Framing is as much fun as acquiring art itself. Why? Because you have almost unlimited options when it comes to deciding how you’ll display your paintings, drawings and found objects. I have so much art that’s framed – or not - in so many different ways. Here are some tips to help you figure out how to display your treasured art.
1. DON’T OVERSPEND: Framing is crazy expensive. It almost doesn’t matter where you go; mark up is astronomical in even arts and crafts store chains … even with those so-called, “50% off coupons.” A great framing job is going to cost you money no matter what, but do not sacrifice that brake job on your car in favor of putting that money toward framing art. Art can wait. Get your brakes fixed. Given that …
2. SECOND HAND STORES: This is my secret for saving money on framing. I have a bunch of unused frames – in a variety of sizes and materials - that I got from places like the Salvation Army and Goodwill. The secret is to visit stores that are in upscale communities. That way you’ll be more likely to get higher quality castoffs. You’ll scour through a lot of junk and you won’t always find something great, but trust me, if you do this often enough, you’ll find those hidden treasures that will make the hunt worthwhile. If you have decent taste and are a return customer, a wise framer will respect your choices and frame your art … for a fee of course.
3. DOCUMENT HOLDERS: I absolutely love document holders. I have many works on paper by abstract expressionist artist Merv Slotnick. Nearly all of his works that I own are in cherry wood document holders. With document holders, all you do is place the art work between two sheets of glass and slide or place them into the wood frame. They’re simple, inexpensive and if you get the right holders, they look very upscale and not like you got them from a well-known national discount store chain.
4. PLEXIGLASS: I also have numerous works - mainly photographs - that are sandwiched between sheets of plexiglass (or Lucite) that you can get at any large, home improvement store. Plexiglass is great because it’s more durable than actual glass. They’ll even cut the plexiglass to your specifications. To hold it all together, I use large, industrial-looking metal clamps that you can find in stationary stores. This approach gives cool art work that extra, edgy, contemporary vibe. This approach is not for hanging art, but rather setting on a fireplace mantel or a bureau that’s leaning against a wall.
5. MATTING: I have numerous, limited-edition prints from artist Roger Disney among other artists. Roger is super-smart. He sells many of his prints pre-matted. I believe this makes them easier to sell to indecisive buyers. You don’t always have to frame art. Depending on what you get, matting can sometimes be all that you need. Again, this approach is for the fireplace mantel or sitting on a table. Don’t ruin the matting by trying to hang it unframed.
6. PICTURE FRAMES: Picture frames aren’t only for framing family photos. I also have a lot of small, original works on paper and c-prints that are in picture frames and are sitting on tables. Why not?
7. NO FRAMES: Most paintings on canvas don’t require frames. Most of my works on canvas are hanging without frames. They’re on stretcher bars which means they don’t need frames. However, I have a few canvas works that are actually framed. This is something you usually see in museums and art fairs. It’s just a way of spotlighting and highlighting a painting, but it’s not required. Also, I have a couple of works on canvas that aren’t on stretcher bars. They’re hanging by metal rings embedded in the corners of the canvas. The artists required this approach and I respect it.
8. BOOKS, CHAIRS & FLOORS: I have numerous small paintings that are either standing on top of stacks of books near walls, sitting in chairs or even sitting on the floors and leaning against walls. This is fun, casual and a great way to make art more human and approachable.
9. ASK THE ARTIST: When in doubt, always ask the artist how they think their work should be framed or displayed. They won’t always have answers, but it’s best to seek out their opinions first. By the way, I have a painting that an artist sent to me pre-framed. After all of these years, I still don’t think the frame is right, but I refuse to change it because I respect the artist’s choice – even though I don’t like it – and feel that the frame is part of the authenticity of the work. That’s just me talking.
10. PRESENTATION ISN’T FINAL: I strongly believe that presentation is a crucial element of the art itself. You can totally change the look of an art work by changing the framing or removing it completely. You can really shake up and update beautiful, genteel paintings by giving them edgy, industrial frames or by putting a contemporary work in a very traditional frame. Play around with this and see what YOU like. Whatever you like today may not work for you tomorrow. It’s not unusual for you to find that your taste has changed. I once heard someone say that there are very few things in life that cannot be changed or corrected. Fortunately this is true for art.
11. SHADOW BOXES: Shadow boxes are simply boxes that usually have glass fronts and compartments inside for displaying art objects. They come in various sizes and are widely available usually in craft or art supply stores. You can set them on tables of hang them on walls.
Finally, I hope you’ve enjoyed these tips for framing and presenting your art. The only real way to learn is through trial and error. Everyone - and I mean everyone - started from Ground Zero, so no one has the right to judge you and your choices. However, it IS a good idea to listen to polite and informed advice. I hope I have offered that here. Enjoy your art journey.