Picture Framing

With Barry Whitehouse of the Artery, Banbury

The Arty Bit

How do you know what paint you are buying?

Buying paint can be a minefield as there are so many different brands and qualities out there. I have created a helpful guide to make your shopping easier. Most paints adhere to the guidelines I have given but may vary a little.

When you buy paint that has the word ‘hue’ alongside this means that it is made to look like the colour on the label, but has not used the real pigment, and is therefore often cheaper. Many student quality paints have the word ‘hue’ on them.

The squares printed on the side of the tube (or are on colour charts available to download from most manufacturers’ websites) will indicate how opaque or transparent a colour is.

When you start out learning to paint, an easy mistake is to buy cheap and go to bargain shops and get a pack. The reason this is a mistake is because it is false economy and the products are made from inferior paint that while it will work to do children’s art and crafts, will not necessarily work to produce a ‘proper’ piece of art. It can often cause frustration as the work you produce is nothing like that of the tutor you’ve been working with, or the how-to guides you’ve been reading or watching online. My advice is to always go mid-range to begin with. Brands like Cotman, Aquafine, and VanGogh in watercolour, Georgian, or Winton in oils, and Galeria, System 3 in acrylics are all wonderful to start with, and indeed many professional artists still use them.  Expect to spend around £20-£35 to get a basic set of good quality student paints. The results you will get will spur you on to continue with the hobby.

The Art Surgery

The Picture Framer: The skilled and often underappreciated worker that helps your paintings sell

A frame is a frame, would you agree? Well I certainly used to think this was the case, but I learnt very early on in my career that a picture frame is probably just as important as what is contained inside it. In my early 20’s I held an exhibition in quite a nice gallery, but being a ‘starving artist’ didn’t think I should send money on proper framing so opted for cheap ready-made ones from the local branch of Wilkinson’s thinking they would do the trick. It wasn’t until a week after the exhibition started, and very few sales that I looked through the gallery visitor’s book. In it were uplifting comments such as ‘beautiful work’, but alongside those were comments like ‘I really love your paintings but it’s such a shame about the frames’, or ‘nice work but the frames spoil them’. From that moment on I started looking at the picture framer in a new light.

The correct frame will enhance the work contained inside it. It should be viewed as a piece of furniture rather than as something that should match the lounge décor, or the means to display a picture on the wall. The frame is an additional piece of work that accentuates the art encased within it.

Good picture framers know their stuff but are often hard to find, and yet well worth the hunt. As an artist you put all your faith (and money) in the picture framer doing his job so well that your work sells for far more than it would have done without a frame, and it can be soul destroying when you pick your frame from the framers and you see it is not at all what you imagined.

I began working with Michael Crossley of The Art Framing Workshop in the cellar of 21 Parsons Street several years ago, and he has taken my artwork to realms way above what I imagined they could be. He takes time to consider each piece as an individual piece of work, guides me through which mount colour would work best, how deep the mount should be, or if there could be any ‘little tricks’ used on the mount to create light play or give extra depth. Michael then talks through which mouldings would work backed up by showing the ones that wouldn’t. It is like talking to a master craftsman guiding you through his process, while in turn Michael is asking about my budget, where the picture is to be displayed, and what I am looking for from the frame. This discussion alone is invaluable and worth every penny, but the frame prices are also extremely reasonable.

Framing is often an area where most artists will scrimp to save time and money – but in my opinion it is actually the area where more money should be spent as it will add so much value to the work. Think of a good picture frame like an expensive conservatory that creates another room to a house – it adds more value than was spent, it adds depth and light; whereas a cheaper ready-made one can sometimes be like a little lean-to made from old windows or corrugated plastic – it serves its purpose but could put potential buyers off.

Take the time to consider using a professional picture framer and you won’t be disappointed in the results.