lath nailed to the stretchers as a semi-frame on work but very rarely.

    Most galleries did not accept anything less than framed work for a long time. That has obviously changed. At first for me, being an old timer in this, I felt it was simply about, the cost. Artists trying to avoid that cost of doing business, framing. For some mediums it’s a necessity simply because the work needs protection. I still have my reservations about the gallery wrap because of the protective aspect if nothing else. A gallery wrap leaves the art unprotected and thus more prone to being damaged unless one is very very good at moving the canvases about. They will more likely be damaged at some point. Half of what a frame does, from the framer in me, is to protect the work from the inevitable damage it will receive over time. I end up framing many gallery wrapped canvases that for one reason or another just don’t cut it unframed after a collector has had some time to live with the piece unframed. I have never had anyone ever ask me to stretch anything as a gallery wrap after it was framed. I don’t know what to say about that other than more often is still seemingly a financial decision more than aesthetic. I see it much of the time as, “getting dressed up for the ball” vs wearing a T-shirt. Some times a T-shirt is perfectly appropriate.

  14. I like gallery wraps. I paint in acrylics, and I extend the painting around the edges. It just seems like the right thing to do. I have since learned that galleries prefer the 1.5 inch minimum you mentioned, which makes sense on a 16 by 20 or larger painting. But I also do small 11 by 14 paintings that seem to look fine with the gallery wraps going around their 3/4 inch stretchers. I once saw a gorgeous painting in the frame shop that someone had bought in Italy. It had perfectly done gallery wrapping around it’s 2 inch border – full bright colors, and in thick textured strokes, perfectly bringing the beautiful colorful city harbor scene around the canvas. The client was having it framed. I was devastated. What a way to ruin a beautiful painting, all the work that artist had done. Well, I realize, once they it out of our hands, we have to let them go. I prefer minimal framing or gallery wraps – with the image going all around, not just a solid color painted around.

  15. Hi Jason,
    Great podcast. My question is what is your feeling on glass versus plexiglass on watercolors? Most shows require plexi. Also non glare versus regular ?
    Thanks
    Sue

  16. Thanks so much for answering my question Jason! I feel much more confident with my presentation now. One of the things I had wondered about was whether I needed to change from my pecan looking frames to black, but after what you said, I feel that my work shows best the way it is. All of my frames are similar wood. The quality is good, and seems to go with my subject matter best. I spend money on my framing because it shows off my work and justifies my pricing.
    ~Sylvia

  17. I work in pastels (soft) which requires not only framing, but matting as well. You did not say too much about that aspect of the framing. It’s pretty difficult to frame everything in a neutral ivory matt, for instance. I also consider that very boring, and certainly not as complimentary to the painting as some color coordinating matts. My subject manner is traditional, my framing is traditional, but my matts are always suede because of the saturation of their colors, which enhances the saturation of colors I use in my pastels. I use that as a sort of “branding” of my work, too. I frame to the highest museum conservation standards, which is expensive, but so is my work Do you have any opinions, yea or nay, on this viewpoint?

  18. Awesome video! Thank you for giving me the inspiration and advice to continue presenting my art. One important thing to finish my painting, is to be constant with the frame I use and the effect it has on it. I am an emerging artist. I love bright colors and I make white frames with wall trim molding, see: https://www.instagram.com/p/BuRzVrWnwp5/ https://www.instagram.com/p/BsqQ9etg6Mc/ https://www.instagram.com/p/BsgDld4Ai8_/ I will definitely take your advice and use better quality material.
    Cheers
    Ramona Marquez-Ramraj

  19. Thank you Jason. I strictly use gallery wrap 1-1/2″ canvases and am very consistent with the framing of my work. I do not frame larger pieces over 48×48, my question to you is: in your experience what do you think leaving sides unfinished so that it shows the hand of the artist, the history of the painting ?

    I do seem to sell more work with frames, yes it is expensive but the overall effect and finish helps decision making.

    Thank you! Nella

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