Thoughts on Framing Art

When I get down to framing paintings everyone knows I’m a lover of gilt, ornate, and all that is opulent or fancy-pants. To me it is the equivalent of a fashion stylist who can’t resist sequins. The curves, the patterns, and the fact that they look like a piece of art themselves while setting the stage and putting the spotlight on the finished work. In fact, many frames of this type are worth a lot of money; ever wonder why a lot of so-so paintings from the 1700-1800s get bid on in a hurry? Because many times, the frame is worth more than the art!

They can be so over the top, but they also fit my style of artwork and the historical references I make in my representational pieces. What can I say? I am a baroque fan all the way around…

To be able to have all of my work custom made by these cats at Stafford Frames would be so awesome.  But these makers in Italy, oh man, I would just die if I could frame my work in these. If I had my way and the money, they’d be redonkulus (yes, redonkulous)

However, I get really funny about the color and tone of these frames. I have rules I set for myself in framing of all kinds, mostly based around the art collection my parents had, and how it was displayed. Pewter, champagne, and silver colorings are my stand-by wood frames because they go with just about everything. I am cagey about deep orange golds or yellow golds — even though I’ve used them on occasion where it worked out fine. My rule is always: when in doubt go silver. Oh baby…

Dick Blick has egg & dart frames that aren’t bad and a decent price. Might have to inspect further…

One thing I really cannot stand and hate more than any are brown or unfinished wood frames (or that awful gray oak crackly finish). Please people, don’t put your art in these! It makes them look dated and cheap. In fact, it makes the art look like it belongs on the floor of a thrift store covered in dust…

The company I worked for several years ago had two massive portraits of our founders with these HORRIBLE thick brown wooden frames  — didn’t help that both sitters were wearing brown suits — and cream fabric matting. I had to stare at them every. damn. day. It was a form of torture to my sense of sight.

If you are going to go this route, get some oak or mahogany that is fabulous and suits the work. Good luck on that — it’s rare to find. Xiaoqing Ding had these frames for her last show in NYC, they fit the narrative perfectly while not being too tacky or ridiculous…

Speaking of tacky and ridiculous — not to mention clashing badly– here is an example of a crazy-baroque style frame FAIL. See, even sometimes I can admit when it doesn’t work with something.

I’m actually quite a fan of plein air frames, especially if they have little deco details. Wish they weren’t so darn expensive for large scale work, but they look really nice for my portraits on the small scale. Aren’t they pretty?

Koo Schadler is an artist I admire who picks frames appropriate for the subject and historical inspiration. Dig this…

One thing I wish I had learned in art school was to make frames custom to the work. Artists like Klimt, Degas, and Rossetti did this. Mark Ryden travels to Thailand where master carvers make up custom frames based on his design to fit his work as well…

Holly Lane makes the frame part of the art as a whole…

I normally hate frames that have a little crown or top, but I dunno, this sea shell design works, doesn’t it?

I really can’t stand scalloped edges in the Rococo style. Honestly, most of the time these are designed badly or have a weird finish. Combine this with a linen liner and it makes the artwork look cheap — in a Thomas Kinkade sort of way. This one is okay, but I just have an aversion to them as a rule…

This frame seems a tad too thick to me given the size of the subject (I always say a thick frame is good for a big head), but the color is perfect…

For a dressy portrait of nobility you’d expect something thick and ornate, but I think this frame strikes the right note. Simple with a hint of gold and still manages to be impressive in the “look at the fancy man who was important” kind of way…

I’m very partial to silver or pewter colored metal frames when it comes to drawings or prints. I don’t know why. As much as a pain they are for scratching and getting dented, it just seems like the best routes to go. Maybe it is because that is what I grew up with, like this Soudeikine drawing….

I rarely deviate.

A lot of people might tell you a black frame is easy and the best way to go because it covers scratches if you use a Sharpie marker on them. DON’T because I can always tell. Marker will appear glossy and never match the finish. Black frames are okay I guess, especially if you have a deep cradled piece. I do it rarely, and for my work in particular I like it to have a little something-something like this…

If it’s a more abstract contemporary piece I’d go with a light or blond wood. I’m never into white frames — ever. I think these works by Pema Rinzin would actually look better in blond…

There was one occasion, at the gallery on Melrose I used to work at, where the director decided to donate one of our Charles Gesmar posters of the stage dancer Mistinguette to a museum. We still had it rolled up — an original stone block print. We sent it off to the fancy framer and what did the director pick? A thick, white, plastic frame! It was so awful! You have no idea — seriously, I’m still traumatized. I felt so bad for the museum, as I know it made the poster look cheap and didn’t fit the look at all.

I have one, a photo print by William Garvey and I keep it this way because he framed it so, and the image is dark all around. Still, I think it would look better with a chrome metal frame…

I also never deviate from cream, white or black matting. My only time I ever have was with this piece. I also got a black frame with a mild bamboo pattern going on…

… and that was after a lot of talk with my studio mate and framer, because I wanted to do something different for once. I’m still really uneasy when I look at it!

Then there are the instances where I buy frames and actually will make a piece of art to fit it. This can lead to something I’ve never done before; like the start of a new direction or series. Case in point? “The Immaculate and Fabulous Mary” was done to suit this little 5×7″ frame I bought a while back…

Now not only does she look great for her new owner, but I’ve stumbled upon a new thing and am getting an amazing reception to it. Funny that.

How do you go about framing your artwork?

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4 Responses to “Thoughts on Framing Art”


  1. 1 ahgincle 02/22/2011 at 9:42 pm

    People ask about frames at the museum. One docent developed a tour just looking at the frames. I was always like- Huh? Why?- but you post sells ’em to me!

  2. 3 Jaime 02/23/2011 at 12:50 am

    I like the colored mat with your piece, but I’m much more into color it seems. I think it compliments her nicely. Your “The Immaculate and Fabulous Mary” is beautiful and looks fab in her ornate frame. Kinda gilding the lily but I like it, it suits her. What is your new thing?


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