Painting Inside and Outside the Frame

Gubbart staff reports and views: Steve Ladd on making a painting feel at home…

Paintings are like children; they grow up, maybe, and move out of the house, hopefully. They will need to have their own place to live in. That’s what a picture frame is, to my way of thinking, a home for the painting.

The basic function of a frame is to stop infringement by the environment and separate it from the nearby plant and lamp. In an austere room with bare walls, a painting might not need a frame if it’s the only object there. But even then I think a picture tends to float without a frame or border, like a homeless person, and you might wake up in the morning to find that it has moved to another wall.

The ways to contain and settle a picture are wide ranging, from no frame at all to the super snooty, ornately gilded, closed-corner, high-end gallery frame. I tend to use simple yet pleasing frames and borders that add to the harmony of my paintings, with an occasional carved one that gives a special made-by-hand look. If the wood used is beautiful and it’s color compliments the painting, a natural finish may be used. But sometimes I feel the need to paint the wood frame with a color and value to chime with the painting and make it sing. My personal rule is: never make the frame more exciting than the painting. Which is why I don’t use the classic gold leaf sculptural frames.

But even my simpler hand hewn frames take a lot of time, effort, and expense to make. Ripping boards on a table saw, routing channels for the canvas to fit in, sawing perfect miter corners, carving tasteful lines and textures, sanding, and the final finishing or painting. This all adds to the cost of the painting. So, in order to offer reasonably priced paintings to customers who come here to Gubbart seeking to buy original art, I offer works that are unframed as well. This also allows the customer to choose his or her own frame style to suit their tastes and home décor.

Lately I have hit upon the idea of painting two or three borders on the actual canvas, which can create a very pleasing look, that still fulfills the main function of a frame, without adding to the cost of the painting. This method works especially well on a stretched canvas where the outside edges are painted and incorporated into the overall design. But it can be used on thin rigid panels too, allowing the customer to choose and use an inexpensive thin wooden or metal strip frame for hanging purposes.

Ultimately it’s a matter of personal choice, and we at Gubbart believe that a work of art should be authentic and special, something extra beautiful and meaningful that will last and be appreciated for generations. And for me, I like to give a painting a home of its own, before it gets to your home, so I give extra attention to its frame and borders.


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