Posts Tagged ‘framing’


So you’d think having been a professional picture framer for like 25 years, I’d be able to know almost magically what frame looks best on my own artwork. Not always so. Or at least my opinion can be swayed.

Here’s an example. Daisy, my sweet little yellow heifer, the first of all the cows for the exhibit this September was sitting in my back room with 2 different samples dangling off the corners. One orange one tangerine yellow. I favored the yellow but most people who ambled into my framing room (in fact all who weighed in liked the orange) so despite personally preferring the yellow, orange is what I got.

Now I know it doesn’t look it but the frame was actually quite expensive, even at cost. It was a deal where my supplier had to special order it from their supplier. So once I got it, I immediately regretted it but couldn’t bring myself to essentially just toss away a pricey frame. I thought … “Meh, I’ll get used to it and eventually it won’t matter.”


Over a year later it still bugged me. But rather than spending big bucks all over again getting the same frame in yellow, another frame line became available which I love. It has ripples running through it which add some whimsy and I’ve actually used this frame in different colors on a couple of my other “Happy Heifers.”  So I ordered it.

A Story To Illustrate My Point

One thing I’ve learned is that what I like (regarding my own art or framing) is not necessarily the best choice for everyone. In fact last year at an art festival I had a customer (who currently has an original of mine) looking at another original piece, went into hysterics over the hideousness of the frame. So she had me try to cover the frame because she just couldn’t get past her overly vocal revulsion, in order to visualize it without. This went on for 15 minutes or more with a packed booth of other people wanting to buy. Finally she left, to my great relief. The next customer in line said “Just so you know, I love that frame and think it makes the painting.”

So there ya go.

You get to weigh in

None the less I am curious, since everyone who offered an opinion at the gallery went orange, I’d like to know what you all think. Just so you know it won’t change anything but I am a glutton for market research and information.

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I recently had an original watercolor painting (well two actually) come through my gallery and to the shock of both the artist and myself there was a rather apparent difference between the part of the painting that was under the mat and the part of the painting that wasn’t.

At first i thought it was a matter of fading but no … this color shift is the result of acids from a non-conservation matboard having migrated into the artwork. Now normally something like this takes many, many years but in this case the damage was done within a matter of a couple of years.

The mat boards used were SRM boards made by crescent. I tell you this not to shame crescent (though they certainly should be because seriously, this is egregious) but to inform the many artists and really anyone looking to frame well … pretty much anything.


SRM boards are non conservation grade mats that are made to look like conservation boards in that their bevel is a bright white and doesn’t yellow over time like ordinary paper mat. That’s usually the easiest way to tell if you have conservation or archival matting, by the color of the bevel. Archival stays a bright white while paper board yellows and darkens more so as the years progress.

So artists beware … the SRM matboard is to be avoided when framing. Yeah, pretty much don’t put this stuff on anything.

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So pictured above is my Birds Of A Feather painting sporting a white linen liner. I hate the white. It does nothing for the piece which I was pretty sure was the case when I ordered it but I was hoping by some small miracle that it would somehow be magical when I put it on the painting;. Alas no.

Now I have covered my share of liners in the past and it’s kinda messy and much easier to do when the liner is yet to be assembled (as this one clearly is) so I thought I’d cheat fate by trying to create a colored liner without covering it in fabric.

My totally brilliant and genius idea?

Dye it.

Yup so I went to my local Hobby Lobby and nearly through my shoulder out with all the patting myself on the back because i used my superior intellect and creative genius to get a finished result with far less effort. I select the dye called Tulip Red though was very drawn to Flamingo Pink and thought I might be mocking the fates by passing up on that color. In the end it really mattered not at all.

So I return home, covering my framing table with multiple layers of cardboard and mix up half the packet. I sponge it on and gasp! … it is hot pink.

I run to the bathroom pour out most of the batch and dump the remaining dye in my bowl and dissolve and try again. This time it covers as red. Whew!

After the first coat dries it still looks a little pink so I add another coat… and another … and another. After the 4th coat it looks like a good red to me. I go home that night still happy despite the dyeing taking more time than it would have to cover the liner in fabric.

And then a horrific thought occurs to me. What might happen if the newly died liner ever gets wet. Ruined Flamingos is my guess. Mind you it would have to get really really wet. But then again I do do outdoor art fairs. So ….

