Picture Frames, Picture Framing and Picture Framers' Blog

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Artists’ Regrets, Mistakes and Failures of Times Past

It should come as no surprise to our readers that many of our picture framers are, were or have been artists and fine arts female artist looking back at past career mistakespractitioners.  Artists create, and once art is created, it would be anathema to secret it out of sight.  Indeed, it must be shown, displayed and exhibited. Throughout history much art has been and still produced on canvas and paper.  And art on paper is largely pencil, crayon, watercolour, gouache, charcoal or  other mixed media on paper.  As such is expedient to put this art in picture frames, in fact, what could be, more natural?  But just “ to frame” art, is that enough?  Nay, we say, if art is to be framed it must be done well, or not at all. Alas we are fallible human beings and we do not always do what we should do. On recounting their times and years past, our former artists picture framers recalled many things they wish they had done better. Their reminiscences educed a litany of common and recurrent failings, the most egregious being herewith and hereunder catalogued ...   

Painting and drawing with poor quality media and materials.   This a common failing with many artists, especially when they start out, at the beginning of their careers. In fairness though, this shortcoming is generally due to their frequent penury. When a struggling artist buys art materials and supplies, he or she is most unlikely to be able to afford good but relatively expensive materials.

More often than not they buy these as discounted stock, or at discounts stores, or at  clearance sales for seconds, and at 2-dollar shops even. The problem with buying supplies from these places is that they sell the cheapest and often inferior quality.

This is why we sometimes see paint brush bristles stuck in artwork or watercolours wildly buckling in cheap, thin art paper.  These defects detract from the appearance and wholesomeness of the work. More subtly, they also telegraph to potential buyers subtle messages such as that the artist is cheap, his or her work are cheap and their works are or won’t appreciate in value.

Endlessly changing, touching up and retouching art creations. It doesn’t matter whether it’s art on paper, a sculpture or some other creation, many artists sin in this respect. Indecisiveness, procrastination, hesitancy, temporizing, doubts, all these common character flaws combine to defeat the purpose and meaning of creating art. 

Granted, most artists who have ever painted or even drawn a still life, landscape or portrait have at one stage or another hesitated, stalled even, in finishing apiece.  Perhaps the clouds in the landscape painting weren’t the right shape, or the chin of the subject in the portrait not defined enough, and so they stopped, assessed, re-assessed, touched up, and so on.  But, as artists, can often be their own worst enemies.  

They can critique and criticize their our own work more often and pervasively than anyone else and nothing is done as well as it could be.  So they touch up or retouch, frequently and obsessively,  forever seeking to improve, but often not knowing when or where to stop and, sometimes, never finishing.  

Not only is this habit a choke on spontaneity and artistic creativity production, but reworking the same details over and over again, can lead to botching up the whole work and having to start all over again.  Starting but not finishing pieces of art.  This shortcoming is cognate to the preceding one and common with creative and impulsive artists.   

Their imagination begets many ideas but frequently they do not finish what they start.  It may be that their mind is so replete with fresh ideas that finishing an old idea, is difficult for them.

Alas, it matters not how many brilliant or stunning paintings an artist is working on if they’re not going to be completed, exhibited, or sold.  When quizzed why this is so, some artists have reflected that this tends to happen as soon as when the fundaments of their new creation has been created. 

At that point, their interest wanes and they become uninterested in completing the details, foreground, background or ancillary motifs.  Some artists have recognized this handicap in their working methodology and instead of working on one project, they have 2 or 3 works-in-progress.  That way, their interest hardly ever fades and complete more of their than they otherwise would.

Failing to digitally document of produced art.  As an insurance against counterfeiters, imitators, duplicators and plagiarists generally all artists should consider documenting their work.  Years ago this would have been quite expensive and time-consuming but nowadays  the digital revolution has negated both inconveniences. 

While one can still document art by photography,  flatbed scanners have now become so cheap and easy to operate that most artists choose this route.  Artwork documentation is important for several reasons.  Firstly it helps an artist to prove that he or she were the original creators and quite often, the first to publish their images or work  both off and online.  

Secondly, if scanned properly and of adequate resolution, it to create excellent quality digital copies or duplicates .  Thirdly, it helps them to create and maintain a measurable, accurate and permanent  record of their artistic production and output.    Another advantage of doing this is that with fashion changes, one never knows when past art becomes hot retro art. 

