Friday, October 29, 2010


Society of Animal Artists member Jan Martin McGuire thoughtfully shares her views on framing original artwork.


While viewing the SAA exhibition at Rolling Hills last September I was struck by two things:  one; the absolute quality of the work and two; the generally awful framing.

Framing is subjective – just like art.  Many people have different ideas of what framing should be.  I can’t speak to all the preferences and the reasoning behind them.  What I CAN do is talk about what is being used on major artwork that is selling in the Western and Wildlife Art market today.

The idea is to create an impression of “worth”, “collectability,” and  “importance”.  Go to any major museum, not just one featuring current western and wildlife art but any museum carrying realistic or impressionists work, and what do you see?  WIDE, closed corner, gold, silver or bronze frames - usually with a little bit of ornate work on them, but always closed-corner and always wide.  This is what collectors have come to equate with “major” art – what they see in museums.  In the Western and Wildlife art field you will also see rustic frames.  By rustic I don’t mean cheap flat “barn wood” frames, but rather wide, hand-made distressed wood with gold and silver on them as well.

OK.  So what is closed-corner exactly?  These are frames that are hand made with hand applied gold or silver leaf (or imitation gold and silver leaf) so that the joins in the corners are covered over.  Sometimes an appliqué of a “leaf” or other scroll work will be applied across the corner to cover the joins as well.

So I know your response is – “I can’t afford hand-made frames”.  Well, believe it or not -you can! There are very reasonably priced ready-mades, most that are hand-made in either Mexico or China. It generally means that you have to work in standard sizes – but – there are so many sizes considered “standard” that I’m always at a loss to understand why artists can’t make compositions work within these sizes.  There are squares, long and thin, and everything in between.  If you absolutely have to add that extra 1/2 inch or whatever then you can get usually get special orders done by most of the places that provide these frames at, of course, a higher price and longer turn around time.

These frames are obviously used mostly on oil and acrylics.  However, many imaginative pastel, pencil and other graphic media artists are using them as well.  They are using spacers and museum glass so at a glance the originals don’t scream out that that they are under glass.  I know museum glass is expensive but I think it’s worth it; you can barely tell there is any glass on it.  Many wildlife art collectors that were actively collecting when the paper print market was hot have learned to equate glass with low-end prints. This is regrettable but true.  If you are a stickler for tradition and want to use paper mats and regular glass, etc., that is your choice obviously. I’m just trying to give you some ideas of what is popular with major collectors.  If you do go traditional, it is still a good idea to make a “STATEMENT” on the wall by using wide mats and big frames. 

If you get a chance, take a look at any issue of WESTERN ART COLLECTOR or ART OF THE WEST magazines.  Especially in WESTERN ART COLLECTOR, they many times feature a major collector’s home - and you can easily see the type of frames that are on the work.  There is an especially good article in the February issue featuring a collection which includes works by Bateman, Kuhn, Carlson, Terpning, Situ and Schimd.  Look at the frames - all are wide, gold or silver with closed corners, and most with at least some slight ornate work on them. 

Another place to look at the type of frames I’m talking about is on John Banovich’s website.  John is arguably one of the most successful selling wildlife artists today and he is a also a very savvy marketer.  Look under the Gallery giclee section and you can see both rustic and gold frames.

So where can you get these frames?  Well here are some sources and I suspect that many members will have more input on other sources as well.

These are wholesalers.  Their prices are very reasonable, however you MUST have a sales tax ID number to order and you can’t access prices on the web until you have been approved.





I hope this helps you find some new framing ideas and options for your work.  You have spent a great deal of time and effort producing the best piece that you can, and you need to make a statement that you think it is worth putting a good frame on it! 

Happy painting! Jan Martin McGuire

The frames in this posting are from JFM Enterprises.

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