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Saturday, May 17, 2014

Three Tips for Framing Pastels for an Exhibition

'Meadow Dance'           11x14            pastel       ©Karen Margulis
purchase painting $250
Framing pastel paintings is not my favorite thing to do. In fact on the list of things I do as an artist it would probably rank second to last. (last is accounting and record keeping)  I'd rather be painting.  But every once in awhile I need to frame a painting and it is usually approached with dread.

I have new insight and appreciation for framing after this week and my experience at the Southeastern Pastel Society Exhibition.  At the opening reception our judge Liz Haywood-Sullivan did a walk-through of the exhibit. She covered a lot of valuable information and insight into her judging process. It is always helpful to know what a judge may be looking for in a winning painting. (Even though different judges have their own criteria any insight is appreciated) Liz was very generous and thoughtful with her remarks which added a wonderful dimension to the works in the exhibit.

One of the criteria Liz considers in judging a show is the presentation and framing of the painting. I didn't write down her exact words so I am summarizing what I heard in my own words. 

One thing that stood out to me is that the presentation and care in framing is given 10% weight in the evaluation Liz gives each painting.  It is more important than many artists realize! A painting may not receive an award or lesser award due to presentation. Based on some of the thoughts Liz shared I am offering three tips to consider when framing a painting for a show.

My 2nd place painting was framed by Mayra Loeber at Thompson's Framing
 TIP 1: Choose the right frame.

  •  Frames can enhance a painting or they can take away from the painting. It is important to take the time to choose a frame that complements the painting. You don't want a frame that fights the painting. Ideally you shouldn't even notice the frame. If it is a poor quality frame or  says 'cheap' it might call attention to itself. This takes away from the painting.

  • Many artists have their 'show' frames that are used over and over for shows. It is important that the frame work with each new painting and be in perfect condition (more on this below) 

  • If you aren't confident in your eye for choosing the right frame work with a framer who you trust. For my winter scene I worked with a framer with a lot of experience because I was having trouble finding the right frame. The dark frames were too dark. Silvers and gold didn't look right. When Mayra put the very deep frame on the painting I knew it was want I wanted...the effect of a window looking out into the snow.

This frame is from King of Frames with no mat and TruVue Museum Glass
 TIP 2: Make sure your frame is in excellent condition.

Liz feels that the care the artist takes in the framing and presentation of the work reflects the respect they have for the exhibition. If the frame is in poor condition or the mat is filthy it shows that the artist didn't take the time and didn't care enough to put in the effort. The painting might be wonderful but a frames and mats with issues reflect poorly on the artist.

  • Take the time to make sure the frame is in excellent condition. Dings and scratched glass matter!  (Liz does make allowances for things that obviously happened during shipping that were out of the artist's control)

This painting was shipped to an IAPS Exhibition and back with no issues. I used a frame by King of Frames
with Tru Vue Museum glass.  I used an Airfloat box to ship the painting.
 TIP 3: Be careful with Mats if you are shipping your work to a show.

  • More and more artists are now framing pastels without mats. I prefer no mats for my paintings. I like the look of mat-less pastels but I also like not worrying about pastel dust on the mat. No matter how careful you are a painting gets a lot of handling in a show. Every time it is moved around there is a risk of pastel dust becoming dislodged and falling onto the mat. 
  • Be sure you have proper spacers or an area for the dust to fall. Especially if you use heavy layers of pastel which has more risk of fallout. Work with a good framer or learn from the best!
  • If you are shipping the painting seriously consider going mat-less.



Thank you for the wonderful information. Framing is very difficult; it seems no matter the size of our expensive inventory of frames, the right one isn't there. Yet to go to a professional framer every time is costly. I have stopped framing for a bit while I attempt to sell small unframed pieces on DPW. We will see how that works!

Again your artwork is really gorgeous.

Paul's Blog said...

Excellent post Barbara. I am appalled at how poorly framed some artists work is that comes to a show I am hanging. It does reflect a lack of knowledge on framing a importance, but I suspect in some cases it is a matter of finances.

I wrote an article about framing pastels for the Sierra Pastel Society some months ago. Your article is well thought out and great advice.


Karen said...

Thank you Paul. I agree that finances play a role. Framing can get very expensive! Thanks for your comment.

Karen said...

Thank you Carol. I agree! I sell my work unframed so I don't have a big investment in frames. I prefer it that way!

Donna T said...

Thanks so much, Karen. Any info on framing is so helpful! Your paintings look beautiful in those frames.

Sandi Graham Pastels said...

Thanks,Karen for all the information on framing . All of your posts are so informative .Always something to learn here.

Unknown said...

Thanks for your writing about this, Karen. Now I feel comfortable knowing how to ship my framed pastel paintings. When you do your own framing what spacers do you use? Also, if your paintings are on paper do you mount it to something?


Unknown said...

I realize it isn't possible for everyone to accomplish, but it is possible to make frames for very little money. That's what I've done for stained glass pieces. The frames can be as simple or as ornate as you'd like to make them. A piece of 1x2 and a piece of dentil molding cost around $10 and I usually have a can of stain on hand, as well as some varnish from other projects. My methods do require the use of power tools, such as a router, a table saw and a chop saw. We do a lot of projects around our old house, so the power tools are pretty much part of the furniture. Oh, also wood glue and a staple gun if you want to use a fancy molding for your frame. Glue the fancy molding to the 1x2" pine strip, then cut the pieces of 1x2" to size, using 45 degree cuts at the corners, then route the channel through the inside edges of the pieces. I usually run three grooves side by side with the table saw, the use either a wood chisel or a flathead screwdriver to clean out the channel. Run a piece of coarse (80 grit) sandpaper through the groove to even it out.Staple (nail gun) three sides together, slide in the glass, spacers, mat, mounted painting (with brown paper to back of matboard) and place 4th piece of frame in place. Staple. Place wood filler in seams at corners of frame, making sure that it is stainable wood filler!!! Cover brown paper with wax paper and tape to prevent any stain from touching the painting, then stain to desired color. This is the way I've done my stained glass frames. Now, the only thing I thing I do differently for my pastels is to stain the pieces prior to assembly which means the pieces have to be cut VERY accurately and allowed to dry for a full 48 hours, depending on your climate. I live down south, so I give mine the full 48. It sounds complicated, but once you've done a few of them, it's really not so difficult. Also, I make a frame that fits the subject of my painting without a great deal of expense or difficulty. It's sort of like adding the finishing detail to my paintings. I design the frame, build the frame and when it's done, I've really got a piece that I'm happy to show~!~