One only needs to bring to mind the 1967’s  Andy Warhols’  hot pink  screen-print of Marilyn Monroe now one of the most lucrative images ever produced.  Had Andy not properly documented his work posterity would never have known ( and bought )  any of his art. 

And, while on the subject of documenting art,  your SLR or smart-phone cameras just won’t do because, and in general, these cannot output prints of adequate quality.

Inconsistent, discordant or dissonant styling. As many people there are, there exist just as many disparate, personal styles.  Each artist is unique and thus they ought to draw, paint, sketch or render as uniquely as possible.  It would be therefore be most advantageous to any budding artist if he or she were to develop an unique, or easily distinguishable style. 

This could be a distinct way of mixing or applying media, a compositional technique or even an unique colouring method.  This distinctive feature would proffer a recognizable voice to one’s art and help to make it stand out or become more noticeable to gallery owners, art patrons and clients.

Just as Salvador Dali was famous for his surrealism and Pablo Picasso for his cubism artists should aspire for their own individual approach to art.  This goal will greatly help towards artistic success and applies regardless as to whether an artists’ medium is oil, gouache, watercolours or any other.

An artist may imagine participating in an exhibition amongst dozens of work, could his or her wok works stand out as recognizable and “different” from the rest? In art, recognition generally precedes fame.

Neglecting to renew, innovate and improve. To “ make” it , in any field, is not easy, and the world of art must be one of the hardest to successfully break into.  Possibly this is because drawing and painting comes fairy easily to many people and therefore the competition to succeed involves many more competitors than many other fields. 

And while it is incredibly difficult to excel in any field,  it can be just as difficult to maintain that leading edge, lest others succeed more that once outstanding artist.  Elite athletes and sportspersons always seek to improve themselves to stay at the “top”. 

Neglecting or failing to ameliorate their skills and capabilities can often prove fatal.  New more skilled and more capable competitors can steal the laurels and usurp an artist’s former pre-eminence.  In tandem with this quest for self-improvement, self-education and an inquiring mind are valuable elements in maintain leadership in any filed, including the arts.

Skimping on picture framing costs. To be fair, this is an entirely understandable fault.  Most artists, either by design or inadvertence, seem to create odd or irregular sizes art work which require custom picture frames.  And for the uninitiated ones, custom picture framing is expensive,  up to 5, 10 or 20 times more than ready-made poster frames

Why this is so is beyond the scope of this post, suffice to say that anything hand-made in a Western country generally costs much more, principally owing to the far higher labour costs.  An impecunious, though short-sighted, artist will say that there are several advantages to not picture framing his or her art. 

For one it saves what little money there is, for two art is easier to store and carry and for three one doesn’t have to worry about breaking the glass or the picture frames.   But another, long-sighted artist, might realize that not framing art is plain bad business, for several reasons

Firstly, framed art will always appear to be worth  “more”, than unframed art,  in the eye of the beholder and  likely purchaser.  Secondly, it makes buying art easier and more convenient to buyers since the framing has already been done and they do not have inconvenience themselves to arrange it.

Thirdly, it helps in towards selling because a framed painting is easier to imagine in one’s home that one that is unframed.  Nevertheless, if  deciding to picture frame the art, it is advisable to do so simply and not with and elaborate or ornate picture frame. 

Not only have these types of mouldings fallen in disfavour but their traditional and conservative style are unlikely to harmonize with modern framing trends.  With regard to the picture frame then, a white or white, light coloured finish,  a raw oak, or an ”industrial “ look frame would better suit today’s décor.  And if an artist really, truly, still cannot afford custom picture framing , then a Ready-Made picture frame might do, at least as temporary framing until the art is sold. 

If the art isn’t that expensive, valuable or important it may be put framed temporarily in a cheapie, off-the-shelf frame, or a frameless clip frame even, by taking a couple of simple precautions.   The first is to place at least a sheet of rag, or acid-free barrier paper between the artwork and the likely acidic ready-made frame backing. 

The second is to make sure that the off-the-shelf poster frame has a window mat between that artwork and the glass.  By actioning these two simple safeguards,  any inexpensive off-the-shelf frame should  work as temporary frame and often, at a third or a quarter of what a good custom picture frame might cost.  The point is, a painting, a watercolour, a sketch even,  is meant to be bought by a Customer, from the artist,  taken home and hung there, so put it in a picture frame!

