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Old 09-15-2007, 12:11 AM   #1
Pam Powell Pam Powell is offline
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Framing paintings for galleries




I've hit a pothole on the road to success and need to plumb your vast stores of knowledge. I know that many of you show in galleries as well as do commissions, so I'm sure some of you have faced the same dilemma as I'm facing now.

I am represented by a couple good galleries who are doing a fine job of selling my paintings, but two of my artist friends came over a few weeks ago and told me that my frames did nothing to enhance my work. I called the gallery owners and asked them if they were happy with my framing. One said, " Your frames aren't horrible but they don't make your paintings seem important." The other said, "Well, they're not awful but not great either." Yikes!

I've been buying ready-made frames from JFM and thought they were good quality for the price. To tell you the truth I want to paint, not shop for frames, so I found two or three styles and slapped them on everything. My friends dragged me off to a custom guy, who builds beautiful supports that fit perfectly in the most incredible shadow box frames you've ever seen. It's really fine furniture making....and its not cheap! I ordered a few as an experiment.

I framed one of my paintings with a new shadowbox frame and I thought the painting looked stunning. Then I invited family and friends to give me their opinions. A few loved it, a couple hated it, and some were of the opinion that it looked OK. ...OK?...for all that money?

I then realized that there's no way to get a frame that will please everybody. So here's the question: Do you put high end frames on your work because it will enhance the value (even though some people might not like the style) OR do you frame in a less expensive (not cheap) way so that the buyer will feel freer to take it home and re-frame it?

Thanks for your help!
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Old 09-15-2007, 04:02 PM   #2
Julie Deane Julie Deane is offline
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Are these oil paintings, Pam?

I think I've read somewhere that common practice for watercolors is a nice mat and a very neutral (inexpensive) frame) so that the buyer later can choose what they want.

I'm about to have a local framer frame a larger pastel of mine (not a portrait) so I'm interested in hearing other peoples' responses to your described dilemma. In my case, I know that I am unlettered in the art of making a beautiful presentation, so I want an expert to do it for me - at least this time. I did a quick bit of research last night on framing, and learned a lot about how the presentation can "date" a good picture or make it look quite contemporary.
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Old 09-17-2007, 11:58 AM   #3
Pam Powell Pam Powell is offline
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Julie, thanks for the feedback. Your right about how a frame style can influence how a painting is perceived, or just seem out of tune with the subject. My paintings are pretty modern looking because of the urban architecture and contemporary dress of the people in them. My friends thought that the frames I've been using weren't modern enough.

Your comments made me think. Maybe if I'm willing to take the step of showing my work off to the very best advantage, then I should find a framer that I really trust and just spend the money (within reason) and have them all framed individually.

I'd like to know how many people buy paintings in frames they intend to replace.
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Old 09-17-2007, 12:00 PM   #4
Pam Powell Pam Powell is offline
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Opps, sorry Julie. Yes these are oil paintings.
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Old 09-17-2007, 05:23 PM   #5
Julie Deane Julie Deane is offline
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I like JFM frames, too, Pam, but the thrust of their inventory seems to be towards a conservative buyer who likes a "lush" frame.

I do best when I can take the painting in with me and hold it against a frame sample, but even then, I can make mistakes over what width of frame to choose. So this time I'm going to my local expert.

We have a sort of informal trade agreement - I hand out discount coupons for her shop when I do my annual event at our Christmas marketplace, and she gives me deals on supplies and frames.

Maybe you can arrange some sort of deal too. Frame shops do give artists discounts fairly frequently, I think hoping to establish a relationship so that you do business just with them.
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Old 09-17-2007, 05:58 PM   #6
Chris Saper Chris Saper is offline
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Dear Pam,

I've never worked with a gallery, so my thoughts are worth as much as my gallery experience

I do agree that you should have a cohesive appearance to all your gallery art, so that compatibility of frame design is important, since I would presume a gallery would group your work together on a wall. It's impossilbe to guess at what a buyer's taste is... of course there are many artists who feel no is better qualified than the artist hiself to select a frame.

I don't consider myself paricularly good at framing, and I don't want to become good at it.

I have had consisitenly excellent experiences with http://www.google.com/search?sourcei...+gallery]Abend.

The frames do not show a mitered seam, which I think makes them look much more expensive than they are; I always order the extra depth, so that the frame sits flush on the wall when it is hung, rather than canting forward.