At any rate I plan to spray on a coat of fixative (yeah like that would help) before assembling.

I go in the next morning looking forward to putting the flamingos in the newly colored liner and “What the F…?”

No idea why it did this but over the next few days it had morphed into a myriad of colors. At one point it was completely that milky pink color but then it started reversing and getting dark areas again. After a brief moment or two of pondering the marketing strategy of calling it a mood liner (You know it changes color to suit your mood … or the humidity) or perhaps saying it was possessed by the spirit of flamingos long passed I opted to just cover it in fabric. (you know like I should have done from the beginning.)

I go to our locl hardware to get some spray glue and my option are unknown cheapy McCheapo Brand X glue or 3M which is my spray glue of choice. However they only have a huge can for like $20 so I opted fo Brand X and hope it holds.

Currently the liner now looks like this. I plan to make a new squidoo page on covering liners (most likely next winter when I have time) and so will go over the steps thoroughly though my photos leave something to be desired. I will of course cover the topic here as well.

Lesson Learned
So here’s the kicker. I will more than likely buy another liner (most likely raw – meaning not already covered in linen) and cover it. I will also more than likely buy some 3M glue while I’m at it. The idea of the dye bleeding when wet is freaking me out and I can’t believe it hadn’t even crossed my mind until AFTER I dyed the thing. So the moral of the story?

Do it right the first time.

Trying to be clever in the hopes of saving a bit of time has cost me a package of dye, a can of cheapy McCheapo spray glue and a perfectly good liner that I have now ruined and will need to replace and much, much more time as I have dye it four time and in the end will be covering 2 liners.

Ah well. Had it worked I would have been touting myself as a framing wizard of unparalleled brilliance. Sigh. Maybe next time

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Customer Testimonial

This is part of a letter I received from a framing customer a couple of days back. It made me laugh out loud so I thought I would share.

John was unwrapping everything for me, while I was eating. He didn’t quite have the Roses undone and the wrapping fell off mid-bite. I dropped my fork and said “HOLY CRAP!” It was a good “HOLY CRAP!” I thanked Mary-Ellen just the other day for sending you my way. -Kathy H.

Framing and the art business
Even though I have been framing for over 20 years (my how time flies) I really don’t talk much about the framing aspect of my business. I suppose there usually is not very much to say. Of the three branches to Wild Faces Gallery (The Art, The Printing Service and The Framing) it is the framing that has the highest cost and is most labor intensive to profit ratio of all of them.

Much like the printing service, framing is something I do for my art business, so we just branched out to include it for other people. What surprises me is that I still occasionally get new non-local framing customers who ship me their framing projects from out of state. Kathy lives in a large city with dozens of frame shops and yet I am her framer now. I’ve done about a dozen projects for her in the past 12 months and she has gone on to refer me to someone else, who I have now done several projects for. Amazing.

My favorite framing story
It happens that every so often I do a project for someone which impacts them emotionally. Shadowboxing some memorabilia or preserving some family treasure.

A local person had some needlework she had done 30 years ago or so. Her kids no longer wanted them hanging in their homes and gave them back. She came in apologizing about even thinking that they were worthy of reframing. She has rheumatoid arthritis and at this point needlework was beyond her capabilities. I told her it was not my decision whether they were worthy to be reframed, but I thought they were in good shape. And despite their age they should frame up nicely. I instructed her in washing them and then reframed them for her, adding a few decorative cuts to the matting. She came in and was quite pleased. I was relieved because it was costly to reframe them and since she had reservations, I was a little nervous.

As I was helping her out to her car with the items. She turned to me, a little teary eyed and gave me a big hug. Now I’ve known this person for years but we rarely exchanged more than a greeting. A hug was a big surprise.

As we get busier I occasionally contemplate cutting the framing part of the business. But it’s those kind of moments that insure I will continue to frame.

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Caring For Your Artwork And Prints

This post is a spin off from the giclee print information posts. Basically caring for your prints is much the same as caring for your original works

The four major causes of damage to artwork are:

1. Light Unless you are storing art in the dark (which is actually recommended for artwork not currently out for sale or display) it will be in some sort of light and all light will cause damage. Light causes fading, and eventually destroys both paper and canvas.

