Framing Your Artwork

The best frame or even no frame at all is the one that lets your art take centre stage.

Often we are so relieved to have finished a work that we forget the importance of framing, protecting and transporting it to the exhibition. After all the work you have put into your portrait, surely it deserves the best opportunity to shine.

The frame of a painting is almost as important as the painting itself. It can enhance or detract from your work and with so many choices it can be difficult to decide what is best.

It is important to consider:

1. Does the frame match the style of the painting, and not detract from it?
2. Does your work need a frame?

Matching the style
Since the frame will always be viewed at the same time as the work itself, the frame or presentation of the work will have a huge influence on how people see your painting. It’s important to pick a frame that enhances your art.

  • Avoid frames that are too similar to your painting, especially in colour and value.
  • A moderate amount of contrast (by using a dark frame with a predominantly light painting, for example) is often helpful not only because it gives a baseline point of reference for the colours within your art, but because it also clearly separates your art from everything else in the room.
  • If in doubt choose understated rather than overstated, in both colour and contrast.

Sometimes the style of painting dictates the type of frame you pick. Abstract, edgy, or modern art most often looks best with plain geometric frames and little or no frills. With that type of art, you can even take more risks with a bolder colour for the frame, if plain, geometric, black frames don’t appeal to you.

Portraits and landscapes can be paired with more traditional looking frames. In this case, having some gilt and scrollwork won’t seem out of place. Ornate frames lend an air of importance, and can be used to elevate the societal position of an individual in a portrait.

Some landscapes don’t have enough detail in them to balance out a very decorative frame. Very still, empty landscapes—or surreal ones—sometimes benefit from a more modern frame.

Having said all this, there is room to experiment with the match between the frame and the portrait. The bottom line is that it has to enhance your artwork. So take time to consider this, ask friends, family and colleagues for their advice and give it the importance it deserves.

To Frame or not to Frame?

Some suggest that portraits should be framed; however, this is not always necessary and sometimes doesn’t work for the painting. It is important if you are not framing to use good quality canvases that have the canvas going all the way around to the back of the stretcher bars, leaving clean canvas edges. (No staples showing, in other words.)

For artists who don’t have the money to spend on a frame, this makes it very easy to finish up a piece without going broke. Simply paint the canvas as though the front image is wrapping around onto the edges themselves, or use a solid colour all the way around. There are many recognised techniques that are used in presenting unframed canvases that can work beautifully with portraiture painting. With the addition of a hanging wire, the painting is complete.

The big message is to take the time to consider how the viewer will experience your work and make it look its best. How we treat our artwork in framing, packing and transporting can impact on the experience for the viewer. We hope you find this information useful…

This information has been prepared by Kylie Eastley with some information from the Empty Easel website. This site provides some useful tips, but there are many tutorials and instructions online about portraiture painting, framing and transporting your work.

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