Ryan's Eye: Custom Framing | Grapevine Magazine
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Ryan's Eye: Custom Framing

By Will Ryan

As with many design ideas there are some rules. Rules have evolved because they make sense to our eye and are often for a reason, but in many cases they change with fashion so we are never stuck in a design rut.

Because I am going to cover picture/art framing I will not only give you “the rules” but the reasoning behind them.

First I will impart what I know about glass. Oil and acrylic artwork doesn’t need glass. The properties of the medium means they can be cleaned when necessary. Sometimes oils were varnished over, but in time the varnishes become discoloured. A famous example being Rembrandts’’ The Night Watch, which when cleaned, revealed itself to be a bright daylight scene.

Items on paper are generally behind glass, such as prints, water colours, pen and ink drawing, photography etc. In today’s market we have the options of regular glass, non- glare and other glass with special properties to protect your artwork. As with all art it is advisable to hang it where it is not in direct sunlight, which is extremely damaging and this is particularly true of work with glass as it will reflect the light back making it hard to see.

On to actual framing; artwork that is large and has the paint extended down the frame thickness is intentional and not meant to be covered by a frame. This usually occurs in contemporary abstract art. Also on the subject of large abstracts that are meant to be framed, aim to keep the frame profile simple with relatively little frame showing. Another thing to be aware of is the depth of the frame chosen. Keep in mind that with all framing the frame must compliment the artwork first but link to the esthetic of the room. The frame gives visual separation between the picture and wall surface or colour. Very large work with glass cannot have a thin narrow frame as the size of the glass is heavy and needs to have a good amount of frame for support. We’ve all seen large posters and such like in thin metal frames where the glass “pop” out. Photographs or other collections that have a theme should be framed in the same size frame and mat colour and design. If the images are different sizes, choose a frame that fits the largest image, and use that size frame throughout. The mats can be individually sized for each image.

As with the choice of frame, the matting is crucial. Mat size is most often the same at the top and sides with the bottom of the mat being deeper. Some horizontal images look better with the sides being wider than the top. Small images in most cases look better with very generous mats, and some artwork is installed floating above the mat. This is called “tipping” and is done when the image is part of the look. Often this happens when the paper is bond made of rag and gives the irregular edge some of its’ esthetic presence. A well- qualified framer can give you the best advice and can show you how to enhance and protect your art. Fortunately or unfortunately we are spoiled for choices with regard to matting. We have a much wider selection of colour, texture, pricing and conservation qualities than ever before.

Knowing where the art is going to be hung also influences what sort of frame is chosen. Keep in mind not only the amount of space in which this is to be hung but whether or not the wall surface is visually demanding. An old unpainted brick wall, patterned wallpaper or paneled walls add an extra dimension that should be taken into consideration.

Be aware of not only the size of the artwork but the size of the wall on which it is placed. Something large squashed into a narrow space loses its impact and don’t ask a modest piece to own a huge wall, it will look like a postage stamp on a large envelope.

Photographs often look well in a hallway as they are best viewed close up and look well hung “gallery style”. Just make sure the centre, or the top of each piece is the same height from the floor. Remember that in hallways you are most likely standing so the rules of height are slightly different.

Height is something that most people are rather fuzzy about. Please avoid hanging artwork too high on the wall. If your ceilings are low, hang your pictures lower, it will fool the eye into thinking the ceilings are higher. If the ceilings are high avoid hanging the work higher up the wall, hang artwork relative to the floor. 

When installing large pieces of art, it is sturdier with two hooks on the back rather than picture wire. When hanging work that does have a wire on the back two hooks on the wall are better than one as the picture doesn’t tend to shift from the preferred position.

Picture lights are an extension of framing. Some lights are attached to the rear of the frame, but sometimes they are ceiling mounted and directed at the artwork. Lighting has come a long way from the old dull gold one or two bulbs in a metal shade centered on the top of the image. Now they are sleek and unobtrusive, with bulbs that don’t heat up the artwork which causes deterioration. They can be ordered in any width and finishes and are available at high end lighting retailers.

Unless you want a cheap and cheerful framing solution for something to enhance your space, try to avoid chain or craft shops with a framing department. If you have invested in a piece of art that means something to you, I heartily encourage you to seek out a professional framer who will advise you on the very best way to frame and preserve your investment.



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