The order of UV damage from light is:
Sunlight, (most harmful)
Incandescent (least harmful.)

2. Temperature. Quick shifts between extreme temperatures should be avoided. Ideal temps run between 50-70 degrees. Heat will speed deterioration and cold causes brittleness.

“I know it (quality framing) costs more, but if your trying to convince a buyer your work is valuable, you need to treat it like it actually is.”

3. Humidity. As with temperature, extreme shifts in humidity should be avoided. Too much dampness causes papers and canvas to expand. And when the humidity goes down, these items then contract which can cause cracking and warping. Ideal humidity is about 50%. 70% or higher promotes mold growth.

4. Acidic Materials. Like cardboard, wood or non-conservation grade matboard are to be avoided for both framing or storage. The acids in these materials cause yellowing and discoloration and will eventually ruin the artwork.

So with these potential hazards in mind you should never

  • Never store or hang art in direct sunlight. Also at one time it was very much the thing to do, but you should not have a light hung over a painting to showcase it.
  • Never hang art over a heater or fireplace that is used.
  • Likewise never hang art in a kitchen or bathroom, on an outside wall (kinda hard to avoid that one.)
  • Never leave artwork in a tube, (because it will bend the art, if left over time when unrolled may cause cracking and also because of the acidic cardboard) always store art flat surrounded with acid free materials.
  • Essentially the best way to protect your art is to have it framed properly (um . . . and then stored in a very dark, environmentally friendly closet. Just kidding . . . sort of.)

    I will once again remind you that when you’re framing your work, spend the extra $$ and get it done properly. I know it costs more, but if your trying to convince a buyer your work is valuable, you need to treat it like it actually is. Also it is a huge selling point. Trust me on this. Anyone who knows and collects art, will understand and appreciate your extra efforts.

    For a refresher on how to properly frame your artwork (as in which materials to use.) use the below listed links.
    Framing Artwork Part 1
    Framing Artwork Part 2

    Banner Hint for today
    It (the photo) was taken on the farm and involves critters.

    I will show you exactly what this is a photo of, in the next day or so.

    reference source: Wildlife Art News

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    The Framing of "Cowgirl"

    Despite the fact that I do framing (or maybe because of it) I don’t always settle for what is available. Since I am the artist and gallery owner, I can order in frames that suit my style and my artwork. But even then occasionally I am unable to get exactly what I want. So what’s a girl to do?

    I make exactly what I want.

    Cowgirl is a prime example of it. I was unable to find a suede matboard the color I wanted. As for the frame, I have a moulding I love, it just doesn’t come in the color I needed.

    So here’s what I did to get what I wanted.

    For the frame I used steel wool to remove some of the stain from the surface of the frame. This particular molding is my favorite for these handmade paper pieces, but it only comes in 3 colors, all very dark and almost indistinguishable from each other.

    The face of the frame is an unvarnished veneer which is why I can actually remove some of the stain with steel wool. After some trial and error I found the most effective technique was to rub the steel wool in small circular motions. After about 30 minutes (some cramping of fingers and twinging of shoulder muscles) my frame is done.

    The left side in photo is the altered side.

    For the mat
    I simply took the broad side of my oil pastel and lightly drug it across the surface, in circular motions. This took moments. Thats it. Talk about simple. I had done the frame thing many times before, but this was the first time I colored a mat using oil pastel. (Which I’m pretty sure would only be effective with suede. Otherwise the oils would cause something, not so attractive, to happen to paper board.) Overall I’m fairly pleased with the outcome.

    The darkened outer edges in the photo is the new color. It shows up very dark in both this photo and the finished Cowgirl photo, than it is. It is actually just more purple, instead of being blue. The overall color value remained the same.)

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    Using Spacers To Create Depth.
    Below are the links to review my first two posts on creating the air space needed to prevent oil pastel transfer, when framing.

    How To Frame Oil Pastel Part 1

    How To Frame Oil Pastel Part 2

    In this last segment on framing oil pastels, I will discuss creating the depth we need using spacers. The example I am using here, is an oil pastel buffalo done on handmade paper. I wanted to accentuate the deckled edges, so I floated the painting.

