Framing for the Splash® exhibition and to sell

The cost of framing is a major consideration when preparing works for exhibition. Each of us faces the challenges: choice of materials, finding the right framer, pricing the work both to cover costs and pay yourself as artist. The facts are
• when a watercolour is put under glass it sings
• framing in archival materials protects the paper from deterioration

Brenda Innes, curator of the prestigious Camberwell Art Show in Melbourne, has more 20 years experience with setting up exhibitions, initially as an artist and for more than 15 years working in galleries. Over this time she has observed what type of framing appeals to the widest audience. She gives this advice: "The best framing is the framing you don’t notice."

Frame neutrally, which is different from conservatively. Neutral implies:

a) Mounts / mats in white, off white and creamy tones
b) Mouldings / frames are simple/plain so they don’t overpower the work.

White or champagne colour frames harmonise with both warm & cool toned paintings plus they suit more interiors.

Why choose neutral colours?

If you imagine your work on anonymous walls you need to acknowledge the sometimes unpalatable truth that the work must “match the décor”! I have seen clients walk straight past very good paintings without acknowledging them or shown them works I know they would like but on asking why they are not enthused their response is invariably “the mount/moulding would not work with the furniture, carpet, wall colour…” Look at the framing of the most successful artists and invariably the works are neutrally framed to maximize the potential sales.

Be aware of how your painting will “sit” with other paintings in an exhibition. Consider the challenges of hanging an exhibition so that the artwork is presented as a harmonious whole with all paintings seen and not clashing with other works. As a general rule those paintings that are framed neutrally will have a prime position in a show because they will work together harmoniously and have
wider appeal to potential buyers. Very individually or vibrantly framed works (including richly toned mounts) will be more difficult to hang and may not be placed in a prime position for potential sales.

Unfortunately, as with many things, artists can’t afford to be cheap with their framing – it always shows and frankly if the artist doesn’t honour/respect the work with good framing then a buyer generally won’t either – only those buyers who can sniff a bargain and they are not the preferred purchasers!

A suggested formula is to have about 6 standard neutral and contemporary frames, one each for ¼, ½, & full sheets in both landscape and portrait format. Slot works in and out until a work is sold, then replace the sold frame.”

Watercolour New Zealand guide for mat width

The mat should give visual breathing space between the painting and frame, not too much and not too little. For a quarter sheet painting mat width is about 60 mmm.
For a half sheet painting mat width is about 75 mm.
The lower side of the mat is 10 to 15 mm wider than the sides.

Using pre-made frames

This year artists can enter smaller size-limited paintings as well as the usual ‘open-size’ works. For these some may consider pre-made frames, such as those sold by retail chains. As Brenda Innes says “Be very careful about the cheaper timber mouldings – generally they are the type that has a ‘certificate frame’ feel about them.” Take time to inspect the frame for dents, paint damage and poor corners. The mat provided will often be too narrow and the backing board will be cardboard. Have a replacement mat of archival mount board made to the size recommended above. Replace the backing board with acid free foam board. The tape must be archival quality framers tape.

Make sure that the size of your painting is right for the size of the pre-made frame. A painting put into a pre-made frame of the wrong size looks cheap and amateurish and is unlikely to sell.

Cockling of watercolour paper

The painting paper should be flat. Cockles or buckles caused by watery washes or by framing the painting before it is completely dry, will often show when the painting is hung because the lighting
from above will cast a curvy shadow on the painting. Cockles can be avoided by stretching the paper before painting, or they can be removed before framing by placing the painting face down, spraying
the back with water, then placing a board and heavy books on it while it dries. After removing the painting from the makeshift press, allow at least a full day for the painting to dry. If a painting is framed before it is 100% dry there is a high risk of mildew forming.

How to Frame your Painting for Exhibition

By Sue Wild

The lead-up to an exhibition is a busy time for committee and the team of member helpers. Please make their job easier by presenting your painting in the right format. The back, as well as the front, of the framed painting should be tidy, just as a buyer would wish to find it. Here is what we expect:

The painting paper should be flat. Rumples caused by watery washes will often show when framing is completed. They can be removed before framing by placing the painting face down, spraying the back with water, placing a board and heavy books on it while it dries.

After removing the painting out of the makeshift press, allow at least a full day for the painting to dry as there is a risk of mildew developing on the work if framed when damp. An internet search will give further details on this procedure.

The frame must be free of dents, scratches and marks and must be reasonable quality. Please avoid using old or second-hand frames.

The mat should be archival quality. White or off-white is preferred. Coloured mats are hard to curate into a group exhibition.

The glass may be plain glass or conservation glass. Ensure there are no specks of dust between the mat and the glass.

The backing board should be acid free foam board.

The tape must be archival quality framers tape. Do not use masking tape or packaging tape.

The cord should be new and should be double length.

Labelling: The label is adhered to the back of the painting providing your name, the title of the work and the price.

The swing tag has the same information. This must be made of sturdy card, not paper as that can easily be torn off. It must be tied to a cord long enough to hang over the top of the frame to the front to assist in cataloguing. It should be short enough so that it does not hang below the frame when the painting is hung and the swing tag is tucked behind. The swing tag may be tied to the hanging cord or taped securely to the top back of the frame.

D rings must be used to support the cord. These sit flat when the painting is hung. (The old eye hooks stood proud of the frame and could cause damage.)

Tape over D rings (as on the right hand side of the photograph below) is useful in minimising damage to other frames.

Package your painting securely and write your name on the packaging.

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