Framing Tips for Pastel Paintings | Reusing Frames

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A pastel painting sandwich, framers tape, Xacto knife and frame.

Framing can be one of the most costly aspects of our pastel painting careers. Frames are expensive, never mind the glass, mats, backing, and fitting charges when a professional framer is utilized. We invest in the hope that someone will open their wallet and purchase a painting, helping us to recoup some of our overhead. It’s a speculative business at best.

Professional Presentation: After many years of near obscurity, pastel has come into its own, demanding respect in most art circles. To reinforce this respectability, considerable effort should be employed to present it with as much professionalism as possible. While the traditional frame-mat-glass presentation continues to be popular with many pastelists, recent trends are showing that the frame and glass, minus the mat is poised to be the new dominate look for pastel. Many national pastel exhibitions are boasting more pastels without mats than those with.

Framing Without a Mat: There are two main advantages to this form of presentation. First, pastels end up looking more like traditional paintings versus prints. Whether it is a fair or not, the bordered presentation of most low-cost decorative prints offers a resemblance to a painting with a mat. Since prints are inexpensive, the public subsequently associates a lesser value to most artwork presented in a similar fashion.

Second, it is easier to remove paintings, allowing for a recycling of the frame for exhibition purposes. This cuts down on the number of frames kept on hand at any given time. With the current availability of near custom quality, ready-made gallery frames in the style of historic plein air/impressionist frames, costs can be managed even farther. These frames boast a typical width of 3 inches and generally are offered in three finishes: antique gold, warm silver and bark brown. In many areas, galleries are more receptive to this look especially when used with anti-reflection or museum glass. When painting for these frames, make sure to compensate for the lost border that will be under the lip of the frame.

Recycling Frames: To make the recycling of frames easier, make a “pastel painting sandwich.” No frame is required at this point. Place clean glass face down. Adhere spacer material to the outside border of the glass (a variety of styles are available from www.artspacers.com). Place the painting face-down towards the glass. Place an acid-free, rigid backing board behind the painting for support. Flip this over and inspect the glass for debris; clean if needed. When this passes inspection, tape the outside top edge of the glass that will be under the lip of the frame with a pH-neutral framers tape (such as FrameTac, professional framers tape) and fold this around the side of the “sandwich” to the backing board below. Once sealed, you have a pastel painting sandwich that can easily be tacked into a frame and removed for storage.

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Get more advice on paintings works on paper in this recent article on Artistsnetwork.com.

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