Framing Your Artwork

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The frame is what gives a work of art a finished appearance.

It highlights and gives stature to the piece.

It is not, however, the focal point of the artwork. It is subordinate and should not interfere with the message of the artist’s work.

Museums and places of historic interest are filled to the brim with ornate, filigreed, gilded and bejeweled frames that overwhelm the artwork they adorn. These extravagant carved concoctions in great museums of the world do not give credence to the notion that contemporary artists should frame their work in like manner.

Styles Of Frames

There seems to be a new tradition for framing, or the lack thereof. Many acrylic and oil painters coat the sides of the canvas black. Just add screw eyes, wire and voilà, ready-to-hang artwork. This is considered au currant and seen in home décor magazines and art galleries as a popular method for displaying canvases. Although popular, some consider it a cheap, expedient way to present a painting.

Before this trend of the no-frame style, artists who wanted a minimalist frame would edge the canvas with wood strips. This covers and protects the canvas edges, and gives a finished appearance to the piece. A rustic, country piece might be edged with rough-hewn, natural wood while other traditional paintings are edged with stained and varnished pieces. This is not difficult, and requires little time or cost.

Contemporary paintings are often framed in narrow, metal framing. They are available in a variety of widths, finishes, and metal tones, both ready-to-use frames and do-it-yourself pieces. These are inexpensive and easy to construct. This framing works well for watercolor and other paper supports. There are also metal frames for canvas paintings as well, and are easy DIY projects. They are, however, entirely different in physical structure and are not generally interchangeable.

Canvases, because of their depth and weight, require a different type of frame. There are infinite styles and types of framing available and a premade frame is the easiest choice for artists working on canvas.

Wooden framing material for canvases is available in precut lengths, as well as longer lengths that the artist will custom cut to build his frame. Constructing wooden frames require woodworking skills and good miter cutting equipment. This is certainly a fine skill to acquire, but many artists find it either too time consuming or lack the proficiency to make perfect miters. A better alternative may be a good working relationship with a quality frame shop.

A Frame For All Seasons

Selecting a great frame for a painting is not the easiest part of an artist’s job. It is a little like choosing wallpaper. With so many choices, it is easy to become overwhelmed. Artists who paint in a particular genre, or return to a theme or style repeatedly may opt for similar frames for each piece in a series of work. Once they have found a frame that complements their work, they stick with it. There is certainly nothing wrong with using the same style frame for multiple images, and adds continuity to a series that ties them together visually. Using the same frame over a period of time also has the advantage of lessening the inventory of frames an artist has on hand, and may allow the artist to purchase in bulk at reduced pricing.

As mentioned before, a frame should not compete with the artwork. Adding to the theme is important; coloring and intricacy should be in keeping with the overall appearance of the artwork. Subtlety and restraint will give far more to the artwork than a showy, flashy frame.

Art VS Home Décor

There are really two categories of framing, just as there are two types of paintings. A significant piece of work, intended as a statement of excellence in artistic ability and vision may be framed quite differently than a painting done for the general consumer. The frame for this painting may be very stark, allowing nothing to interfere with the focus of the painting.

Then there is the painting that will end up being the focal point of someone’s dining or living room. Although the artist may want his work to entice a viewer with his outstanding painting ability, an average customer will buy a painting for colors, theme and style. Therefore, it is important to frame a painting to blend harmoniously with the colors of the painting, taking into account the theme and genre. These frames will have more color and complexity, based on the painting’s subject and overall premise.

Choosing suitable frames is an ability a student will develop, just as he develops his painting skills. He should spend time learning about frames, and browse the different styles available.

Knowing what is available, selecting the right frame, and the ability to mount a painting is just another piece of the puzzle in becoming a working artist.

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