    A shadowbox is created by using spacers to hold the glass off the artwork. Choose a frame with some depth to it. How deep, will depend on what you are framing, or the look you want to achieve. My frame is 1 1/4″ deep.

    First cut the glass and lay in frame. The tighter the glass fit the better. I then line the edges of the frame first with a strip of acid free foamcore. Then, I apply a 3/4″ strip of my matboard. (In this case, Rust Suede) By lining all four sides, the glass is held in place.

    In this photo the frame is lying face down on the counter. Note: that sufficient space has been left for the artwork and backing materials to fit into the frame.

    As I said, I chose to float this piece because of the deckled edges. Though it is hard to tell from this photo, the artwork is actually mounted onto a 3/16″ acid free foamcore board, which is itself, mounted onto the suede backboard. This will create more shadow, thus adding a little more visual interest.

    I mounted the painting by hinging it with acid free artists tape. Generally, I try to avoid tapes whenever possible. But with the floating technique, some sort of adhesive will have to be applied.

    That’s it. Pop it together and your done.

    Plastic Spacers
    Lets say you don’t want any matboard, or just a single mat. (Note: A single mat will not provide enough air space to prevent transfer.) But you don’t want to shadowbox either, or you just want to use a more shallow frame. Well thats where these guys come in.

    These spacers come black or clear, and in a variety of sizes and depths. Several companies make them with subtle variations. I like these, because they are quick and easy, and have a peel away, sticky side for mounting. Oh, and they are archival as well. They perform the same function, and are applied in the same manner, as the lining spacers mentioned above.

    Note: I had no intention of framing this small buffalo painting, done last year. But I have been selling quite a few originals lately (which is of course the goal.) Since most of the artfairs I do, are quality events, they require a substantial assortment of original work and most even make me point out the new work. So I pulled him out. I must say, now that I have him done, I quite like him. It’s amazing how a nice frame can add so much.

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    In Part 2, we will explore getting the air space depth we need to prevent oil pastel transfer, from the painting to the glass, by using a wooden framing liner. This is my favored way to frame oil pastels. I like the simplicity, and it gives them the look of a oil painting. Also by framing in this way, it keeps my larger size paintings, from getting even larger (and heavier) because of the additional size and weight of the matting.

    Add A Barrier To The Liner

    Shows a lined and unlined section of framing linerI always line the liner. (Hmmm, I wonder if there was a better way to say that?) I generally use a 4 ply rag barrier board, or occasionally 2 ply. This prevents the artwork from coming into contact, and being damaged by, the wood of the liner.

    In this photo, the liner is face down on the counter to show how it gets lined. I attach the barrier board with 1/4″ ATG, which is essentially a double sided framing tape. A glue would also work, just be sure to allow for proper dry time.

    Glazing Placement

    Glass sits between liner and frameThe glass is cut to the frame size. It sits between the frame and the liner, well above the artwork. Finish with a barrier board behind the painting and fill with an acid free foamcore board. Then, back off the framing as usual. See How To Frame Oil Pastels – Part 1.

    Finished Framing

    How the final framing looksA simple classic look. I apologize for the lousy photo. I took it late in the day, when there was tons of glare coming through my front room windows. But you get the idea.

    Part 3 will be sometime late next week. (hopefully) I am waiting on my matting for the demo piece to come in.

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    Since oil pastel paintings don’t really ever dry, they need some accomodations when it comes to framing. Namely, a deeper air space between the glass and the painting to prevent the transfer of the pastel. I do this primarily in 3 different ways.

    1. Using matting
    2. Using a wooden liner
    3. Floating with a shadowbox

    I will cover each way in its own post. Today we’ll start with creating depth using matting.

    Creating Depth With Matting

    Multiple Mats
    Since I tend to work oil pastels by laying in thick coloring, I may use a minimum of a three mats, but most often I go with four. The multiple mats stacked up create the depth needed. This is pretty straight forward, so I won’t elaborate on it. However if anyone has any questions, please feel free to ask me.

    Spacing Mats Apart
    I achieve the depth I need by putting an (acid free) AF spacer in between the matting. This is not one of my paintings, nor is it an oil pastel. I am using the same technique for it, that I would for an oil pastel painting, because it adds a certain drama and interest when framing other items as well.

