Peace River Chapter of the Federation of Canadian Artists
Art from B.C. and Alberta's Peace Region


(posted on 21 Mar 2014)

"I think the whole business of the work of art starts with the thought and ends with the frame."

- Kiff Holland, SFCA

Artists often ask what the current trends are with regard to framing and are receiving mixed messages from framers and galleries. After much research and discussions with respected, senior members of the FCA, master framers and trusted gallery coordinators, I am happy to share a few guidelines that have been of interest to both PRFCA and Flying Colours Artists' Association members for your consideration.

Your frame shouldn't compete with your artwork, so for shows/exhibitions, simple and consistent is best. For works under glass (watercolours, original prints), consider a white or slightly off-white single mat that is at least 3 1/4 " wide. Our master framer recommends nothing smaller than 3 1/2" and prefers a 4" mat for smaller prints or w/c's. A double mat is classy, but is more expensive and not necessary for acceptance of work to the Federation Gallery. A purchaser could always add another mat at a minimal cost, so don't feel pressured to spend the extra on the double mat. Some galleries prefer a double white mat on black and white photographs, but that likely isn't an issue with most or our members. Much of the advice we've received about framing is to choose a thin, black or charcoal metal frame on most occasions and perhaps a pewter frame as appropriate. I might add that, renown watercolour painter, Ted Nuttall, recently told me that his gallery in Santa Fe, New Mexico told him that light colored, thin wooden frames were now considered the "new gold" for w/c portraits and some other light, airy and fresh watercolours. Many contemporary framers advise against putting heavy, massive, wide, dark frames on watercolours. By their nature, watercolours are "of the air", ethereal, fresh and light. Oil and acrylic work could be described as being more earthy, so heavier frames may more appropriate. However, keep in mind the current trends which are moving toward less massive and decorative frames, particularly without linen liners. Obviously, this remains a matter of personal taste, but remember that it's hard to predict what any particular buyer will like. Simple is a safer decision and, as a result of the selection of simple frames, your pricing will likely seem more reasonable to potential customers. A caution: Do not purchase and show your work in cheap frames from popular "variety stores". Galleries may not accept your work if you use these and the quality is easy to discern. It's well worth investing in quality frames for presentation of your work and for your reputation and credibility as an artist.

For works on canvas, some galleries prefer the thicker canvas (1.5") unframed, but with the sides "gallery ready" (painted black or with the painting extending onto the sides). For the 3/4" gallery wrapped canvas, the popular and trendy, skinny, black "floater" frames are often recommended. They give a simple and consistent look to your work, are very affordable and will not take away anything from your paintings as could be the case when framing with a wide variety of other styles of frames. It's not that other styles or colors of frames are wrong, but that by choosing one beyond the simple and unobtrusive types, you may risk losing a possible sale because your preference in frame is more expensive may not suit the potential client's taste. The buyer will also feel that s/he is not having to put out a lot of extra money to re-frame. Of course, an artist can always consider selling work un-framed. Something to consider is whether you wish to invest in all of the extra frames that you might get stuck with in your inventory.

As we all know, trends keep changing, but it's always nice to be on the cutting edge.

Sandy Troudt