"Art washes away from the soul the dust of everyday life" -Pablo Picasso
You just bought the coolest art on your recent vacation. You're home. Unpacked. Now what? You need to get that artwork off its back lying on your desk, and up on the wall. Original artwork is meant to be viewed and enjoyed. That cannot happen if it gets tucked away in a closet. It's time to visit a frame shop and talk to a designer. Fine art needs to be mounted properly, protected from harmful environmental conditions, and hung on a wall to keep it out of harm's way and within viewing range. How do you accomplish that?
Here's a quick guide to walk you through the steps!
Avoid These Pitfalls!
Here's a story of my recent experience buying a limited edition print: I was struck by the vibrant colors, bold composition, and intricate carving of an interior cathedral scene in a linoleum block print created by a student at my son's high school. It was incredible, especially for student work. The aspiring artist had an entrepreneurial spirit and was selling his prints for $20. Always looking to encourage young artists, I sent a request to purchase one print of the edition. When it arrived, I was disappointed. The edition wasn't printed consistently because my print was missing portions of the statue focal point, likely due to poor registration techniques by the artist. Young artist mistake- no problem. I am not a fan of black matting and intended to put new matting on the art to coordinate with my art collection. Upon closer inspection, I realized the student had mangled the art during the matting process leaving his art in very poor condition.
Let's look at what went wrong:
The biggest mistake here, and a huge concern for an art collector, is that the artwork was trimmed to the border of the image itself. This is a problem for three reasons: 1) There is no signature on the actual piece of art- why would anyone want a signed piece of mat board? 2) The only way to display the art now is to put adhesive directly on the paper of the image, which will damage the art, and 3) To mount the art, I will have to touch it directly on its surface which is unfortunate because oil and dirt from hands compromises artwork, especially as it ages.
"Houston, we have a problem. "
Flipping the matted art over, I have a separate issue of improper backing board size and crooked mounting. Bonus: That improperly sized, crooked piece of mat board is what has the artist signature on it. Nice. Would you put a serving tray under your tablecloth before dining at your table? Of course not. Why? Because it would be all lumpy and your dishes wouldn't sit level- spilling that nice wine all over your guests. Boo. Same applies to artwork. It needs to be layered in a level manner to keep your artwork flat so it will shine like a diamond for all to see.
I am going to take this sweet piece of art to my framing ER, and use it as a reminder of sharing the importance of framing to artists and collectors alike. Poor kid- he just doesn't know better, yet. I know because I made similar mistakes as a young artist. However, there are other artists out there that just don't put the care into the mounting and matting of their art. Buyer beware. Educate yourself on the steps of framing, and you will enjoy smooth sailing from purchase to hanging your art on the wall.
Let's look at what should happen when framing your original fine art on paper:
When buying art:
Always look for art signed on the front of the artwork by the artist. Some artists sign their name, some use initials or a trademark. If the art is signed anywhere other than the front, you won't see it when you frame it, and likely won't remember who the artist is in the future. You brought this special art into your home and will want to talk about it to your family and friends! If you are buying a limited edition block print, look for the edition number and title written on the front of the artwork near the signature. For art on paper, the artist should have left a border of paper wide enough around the image to accommodate handling and matting.
You may purchase art un-matted or matted. Artwork that is already matted eliminates one step of hassle and expense and gets you closer to raising that glass to cheers your new purchase. Whether completed by the artist or in a frame shop, the most important consideration of the entire framing process is to make sure your matting and mounting materials are acid free, or "archival". I cannot stress this enough. Your artwork should look beautiful 10, 20, 50 years from now, and not all yellow and brown with burn marks from scotch tape slapped down on the front of it. Ask the artist or gallery directly if you are buying work already matted, and insist on acid-free materials if you take the art to a framer.
Elements of properly framed art:
The primary consideration for framing your artwork will be your frame moulding and matting. Choose colors and styles that match the art and coordinate with your decor. Custom frames give you a wonderful variety of styles and colors. Mat board comes in a huge array of colors, especially whites and creams. At Elysian Studios, I offer a nice selection of wood frame moulding in natural colors, gold, silver, bronze, and black. I coordinate matting for artwork to match each color of art paper that I use for different artwork: watercolors, pastels, and block prints.
Selecting mat board:
Selecting a frame:
Notice how each choice of mat board and frame changes the look of the art? There are no wrong choices. Pick what suits you. I believe keeping framing simple is less stressful for you and keeps the emphasis on the art. A wide, coordinating mat with a simple frame is a timeless and elegant option to display your art.
Glass, mounting board and finishing materials:
Artwork is extremely sensitive to environmental conditions: sunlight, dust, and smoke. Quality framing materials will keep your special memories looking beautiful for many years. Again, acid-free materials which touch the art directly are the first line of defense. Mat board is a wood pulp paper or cotton rag product cut to same outer dimension as your backing board, and a window is cut in the center to reveal the art. The mat board serves two important purposes: 1) it creates a visual border between the art and the frame, and 2) it keeps the glass off of the artwork, preventing adhesion between the art and glass (which is lethal for artwork and photographs). At Elysian Studios, I use mat board that is 100% Virgin Alpha-Cellulose (a paper product) that is acid-free, lignin-free and meets all conservation quality standards set by the Fine Art Trade Guild.
The mounting/backing board is usually a foam core, and provides support underneath the art. The art is sandwiched between the two protective layers of mat board and foam core. At Elysian Studios, I use only acid-free foam core. I stamp "Printed by Hand" with my logo in archival ink on the reverse of the foam core for my limited edition prints. This is just an extra detail that is a nice reminder of where you purchased the art.
UV protective glass comes in a variety of protection levels and reflective styles. All art should have some sort of UV protection on its glass, especially if it will be hanging in direct sunlight. Standard reflection, premium non-glare, and museum quality reflection control options are available to suit your viewing needs.
Once the glass, matting and mounting materials have been prepped, your art should be hinged properly with acid-free art tape, and installed in the prepared frame. The frame is then sealed with a dust cover to keep dust and debris out of the framed art. Distinguishable by its blue color, I only use acid-free dust cover paper at Elysian Studios. This is superior to brown kraft paper often used in other types of framing. Your framed art should be finished with secure hardware and framing wire (no saw tooth hangers!). I apply an Elysian Studios framing label to the back of a finished piece, and always include a Certificate of Authenticity with any original art. This certificate is sized proportionally to the art so it can be attached to the back of the framing. I suggest adhering it to the dust cover or the hanging wire, whichever you prefer. All you need now is a hammer, nail, a picture hanging hook, and a place to hang your new art!