So, once you’re completed a painting that your pleased with, or purchased a painting at a gallery or show which is unframed, the next step is to decide to frame it (or not) and get it on your wall! Here’s some framing tips from my perspective as an artist and former gallery owner!
A Guide to Why it’s Framed…or Not
We’ve all been there. We find a great little piece and think “I love it, but I don’t love the frame.” The Gallery owner may say, “No Problem..I’ll take it out” or…No Can Do.” Why? What’s the difference and what can you do about it? (This custom frame job would make me reluctant to unframe!)
First, “why can’t I buy that without the frame?”. I’ve heard the question enough, I know a good percentage of you ask. Most of the time, the answer is simple. In many cases, shipping or packing a piece of work without framing may significantly increase the likelihood of damage to the piece. Take a pastel, oil pastel, or traditional watercolor, and taking the piece out of the frame, and in this case, the glass, put’s the piece at risk. Pastel is loosely affixed to it’s media, usually an archival “sanded” paper. It is framed substantially away from the glass and the mat. This is done to prevent static electricity from pulling pastel from the paper and sticking it to the mat and glass. Taking it out of its frame requires great care in packing and shipping (read: $$). Not that it can’t be done….just that it takes much more care in packing. Similarly, oil pastel works on paper require framing behind glass, because they never really dry. Shipping without adequate protection increases the likelihood of smudging. Traditional watercolor (on paper) is susceptible to damage from moisture and scratching.
That said, there are still ways to avoid the dangers and get the frame job you love. The first possibility is to take the whole piece to your favorite framer and have it unframed, and re-framed by a professional. Why go to that expense? If your piece is not a “stock” size, then cutting mats, mounting, spacing and framing can make the most prolific artist shudder. If, on the other hand, your piece is a “standard” or “stock” size, it may be as simple as picking up a pre-cut mat and frame from Hobby Lobby or Michael’s. So, what is a stock size? 4 x 6, 5 x 7, 8 x 10, 9 x 12, 11 x 14, 12 x 16, 16 x 20, 18 x 24 (all in inches) are standard stock sizes for most pre-made frames, many pre-made mats and many pre-packaged paks of glass and foam core.
If your original is 15 1/2 x 22 (a standard 1/2 sheet of watercolor paper) or other non-stock size, you may find it difficult to do it yourself. The warehouse stores (like Hobby Lobby and Michael’s) are often a less expensive option, though they won’t offer as wide a range of high quality framing options as most professional frame shops. In the early days I seldom framed my own work. I said, “I’m the professional at painting. Let the framing professional do the framing.” I tended to wind up with bloody fingers and great stress. Now, though if I need a frame, which I mostly don’t, I use www.pictureframes.com where I can upload an image of my piece and test it with different mat colors/styles and frames. They cut everything to my specifications and ship it to me. They use good quality acrylic in lieu of glass which is helpful in keeping the overall weight down. Just don’t clean it with Windex…it will scratch the surface. You can pick up a good “plastic cleaner” from Walmart or just about any grocery store. It is actually quite affordable, and as long as you got your measurements right, it is even easy to put together!
What about those new watercolors on canvas or panel? Those oils and acrylics on canvas…all with painted edges, unframed? They are actually suitable as they are..and often hang that way in galleries and homes, and museums. Unframed canvases don’t work in your decor? Ask your frame shop about “floating Canvas frames”. These frames, are as high quality as any other wood moulding, will “float” the canvas in the frame, allowing those painted edges to be seen while giving a more traditional look to the piece. More and more artists are moving to the canvas or panels with new canvas being “watercolor ready”. I love it. I love that the canvas or panels can take layers and layers of watercolor, that I can finish it with protective, invisible, non yellowing varnish, and that there is no glass or frame necessarily required, saving me and my customer LOTS OF MONEY! If I can save $200-$400 in framing, just think what you save when you buy it! Plus, remember those standard sizes above? Most stock canvases are in those sizes as well. It’s not until you get into large, custom stretched canvas or custom ordered panels that you get outside those sizes. And most of those are sold unframed, with painted edges.
So…next time you feel prompted to ask about that frame, consider this article..What is the medium? Are you shipping it? Can you get it safely home? But by all means, ask. I’ll answer your questions and help you choose the best course.