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Thursday, May 17, 2018

Three Tips for Framing Pastels for an Exhibition


'Summer by the Sea'          18x24         pastel         ©Karen Margulis
currently on exhibition at Oglethorpe University Museum of Art
Thursday night is the opening reception of the Southeastern Pastels Society's 18th International Juried Exhibition. I am honored to have two paintings in the exhibition but sad to miss the opening as I am on my way to California to teach a workshop. It is a good time to share this post from the archives on framing pastels for an exhibition. Enjoy!

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.

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