      Note: This watercolor of a poppy was painted by a friend of mine, Arjes Youngblade. She has graciously allowed me to use her painting in this blog demonstration. Thank you Arjes.

    Here is the artwork with bottom mat only, which was cut at 4 3/8 inches.

    Here the AF foamcore spacer has been laid in place. It was cut at 3 inches. It needs to be well undercut from the topmost mat, so as not to be visible from any angle. In this instance, the spacer was cut 3/4″ less than the top mat.

    Here the top most mat has been added. It was cut at 3 3/4 inches.

    And now the frame and the glazing (glass) have been added. Because this project is an original watercolor, I am using Conservation Clear. (If you remember from my post on glazings, only clear glass should be used with anything that has depth to it.)

    This is the back of the framing. A dust cover (brown kraft paper) is applied to help seal it from bugs and dust. The wire is set at 1/3 the distance down the frame. Bumpons are applied (the clear little knobbies on the bottom corners. They help to keep it hanging straight on the wall, as well as protect the wall from frame rub marks.) And lastly, a Conservation Clear label is applied to the back to explain the care of the glass.

    Here is a cross section view of the layers, In this instance I used a black foamcore spacer to help differentiate it from the surrounding boards.

    The layers from the top down are:
    glazing (conservation clear)
    top mat (C1607 Brite White)
    AF foam core spacer
    bottom mat (1607 Brite White)
    barrier board (2 ply 100% cotton rag board)
    AF foamcore backing board

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    Framing Your Artwork Part 2

    Frame SamplesHere I will provide a very brief overview on the different types of matboard and glazing (glass.) This is not all of the options available.


    The purpose of matboard is to provide a decorative enhancement, as well as an airspace between the glass and the artwork. The airspace is important to retard mold growth.

    Matboard comes in a variety of types, serving different functions. Matboard can be strictly decorative but eventually damage the artwork: be decorative and not damage the artwork: to actually absorb free radicals and help to preserve the artwork.

    There are many companies that make matboard. Two of the more common companies (and the ones I carry) are Crescent and Bainbridge. Visit them for more complete information on the products they make.

    Non-conservation grade – is as it sounds. It leaves the factory ph-neutral but almost immediately begins to decay. Acids and off-gasing from this type of matting will cause yellowing in both the matting as well as whatever it is framed with. I have not used this type of matboard in my gallery for over 10 years. Not only for the above reasons, but also because it fades and yellows quite quickly. The way I see it, if you are spending money to frame it, you want it to look the same for a few years at least.

    White Core Mat – Have (and maintain) the very white core of the acid free archival matting, but are neither acid free nor archival. Not to be used on anything of value. Again not a matboard type I use.

    Alpha Cellulose – Made from wood pulp and has additives which make it acid free. These boards remain archival and can be used to frame anything.

    Matboard Samples

    100% Cotton Rag – Made from cotton pulp. Is the highest level of quality for Museum Mounting of original work and fine art photography.


    All of the glass types here are based on Tru Vue glass company, which is the brand that I and most frame shops carry. There are other types as well as acrylic options but these are the basic choices when it comes to framing your artwork.

    Regular Clear blocks 47% UV (Ultra Violet) light. UV light is the main cause for fading and deterioration of artwork.

    Regular Non-glare has a frosted etching on one side to cut down on glare but still only blocks 47% UV light. You should be aware that non-glare glazings should not be used in cases where more than 2 mats are used or any kind of deeper spacing occurs between the artwork and glass.

    Conservation Clear has a coating on one side which blocks up to 97% UV light. Conservation Reflection Control (Non-glare) is the same as above. It has the frosted etching to cut down on glare but blocks the same amount of UV as Conservation Clear. Again should not be used in deeper air space situations.

    Note: Conservation Clear is what I use on all of my original artwork. I am not fond of non-glare glass in general. This is just a personal preference.

    AR Glass Reflection-Free offers the clear (unfrosted) glare-free viewing of Museum Glass. It blocks 78% UV light.

    Museum Glass Is the best of all worlds. It is so clear and has virtually no glare that it looks like there is no glass at all. This is the most expensive option, but worth the money if you can afford it. It blocks 98% UV light.

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