Framing Our Pastel Creations

All of us have a passion to paint the beauty we see, and try to capture that beauty on our choice of pastel paper.  But just painting a scene that moved us or scene we created is half of the job. Properly framing the work so that it draws the viewer to the piece is as important as getting the values right when one is painting it.  When we take all that time to paint that scene we hope will get the notice of the judge, or will satisfy a client, we must be sure that the framed painting is going to last by being properly framed.  I have been amazed at how poorly framed some of the paintings are at art shows, and how little care was taken with this important part of the presentation.  Some poorly framed pieces come apart in shipping and the painting can be damaged or destroyed.  Improper matting, or a gaudy frame, will take away from the painting and cause the judge and other viewers to keep walking by. 

Framing can be expensive if you have a professional do that portion of the presentation for you.  A good framer can be provide guidance with the correct mat, or making a decision to use no mat at all.  The service of a professional can more than triple the price of framing. The price of commercially purchased frames in retail art stores is just one chunk out of your art budget, and the costs of mats, the type of glass and proper backing keep the sales clerk pushing buttons on the register tabulating all the costs to complete the framing and putting hooks and wire on the back so it can be hung.  The final bill gives one a gasp of shock, because it just ate most of your art budget for the next two months.  

If you are going to make the decision to frame your own work, then I encourage you to attend a workshop on framing or buy a book on framing that gives you some fall back information.  The first step in framing is to take the time to select nice quality simple frames to show you care and value your pastel painting.   Hopefully before you get started framing, you can take the pastel outside and gently spank the back to allow any loose pastel to fall off harmlessly, rather than doing that in the frame.  If you are not going to mat the painting and you did not use a pre-mounted paper, make sure it is properly mounted on a piece of acid free foam core with Lineco acid free linen tape or some other brand. Use a proper art spacer to space your painting away from the glass so that pastel dust is not drawn to the glass by static electricity. 

If you are going to mat your pastel painting, be sure to mat it with neutral matting that does not draw ones eye away from the painting.  Most rag mats are acid free.  I have used accent mats but found that the color of that accent mat may be the one thing that makes a prospective buyer decide that it will not fit in with their color scheme.  Lately I have been framing with double white mats with a spacer mat in between.  The spacer creates more distance from the glass and also allows pastel dust that decides to come loose to have a place to go without piling up on the edge of the bevel of the mat. 

Once my piece is mounted and properly matted, with the mats secured at the top with acid free tape so they will not move, I carefully place the painting in its frame.  A lot of store bought frames come with a back board made of thin Masonite. I will use this and secure it firmly in place with framing inserts.  Sometimes the ones that are there can be bent back when the backing is removed and cardboard taken out and then pushed flat once the painting and mats are put in place.   Once the painting is tightly secured, it should be sealed with an adhesive framing tape that seals the air gap between the picture back and the frame.  This way no bugs or moisture can migrate into your pastel painting.  

You are almost done, but now must attach flat eye straps that can be screwed into the frame to attach the hanging wire.  I use a plastic coated wire and provide plenty of extra wire twisted together at both ends and secured with tape so that people hanging the painting do not get poked.   

Lastly I put a piece of paper on the back that gives the tile of the painting, the catalog number and where it was painted as well as my name and signature.  Now you have a quality piece of art, properly mounted and displayed that can be hung in a gallery anywhere to attract new clients. Now get back to painting!