Tuesday, December 9, 2008

What's in a Frame?

I've been talking about frame choices with some artist friends lately. I find framing EXTREMELY challenging. Locally most artists use gold frames which really set off the local landscapes beautifully. That's what I use for my portraits because the gold can really set off the skintones in a portrait, and it is traditional but not heavy.

For my still-lifes however, after trying several colors, sizes and designs, I settled a while back on a thick black frame. The design of the frame I wouldn't catergorize in either contemporary or traditional... I would call it transitional, if I can borrow from home decorating lingo. The black seems to really pop the simple shapes and colors of my still-lifes and the transitional styling seems to compliment them as well.

You might think the frame doesn't make too much of a difference, but take a look at the two frames in the picture above. Both are black, but one is very plain and and only about an inch wide. The other is my usual frame, in the plein aire style, which to me looks like a black matt surrounded by a thin beveled frame (click on the pic to see it larger). Amazingly the artwork in those frames are the same size unframed (12" x 16"), but having that beefier frame really enlarges the visual size of the artwork and the slight decoration on the frame dresses it up a bit. The larger frame also seems to make the image inside the frame seem a bit smaller even though it is the same as in the smaller frame.

I think the most important thing about framing is that it compliments the artwork and that it fits in in the gallery environment it will be hanging in. Different genres of art and different gallery locales seem to warrant different styles and sizes.

Anyhoo, a gallery owner owner once told me not to spend too much money on a frame because 90% of the people switch frames anyway. I have to disagree, because the frame can really change the look and feel of the artwork.

Both of these pieces will be leaving the studio for the first time this week, as I plan on bringing them and the two below to the Monadnock Art Gallery on Main St. in Keene today. I wanted to post these two in their frames as well because the thick black frames really compliment them and enlarges the visual impact, but I guess you'll just have to go see them at the gallery because my camera is out out of battery.


Casey Klahn said...

These fruit sl's rock! I am doing a few of these for a change, and I certainly look to you for still life examples.

You know, a master at this now is Daniel Greene.

I have made more than my share of framing mistakes, and at the art fair it costs me money when I do. It is uber-important, and my own contemporary look likes the black, flat matte frame.

I once was in a super posh gallery in Spokane where everything was oils and bronze - I was the black sheep guy, so to speak. I was delighted to be in the gallery, but the framing puzzle was a big problem for that environment.

I support your decisions, here.

Chantell Van Erbe said...

Nicole, it's amazing how different the two pieces look in both frames. Somehow the wider black frame makes the work seem more inviting, powerful and larger.

Framing has always been a bit of an issue for me. I tend to gravitate towards more massive and gaudy frames -lol. Hey, my framing choices have even led to me getting disqualified from the 2008 CPSA international show. The board felt the frame was too intricate and sent my piece back to me. My fault though, as I didn't play by the rules. So I can understand your views on this subject.

Nicole Caulfield said...

Thanks Casey - wow that would be an interesting dilemna!

Chantell! - I didn't know that happened with your piece!!!! Did it not get shown there at all because of that? I really don't understand why CPSA has restrictions on the frame like that? Picking a frame can be just as much a part of the artwork as anything else.

Chantell Van Erbe said...


Yes, my piece "A Homecoming" was disqualified on sight and promptly sent back to the shipper. And no, it never exhibited because of the frame. They thought it was too ornate (it really wasn't) but compared to the other pieces in the show, it was considered too much. I was extremely saddened to say the very least. I've learned that in order to exhibit with CPSA, I'll have to go really plain in my framing choices. Which goes against the grain of my personal style. It was a shock to me because I've never been part of an exhibition where there were framing rules, aside from no clip-on frames. A lesson learned, I guess.

In my opinion, a frame is a painting's accessory. It enhances the feel of the work. Like a how a necklace or any piece of wonderful jewelry makes us look more polished and put together.

hbedrosian said...


Great blog post - framing is definitely my least favorite part of the process... I've also had to unframe and reframe pieces before!

On a side note, I hope you are okay up in NH with the terrible ice storm that struck yesterday!

Jo Castillo said...

Frames are so important and a big expense. Always a challenge.n Good choice on your part on these. The wider frame is best as you say.