The Ups and Downs of Framing Watercolor Paintings

Bauhinia - Hong Kong Orchid Flower, watercolour painting by Angela Fehr

Forgive me if my fingers stick to the keyboard - I am gluing backing on some paintings that I will be dropping off at our local art gallery for the South Peace Art Society Members Christmas Exhibition.  I have three pieces to enter and it's been a while since I've been on the ball enough to participate in the members' shows.  Usually I have a painting finished but no framing for the piece, and in fact two of these paintings have been waiting to have their framing finished for at least a year.

I am struggling with decisions where framing is concerned.  If I want to sell art online, it ships much better unframed, but if I want to exhibit art, it must be framed, and framed well.  Art presents much better when framed - my mom always says she doesn't even like to look at my paintings until they are at least matted.  She can't get a vision for the completed piece when it is still taped to my painting board!

Foxgloves, watercolour painting by Angela Fehr

I have to call myself a bit of a framing snob.  Long ago are the days when a Walmart frame was considered appropriate for my paintings.  Take a look at your average picture frame and you will see what I mean - joints that do not sit flush together; thin, cardboard-y mats; cheap looking wood or plastic painted to look like wood; narrow, insubstantial frames that can't support double matting or foam core backing.  And don't even get me started on those stupid zigzag hangers!  Frame shop frames are expensive because they are the real thing.

I have dabbled in ordering frames online, and haven't been satisfied with that experiment.  There is no substitute for choosing a frame and mat by placing it against your painting to get an idea of the finished result, for being able to handle a chunk of framing and see the weight, the finish, the texture.  And I've tried the coupon route at Michaels and wasn't thrilled with my 40% off frames either.  The selection just isn't there.

There is truly something special about seeing art beautifully framed for the first time.  The right mat and frame can have a dramatic effect.  Suddenly a painting goes from "guess it's done" to "work of art."

While I do cut my own mats for smaller paintings, I have done my best to learn the art of matting and framing and to achieve a professional result.  I know now that a sharp blade is crucial, and to be safe I might as well put a new blade in my cutter for every framing session.  I know that a fraction of an inch in measuring error will make a double mat go from elegant to eye-catchingly askew.  And to keep some compressed air nearby to get the dust out from between glass and mat!

Soar - acrylic and mixed media by Angela Fehr

Sometimes I do wish I had pursued an art medium that was a little cheaper to frame though!  Oil and acrylic painters can just hang a canvas and call it done.  Is that fair?

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