On Framing Art

After all his technical mastery has whipped and cudgeled the demon of inspiration into a worthy picture, the artist is faced with the dismaying proposition of framing it, usually at the last minute–the submission deadline looming with a spectral menace in the haunted house of his slovenly procrastination. However, with just a little advance planning and adherence to a few basic principles, framing is a relatively simple problem to solve. Find a framer whose workmanship and design taste you can trust, KEEP IT SIMPLE, and include the cost of framing in the price you charge for a finished work.

Framing protects a picture from unrelenting environmental pressures, such as air pollution and the ultraviolet spectrum of light, which are usually taken care of by glazing and matting (varnishing is the artist’s–not the framer’s–responsibility). It also presents the picture in a special “sacred” space, commanding the viewer’s shift of focus to a heightened aesthetic awareness, where the frame outlines and isolates that special space from its surroundings. Finally, it makes a picture relatively inaccessible, so that the artist stops working on it, which is the only true definition of “finished”. Once these provisions are satisfied, the artist’s framing responsibilities are done.

It is an entirely foolish exercise in narcissism to agonize over whether one’s drawing or painting is “overwhelmed” by the frame–if that is actually the case, then the picture is certainly a bad one. If someone won’t buy because the frame is unacceptable, the artist should be ready to take the picture from the frame at a (slight) discount. Despite normal aesthetic considerations, the artist’s presentation should be as simple (and inexpensive) as possible, with the bulk of his care going to the protection of the piece, and the buyer’s responsibility is to frame according to their personal decorative taste.

 

Doug Riggs

originally posted 11/ 07/11

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