Art & Design Magazine

How Not to Frame a Painting

By Ingrid Christensen

How not to frame a painting

Three and a Horse
20 x 16

I haven't been sleeping well lately.  Maybe it's the realization that summer is ending or maybe it's the phases of the planets - whatever the cause, sleep deprivation rules and has me prone to making mistakes.  And I made a doozy on this painting. 
Framing in-progress works is a great way to tell if they're finished or to highlight problem areas, so I put this piece in a frame when it felt potentially done.  It wouldn't stay put, however: it kept falling out which didn't allow me to judge the effect of the framing.  I decided to shoot some framing darts in to hold the painting in place for a good examination.  Picking up the "framing tool" from my work table,  I pressed it onto the back of the panel, and confidently squeezed.  It was actually the staple gun.  Same colour, heft and means of deployment - a squeeze - but different outcomes.

How not to frame a painting


The staple blew a piece of the birch panel up, making the work instantly unsaleable.
The interesting moment came, however, when I looked at the painting with the knowledge that I could never sell it.  Suddenly some issues in the little faces were simple to resolve.  They had been irritatingly fussy a few moments before, but now that there was nothing to lose, I applied a well-loaded big brush and simplified them to the state that they're in now.  I like them much better.
The little girl, in particular, has become a symbol of happiness rather than a recognizable, happy child.   I prefer the universal to the specific yet without noticing or intending it, I'd been labouring to create a suggestion of individuality in the faces - perhaps thinking that the higher level of finish would make it more appealing to some imaginary collector.  I hadn't been painting for my own taste which leans toward rough and evocative rather than refined. 
So I learned a good lesson from my mistake:  I have to guard against a tendency to think about the market for my work as I'm working on it.  The creation process is hard enough without imagining someone's reaction to the final outcome as I'm working.  In fact, the only reaction that matters is mine. 
When the painting is dry, I'll glue the damaged wood back down, frame the piece (carefully), and hang it in my living room with pleasure.  It's a good painting, and it taught me a good lesson.
Happy painting!

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