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Framing

Framing your new original art has many benefits although the thought of getting your picture framed may seem fraught with difficulties. It is not always easy to find a good framer you trust and are happy to give your beautiful original artwork to.

By opting for a quality framing, it will transform your original painting, and add to the visual impact of the work. It will protect the surface and structure of the artwork from environmental pollution and cumulative effects of ageing due to handling.

Although it does involve expense, it pays to make the frame a good one and for the work to be done by a qualified professional framer. It is important that you consider the frame has an influence on how the artwork is perceived or viewed. So it is important to keep to the integrity of the picture as much as possible and to choose a frame that fits in wherever it will be hung.

Importantly, the frame needs to be serve the artwork, so pick a design and materials that allows the work to shine. When you take the artwork to be framed, your professional framer will be able to help you choose a frame and materials.

Here are a couple of framing tips for you…

Glazing

The artwork should be kept millimetres away from the glass covering (separated by the mat in paper artwork) and shouldn’t touch the glazed surface.

Use glass for framing work with loose particles or pigments such as charcoal or pencil drawings.

Types of acrylic plexiglass are preferable, lighter, less prone to cracking or shattering on impact and can have a protective UV surface to preserve the lightfastness of the colours. The only problems are that you cannot use glass cleaners.

With artwork on paper, the amount of mat showing is proportionally visually larger at the bottom than at the top, the materials need to be completely acid-free and the work is hinged to its support using strips of acid-free paper and adhesive, never stuck to the support entirely (dry mounted).

Your choice of frame

With oil paintings, the objective (aside from achieving an aesthetic fit with the work) is to fit your canvas into the frame comfortably and securely with some leeway for expansion and contraction in the materials, without permanently attaching the painting to the frame irreparably (using nails etc. mean that if you wish to remove the canvas from the frame at a later date, you cannot do it without damaging both the stretcher and the frame).

The frame needs to be roughly 1 cm larger than the canvas, and held snug to the canvas by using either traditional materials such as cork or felt. Finally, brass mending strips (in a flat or a Z shape) can be screwed to the frame to keep it all in place.

If you have acquired a work painted on a gallery canvas (with deep profile stretchers of around an inch or two) and wish to hang it without a frame for a long period of time, you will need to provide additional support to the stretchers to prevent warping (less so for sturdier hardwood stretchers). Triangles of wood can be attached to the stretchers in the top corners to help lessen the load.

Your choice of frame should always start and with the work of art itself. The frame serves the picture, protects it and enriches its visual power. The way it enriches the picture, i.e. the choice of frame is your free choice of course, and with so many options, how do you choose?

You want to end up with a picture or pictures that ’sing’ in their hanging environment, serving the picture and complementing your interior. You could think of the frame smoothing the visual gap between the colour, tone or style of the interior and the painting (a transition between the wall and the painting).

As a broad guideline – as there are no hard and fast rules, if your painting is lighter or darker than the interior, complement them both with a medium tone frame. If your painting is very similar in tone to the interior, say cream walls and a white painting, you could try to go ever so slightly darker or lighter – just enough to create a comfortable difference in tone between the painting and the wall without detracting from the painting in any way.

For modern interiors – a clean frame made of modern materials and free of decoration, for traditional interiors – a more decorative, traditionally made frame is another guideline in keeping with the principles mentioned above of providing a transition between painting and interior.

Matting

Works on paper, generally require matting, an area of acid-free coloured board mounting separating the work from the frame. The advantages of matting, aside from the required protection it offers the artwork, boil down to personal visual choice. You choose the matting area size and colour, giving you reign to manage the perceived size of the artwork and allow a smoother transition to the interior wall (again, the same principle of gradating from picture to interior applies).

The right size mat is important, so that your frame fits well to the artwork. Larger mats tend to suit smaller, lone artworks but go too large and you risk isolating the artwork, particularly if you have a series of artworks hung together causing you to ‘lose’ the artwork in their frames. Smaller mats are generally preferred for use with larger works on paper. As a practical starting point, double the dimensions of your artwork to reach the approximate size of your frame including mat, a 40 x 30 cms watercolour painting means using a frame 80 x 60 cms.

Choose your mat colour along the lines of a transition to the colour and tone of the interior. If in doubt, choose a neutral colour, which will also transfer to other hanging environments (which can save you the cost of re-matting in a different colour).

Another detail that can be overlooked in coloured mats is the visual impact of the mat edging (showing the colour of the core). This can be an issue when the core colour mismatches the surface colour of the mat, giving you a brilliant white edge for example that may not be intended.

Oil paintings should follow the same principles and are in some ways slightly more emphasis lies on choosing the correct frame (as there are no matting requirements). A starting point, it is useful to really look at the artwork and determine the visual feelings emanating from it, its genre, whether it is traditional or contemporary or its style of execution and base your framing decisions on all the visual information you can gather about the work.

There are a vast choice of frames available but a good guide is narrowing down the choice is by choosing one in sympathy with the work itself as much as possible, taking into account the hanging environment.

There are always exceptions to these main rules of course and if you have a strong vision of what your framing should be (assuming you keep your artwork at the forefront of the process), go ahead, your professional framer should be able to help you and advise you on creating the unique effect you are after.

If you are looking for a framer, please refer to the list of recommended qualified UK framers from the Fine Arts & Trade Guild website.

Do you have any further questions or would like any more information about original art? Please feel free to contact me.