Wednesday, August 25, 2010

The Lasting Impression, Or, The Second Supporting Actor

     Framing is the bane of many an artist.  Just last week you probably heard me whining on Facebook about how hot my frameshop was.  The truth is a frameshop is a good problem to have.  I want to give you my thoughts on framing, which can be profuse, if I let them get out of hand.
     So I’m going to keep it somewhat limited and pointed.  I’ve been framing my own work since Day One.  Chalk up another project that originated in my grandfather’s workshop.  That’s where my philosophy on framing was born.  My grandfather split the cost of a big DeWalt chop saw with me, and we were off and running.  Later, I would invest in a glasscutter, a matte cutter, a chopper, flat files, and an under-pinner; all the basics for building your own frames.
     It’s always frustrating to see an accomplished artist who has invested so much time and effort in a wonderful painting, and then framed this beautiful piece of art with some, pardon my language, “crap” from Chuck’s Antique Emporium, Frame Shop and Bar.  Part of me smugly smiles at the competition loading the gun that they are shooting their own foot with.
     It’s difficult to approach an artist you don’t know and tell them their painting is wonderful, but their framing is sabotaging them.  I’m telling you here and now….. please spend money on your framing!  Cutting corners at this stage will only turn off most art buyers.  The only people, who hate framing more than artists, are collectors.  There are always exceptions to the rule, but for the most part, framing your piece of art, is your responsibility.   Many experienced collectors can see past a bad frame job and grasp the value of the painting, and will choose to re-frame the piece in a suitable style.  But many don’t have the eye.  Why flirt with chance.
     So we’ve established that we need to set a high bar.  Where do we go from here?  Basically, we can go one of two directions:  professional framer or self-framing.  You’ll pay dearly for both.
     The professional costs more until you can afford your own equipment, so early on the cost is a wash.  And there are many artists who prefer to pay the professional and not cut into their painting time.  Others, like me, block off sufficient time in their schedule to complete their framing.

     If you decide to take the second path, the decision is not easy, and requires a little observation and research.  It requires the artist to visualize what his finished painting and frame should look like.  This is your job!  Now is not the time to delegate decisions to Chuck at the aforementioned Emporium.  If you don’t have a vision for your final product, then haul your creative butt down to a gallery now and start looking for possibilities.
     I’ve found that my framing tastes grow and transform as my skill and expectations grow.  I wanted wrapped mattes on some paintings, so I got a friend to teach me how to wrap mattes.  I also wanted to learn to gold leaf liner mattes, so I got a framing master to teach me leafing.  Framing can be a lot like painting—just keep adding skills to your artistic war chest.

     Clawing your way through this supplementary effort called framing can be as much work as producing your painting.  But the reality is this:  next to the actual painting, nothing can visually impact the collector, positively or negatively, as your framing. You must see yourself and your collector as a professional.   That is how the collector wants to see you, and if you proceed by doing your best to have a vision for your work, they will perceive you as that professional.
     If you don’t believe me, let’s go back to Stephen Pressfield and his book, The War of Art:
     Pg. 96:  A Professional Is Recognized By Other Professionals.  “The professional senses who has served his time and who hasn’t.  Like Alan Ladd and Jack Palance circling each other in Shane, a gun recognizes another gun."
All content © Mark Kohler Studio. 


  1. Interesting that you should blog about this topic because I have been thinking a lot lately about framing -- what I need to do to develop stronger sensibilities and a vision of what in possible, and well as add framing to my list of skills I need to acquire. Maybe we can squeeze a 60-minute tour of the mark Khonler frame shop when I come out in Nov...

  2. Hey! Didn't we have dinner recently at Chuck’s Antique Emporium, Frame Shop and Bar? I think it was the only restaurant in town ...........

  3. Rob, We will definitely peruse the frame shop when you are here for your workshop, but I promise you it won't take 60 minutes.

    And Linda, yes, we did visit Chuck's brother Carlos, and he didn't have a clue what queso was! But Pam was impressed with the bar!!