This post is by guest author, Natasha Isenhour. This article has been edited and published with the author's permission. You should submit an article and share your views as a guest author by clicking here.
To frame or not to frame, that is the question. It isnít really a choice on a lot of work. For instance, all of my pastels demand glass and frames. Meanwhile, I can be a bit more creative with my oils by choosing stretchers with wide side profiles to gallery wrap. Either way you choose to finish your work, to gallery wrap and paint or to frame, speaks volumes about the pride you take in your work itself.
I recently attended a prestigious national pastel show. Two of the most outstanding works in the show were presented horribly. Both artists have big names, yet they failed to take pride in the presentation of their work. One piece had a long hair (at least 10 inches!) on the inside of the glass! The other had a frame that looked to be a close cousin to a poster frame, with badly assembled corners and a very thin profile for such a large pastel. A sloppy presentation can pull the focus right off a beautifully executed work of art.
Trust me, I am not at all saying that we should be custom framing our work. I tried that route and it scarcely left enough money to buy the supplies I needed to create more work! But after years of refining how I go about things, I have found a way that is affordable, efficient, and something that the galleries are happy with. Thatís been a trick!
The internet is full of resources for frames. When I was actively trying to find a solution, I would spot order frames from different companies to check quality and to check for efficient processing and shipping. When I settled on something I liked, I had to make some decisions. I could routinely pay for custom sizes or I could get happy with the painting format of some standard sizes, which are always less expensive to frame and usually you can find them in stock.
Personally I feel like ďless is moreĒ when it comes to frame design. My galleries all prefer less ornate frames. That works for me because it saves me money! Also, luckily, the nature of my work commands a more simple framing approach.
Then there is color to consider. Galleries can be fickle sometimes. What they say they want changes with their customers' response to what is on the walls. My gallery partner's new Santa Fe representative, declared they liked gold frames at the onset and now talk about how much they like the black frames. Luckily, she and I both have chosen to stock both black and gold to have at the ready in the studio. I have repeatedly had both my Santa Fe and various Arizona connections let me know they swapped a frame from one of mine to another in order to close a sale. They can because the frames are really well done and the style is exactly the same except for the color. I choose the color that I feel best fits the work, but why would I let my opinion interfere in a sale?
As for backing, wire and hooks, oh boy. Iíve seen it all! For me, again, it is about consistency. It really doesnít cost more to buy a big roll of plastic coated wire versus that braided un-coated stuff that requires a tetanus shot. Buy appropriately sized hinges in bulk instead of eyehooks that force your work to sit away from the wall. And if it is behind glass, paper it! A roll of heavy brown craft paper and some roller glue or double backed tape can be found anywhere under $5. That will be enough for a lot of paintings! If you take the time to honor your work enough to finish it properly, I promise your customers and gallery owners will notice!
USE GOOD GLASS! Again, buy bulk from a glass distributor. My closest resource is 100 miles away, one way. They deliver through here once every two weeks and charge about $20. Cheaper than the gas and the time to go up! So I order AR glass. Not the non-glare glass that makes things fuzzy if you view it from the side. This glass is clear and doesnít show a customer a lovely reflection of their face when they approach a framed work. From a distance, you canít see the glass at all! Buy it wholesale and take it to your local home/auto glass business and map out the cuts for sizes that you need, typically a dollar a cut. You wonít believe the money youíll save and how much better your work will present with good glass!
Lastly, when it comes to the gallery wrapped oils, I choose a profile that is at least an inch and a half minimum. If you are planning to finish off a piece that doesnít look like you were trying to slide under the radar and simply not go to the trouble to frame it, there are a few simple guidelines that I find extremely effective. The canvas depth from the wall needs to be wide enough that it looks like you intended to present the piece as one that can stand strongly alone without a frame. Obviously there are to be no staples on the sides and there should be careful consideration with the neatness of the corners. For myself, I ALWAYS continue the composition around the left and right sides and often the top as well. The bottom is frequently a well thought out color that works with the composition as it goes off the canvas at the bottom.
Again, these are only suggestions based on what took years to develop and has worked beautifully for me for years since. It is economical, efficient and thoughtful without taking so much time out of the studio on the hunt. I know it is working by the comments from clients that move through our studio on a daily basis. I smile every time knowing the paintings I raised are dressed to go anywhere!
This is only one person's solution. I am sure there are many, many more helpful ideas out there to share! Letís raise the bar in ďThe Frame Game.Ē