Good luck, see you soon!
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Old 09-17-2007, 06:06 PM   #7
Pam Powell Pam Powell is offline
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Thanks Chris. Abend does have beautiful frames.
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Old 09-18-2007, 08:21 PM   #8
Joan Breckwoldt Joan Breckwoldt is offline
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When to use gallery frames?

Hi Pam,
I can add my experience, though I'm not in a gallery. I used to buy a lot of frames from JFM in a few standard sizes so I always had a frame to put a painting in. I did have some problems with their delivery time, I would often choose a frame and would be told it would be on back order for 3 to 4 months.

I now use a local framer. I bring in each painting (still lifes mostly, though some figuratives, all in oil) as each is completed. He and I work together to choose the frame that best enhances the painting. I try to frame my paintings in frames that are nice enough for someone to keep and not have to reframe. I stick to frames that are $18 per foot or under, I have only once spent over $125 on a frame. On a painting where I used to spend $69 at JFM I am now spending $80 to $100 and I feel it's well worth the small additional cost. Plus, I don't have to mail order a bunch of frames ahead of time just so I'll have them when I need them. This became a storage problem.

I did spend $250 on a frame for a portrait I painted. I painted the portrait as a 'sample' of my work but once the parents of the subject saw the portrait, they wanted to buy it. So now I'll get my money back. Even if they didn't buy the painting, it would have been well worth the money to have a beautiful frame on my sample portrait.

I would love to frame some large paintings in the simple wood 'gallery frames' but I can't figure out a reason to do this. I have small shows in different venues in town and I think (!) most people want to buy a painting and take it home and put it on the wall. My paintings sell from $300 to $1000 so we're not talking about very high priced art. If I have something framed in a 'gallery frame', I feel like unless the person's home is very modern, they would have to reframe it. But I could be way off on this, I just am not sure when it's appropriate to use a gallery frame. Do you know what I mean by gallery frame? I mean a simple wood frame, about 3/8" wide and 1 1/2" deep. They are often natural wood, not dark or stained wood.

I have a show coming up and I have in -progress four large figurative paintings. Well, large for me: 24"x30" each. I think it would be nice to frame all four the same in gallery style frames. But, again, I wonder if this would be a deterent to a buyer? My framer said the gallery frames are used in a gallery when the artist just wants to showcase his work. But when does an artist ever just want to showcase his work and not sell it?

I hope someone can fill me in on the use/appropriateness of gallery frames for oil paintings.

Joan
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Old 09-19-2007, 11:30 AM   #9
Pam Powell Pam Powell is offline
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Hi Joan,

Thanks for the sharing your experience, it sounds like finding a good local framer is a great asset. I think what you call a gallery frame is what I was calling a shadow box, and is really a floater frame. I've attached a picture I found. This is what I had made for the latest painting that I sent to the gallery. It will arrive there today.

I've asked the owner to tell me whether she prefers that the paintings be framed in the floaters or be taken individually to the framer for the best individual combination (within my budget). Since her business is to sell the paintings I'm sure she'll opt for the most desirable thing for the buyer. I'll let you know what she says.

I have also experienced long back order waits with JFM, although lately it has been better. The frames Chris Saper suggested are beautiful and probably the service is better. However, it seems clear that the problem with buying ready made frames before the paintings are done is that there is no way to predict how they'll look.

I've been polling friends who buy art and the reaction they've given is that if they REALLY love the painting, but hate the frame, they'll ask the gallery to remove the frame and deduct the price. However most of the time they looking for a buy-able unit that looks great together, because it's less hassle. It was also pointed out that if a painting looks bad in a frame the buyer may not stop to analyze why she doesn't like it, she'll just move on.

All that said, not everyone has the same taste, so no matter how I rack my brains to get it right, someone is not going to like my choice. For that matter, there will be those people that won't ever like my paintings. C'est la vie.
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Old 10-30-2008, 09:38 PM   #10
Laurel Alanna McBrine Laurel Alanna McBrine is offline
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Hi Chris,

I really like the frames you use from Abend Gallery and I was wondering which specific colors you use - I am guessing maybe the silver over red, but I am not sure which gold?

I was also wondering whether you have come up with any other options for frames in the past year?

Thanks!
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