Frames can make or break your picture

Lesson learned. Don’t rush to frame for a show.  Take the time necessary to find the right framer and the right frame to enhance or not diminish your work of art. Creating it was the work and the pleasure, and it reflects who you are as an artist and a talent. Don’t frame it in a gaudy gold frivolous frame nor box it into a squeeze with half it’s stretcher sticking out the backend. Keep it trim, streamlined, refined and simple, and consistently frame all your paintings the same way.

I used a chain store frame shop (Michaels) which I now regret. Knowing little about framing and other than it should enhance and not detract or fight with one’s painting, I trusted the advice of professional framers. Who knew they had quotas to fill and even though their sales shifted from one side of the sample frame wall to the opposite side with the regularity of an active seesaw, I spent thousands of my hard earned dollars on frames that I have since needed to remove.

When I had to go elsewhere for framing, because they took two weeks turnaround time and I needed my painting framed in a rush and didn’t want to pay a huge surcharge, I’d be told again a again, that they don’t know how to frame at Michaels.  One woman who worked at an upscale  frameshop (LI Picture Frame) told me she used to work for them, and not to trust them. I thought she was speaking as a competitor and not being honest with me. “Trust me, I know what I’m talking about,” she said.  I secretly shook my head.  Jealousy, must be the reason to bash the competition, I thought. Nope. She was right.  I found out the hard way.

I have had several paintings removed from the frames they were in, because I had been advised that the frames were doing a disservice to my art.  The advice came from an artist who has decades of artful wisdom from experience.  Everything should be flat and plan and I could go to a lumber yard or Home Depot and get the trim/lattice wood and have it cut to size and it can be painted, and then nail it on (as my mother often did with larger paintings) ,or frame using the flattest, simplest frames, or better yet, since I paint to the edges more often than not, get floater frames.  Floater frames are installed in a more time consuming way and are more costly to purchase.  The picture is laid into the frame which envelopes and holds it. It is good for showing in galleries, especially. It evokes sophistication and good taste.

Each time I had a painting removed from one of the substandard framer’s machinations, it turned out there was a board attached to the back of the painting (not good, because the canvas needs to breathe. It expands and condenses), and the frame was stapled to the board and stretcher of the painting.  It was difficult to extricate the original painting from the hack job. You can imagine how disappointed and angry I have been, as the big spender at that framing department, where I was duped repeatedly. They saw a fool coming. That is why I want to protect others from the same folly. Yes, I take responsibility and it is costing me.  I was too trusting and believed the hype about knowing what they were doing with years of hands-on experience.  I had a favorite framer, who knew what he was doing and did it anyway (cheated me by improperly framing my precious artwork).

Thinking about the Art Guild’s Clothesline Exhibition Sale in East Hampton this coming Saturday, I looked through my inventory of paintings to determine which ones I would include in the sale, and three of them seemed sorely out of place with the rest, because of their awful frames.  Two protruded out the back, overly wrapped in white paper (to conceal the crime of taking a deep gallery wrap canvas and cramping it in a shallow frame. It should have been in a deep floater frame or not framed, painting white around the sides, and hung with  a wire. Instead the two were forced into frames that diminished their appearance and threatened their flatness to the wall and ruined the effect.  That was not what I paid for and fortunately Stu Art on Grand Avenue in Baldwin, NY rescued my little gems. One refused to budge and they had to slam the frame after asking if it was okay to break it, and they got it out eventually. The backs were deep and sticky. The other framer used sticky glue to assist in the slaughter of the aesthetic.

In total on Monday, I had three paintings removed from hideous frames. I reworked the one that was hidden within a (an additional) gaudy red liner and frilly old fashioned gold frame. Lisa, one of the store employees, said, holding back laughter, “that frame looked like it belonged in a bordello.”

Now out of harm’s way, that the painting, entitled “Redacity II” has been looks much better. The other two are small and I may leave them with only wire (on the back), since they are on deep chunky stretchers.

Unlike professional skilled employees of a dedicated frame shop like Stu Art and LI Picture Frame, and many equally reputable frame shops, I caution you to be sure your frames are not glued and stapled to boards on the back of the canvas and to the stretchers. I am embarrassed, because I had that “bordello” painting on display in the rotational art show of Oyster Bay last year!

In conclusion, I paid twice to frame, with reframing. The thought sickens me, and I think perhaps I should have gone back to that store and brought the frames and demanded a refund of some of the money I spent. Instead, of trouble and heated demands, I rationalized away the upset. What I got in exchange was an invaluable lesson. Plus, I was able to hang more than 20 paintings here and there and everywhere I was scheduled to exhibit. I wasn’t excluded for not having framed work (as frames are required unless in some cases if deep, gallery wrapped canvases with wires are permitted). I have to think of thousands of dollars wasted as not a waste, but instead as education and high rental fees for usage — while they lasted.

Please dear friends, frame only when you know you will need to have it for a show and go to a recommended frame shop, not a department in an arts and crafts store. That’s fine for photographs and diplomas, but not for fine art, unless you don’t care.

Had I reframed my “Blue Rhapsody” and taken it out of the “grandma’s attic” frame (from that store) and put it in the floater frame  from Stu Art before exhibiting it, I might have been awarded something better than Honorable Mention for that gem.  The frame can make or break how your painting is viewed by others. Trust me on this one. (Thank you Joyce Kubat for your  original advice!)

By painter unknown. This is the right frame for this painting.

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