Monday, 17 August 2009

You Been Framed!

If you are an artist, would you want advice about your framing? Choosing the right frame is quite difficult as much of it is down to personal taste but I sometimes wonder whether artists put enough thought into their choice of framing. What do you think?

Choosing framing to complement your art says a lot about how much you value your work. At Keighley Arts Factory we see a lot of framed (and unframed) art and we have seen the good, the bad and the just plain ugly. Our pet hates are:
  • plastic frames from Matalan or similar stores
  • paintings cut down to fit the frame
  • old photo frames or re-used frames
  • badly mitred frames
  • badly cut mount board
  • badly fitting frames

A well made, well presented frame can make all the difference to whether your work gets accepted for exhibitions or open shows.

My personal dislikes are (and you can disagree with me in the Comments)*:

  • brushed gold, silver or bronze moulding (sooo 1990s)
  • thin plastic moulding (sooo 1980s)
  • metallic or dark coloured mount board
  • mount board chosen to pick out a colour in the painting
  • mount board with differing measurements at top, sides and base
  • Box canvases

Mount Board. What is wrong with ivory, cream or black? and why the fancy ruled line in a contrasting colour? Why do you want the mount board to stand out anyway? Surely it's better to let the painting sell itself and, if the customer wants to mount the art in a sludgy green or maroon, they can change it. Why cut the mount board yourself with that blunt Stanley or Xacto knife? Those jaggedy edges stand out a mile and detract from your art. A bevel edge looks so much better and if you don't possess a professional mount cutting machine - go to the frame maker.

Framing. Why did you pick that expensive heavy brushed metallic moulding to frame your art? Are you hoping that a customer might buy it to match their leather sofa or their wallpaper? What kind of philistine buys art to match their decor anyway - Isn't that what Ikea's for? The rule of K.I.S.S. should apply to choosing moulding (Keep it simple, s....) My idea of a good frame is a pale wood, dark wood or ebony frame that allows the art to speak for itself.... and it's not the most expensive moulding in the shop.

Box Canvas. OK. So you can buy them for pennies these days (they even sell them in Poundland) and they save you the hassle of framing your work and they make you feel like a "real" artist. But the box canvas is the poor man's stretched canvas in standard sizes and nasty textured surface. Then there's those annoying sides - do you leave them bare or do you wrap the painting around them? Recently I overheard a visitor criticizing one of our exhibiting artists because he had left the sides of his STRETCHED canvas messy instead of painting around the edges. Wha....??? It's a serious piece of art - who cares about the sides? It can be framed later or left as it is. I would rather see brush strokes and smudges than dabbed edges.

Frame Makers. You get what you pay for and it SHOWS. Frame making is a highly skilled profession and a properly framed piece of work should have mitred edges, bevelled mount board, pinned and taped at the back, D rings with taut hanging wire or nylon cord and clean glass. Cheap framing is exactly that - cheap. So if you are wandering around the junk shop looking for a frame to match your painting/print/photograph - go seek a trained professional.

I guess it's really about how much you value your art compared to how much effort you will go to present it well.

*The personal comments of the author do not reflect the opinions of Keighley Arts Factory.


  1. Hi Jo,
    I basically agree with nearly everything you're saying. Yes, gold & plastic frames look tacky and badly cut mount board looks rubbish. It can make a huge difference to your work how you frame it, the size and colour of the mount and frame and the quality of the finish.
    But, I have to say that it can cost a fortune to have all your work professionally framed. A good framer will charge from £30 upwards to mount and frame an artwork, and if you are framing anything large, or you want double mounts it can get very expensive.
    So most artists will try to cut costs by framing themselves. Also, framing shops strangely don't have many simple wooden mouldings to choose from, just a large selection of fake wood and metallic over-fancy styles, and one or two plain wooden ones for pretty shocking prices (they often are the most expensive in the shop). So the temptation to go to IKEA for frames is pretty strong, as they have a nice line in simple wooden frames.
    You can buy some quite good mount cutting equipment for relatively little, but having tried mounting myself I'll admit it is an art and it can be really frustrating. Sometimes you get it right, and sometimes it goes jaggedy. After the expense of the frame and mount, the trauma of getting a dust free frame can be equally stressful...
    So, the choice isn't easy - shell out hundreds on frames or go through the stress and hassle of framing yourself. Either way you could still end up with a tiny spec of dust in the wrong place...

    In an ideal world, yes, I would have all my paintings professionally framed. But it's just not financially practical.
    I was very lucky that my dad decided to take up framing earlier this year and he framed around 15 of my paintings for a group exhibition I put on, you can see pictures from the exhibition here:
    The paintings I exhibited were a mixture of ones I'd framed, ones I'd had professionally framed and ones my dad framed, I think the mixture looked pretty good in the end, but I'd be very interested in your thoughts...

  2. I hear what you are saying and I understand about costs. But this is about submitting your work for exhibition - badly framed work doesn't sell. If your frmemaker doesn't have plain moulding find another one. I use Weaverbird in Ilkley, excellent service and professinal advice every time. (Nice Flickr pics BTW).