Badly exhibited art in poor surroundings. Yes, we know, the arranging and curating of an art show or an art exhibition isn’t strictly an artist’s job, the hots, gallery manager or curator usually takes care of that.  But making sure that one’s art is exhibited in its best surroundings, positioning and lighting really helps towards putting visitors in the mood of   buying art. 

Alas, however beautiful a piece might be, if it’s badly hung and poorly lit in a distant recess, chances are that it won’t appeal to buyers, hence a missed opportunity.  It is also wise to make guests and visitors feel welcome and to arrange refreshments.  Just as important , attendees need to feel comfortable, if not at home. 

If the weather is cold, arrange for heating, if it’s hot, arrange for air-conditioning.  If these amenities are not already in-house, wheeled, portable units can easily be hired for the day, or the week-end.

Correct labelling of art including size, measurements and dimensions. Sometimes potential buyers have a particular sport or niche that they want to adorn with framed art.  And just as often, they may also inquire the overall size of the framed art for crating, transport and shipping. 

At other times they just want to know the size of the frames so that they may see how it fits in the scheme of their things.  Ergo, because of each and all of these reasons, it is advisable for artists to clearly label each and every work they exhibit.  This should include the artist’s full name, date, title, medium and price but also with both the art size and the framed  ( frame included ) art size.

The choice of measurements in Australia is easy, we metricated more than half a century ago, and it’s metric, is:  millimetres, centimetres and metres.  It is advisable to stick to metric and not mix up  it with Imperial measurements. 

So , do labelling a work, say, 16”x20” art and 46”x56 cms with a 11/2 frame is a dog’s breakfast of a description.  It’s just much simpler and easier to state: 40x50cms art, with a 3cms frame, being  46x56cms overall.

Discounting to make a sale. Admittedly, this is a tough one.  Here’s a poor “starving artist”  which a skeletal bank balance, bill piling up and the landlord whingeing about late rent.  And here’s his tight-fisted client eyeing our poor artists’ best work to date but baulking at the price. 

It isn’t as the client his poor or starving either, in fact he’s well known professional collector.  So what should the artist do?  Drop the price as asked? Bargain? Stay put?  In our experience, the artist could lower the price a little, but only on the strict condition that this reduction be unpublished and the purchase price kept absolutely confidential. 

The tactic of lowering the price, maybe between 5 and 10%, but no more, maybe not so much to secure the sale but to “save” the face of the potential buyer.  This is particularly important with some Mediterranean and Asian cultures where “saving” face and “losing” face can be more important than the sale itself. 

On the other hand, the proviso of not publicly disclosing the purchase price is important for the artist’s commercial success.  Buyers or the public at large should not become aware that such-and-such artist is known to discount works or that his or her prices are negotiable. 

That could make every sale a haggle or habituate buyers into waiting until discounts are offered, both being undesirable business practices.   Some artists we know have a generic  pricing formula which goes something like this [research+hours -worked+materials+rating+haggling-margin] which is kind of self-explanatory.

Not marketing one’s art enough.  Rembrandt Harmenszoon Van Rijn, or more simply, and more  popularly, Rembrandt, is a name of a world-renown artist that just about everyone has heard about and knows as famous.  And with fame one would expect fortune to go hand in hand.  Alas, not so for the father of Dutch Golden Age.

Never a good money manager, clever marketer or a sharp salesman, Rembrandt died a failure, bankrupt, unemployed and a pauper.  Career artists would do well to keep be mindful of the financial disaster which befell to this great, but commercially unskilled master painter. 

Many artists have their works published online with Pinterest, Tumbler, Etsy and the like.  They may also have some limited editions on sale with a couple of picture framers and art stores.  And occasionally they are represented by a minor gallery or two, who have their originals on commission.  

Perhaps they maybe selling some pieces every few weeks or so and sales are becoming more regular.  Even so, artists need to be proactive and not rest on their laurels, however small. Maintaining  a  Customers’ contacts database with follow-up newsletters, show invitations, networking information, etc. can all help increase both sales and commissions.  Even more important nowadays is online visibility.

Websites with sophisticated media showcasing art and blog functionalities can be developed out-of-the-box for a few hundred dollars.  Publishing a monthly blog with relevant art events and pertinent, original content is also highly advisable. Regular, unique-content posts will help with organic visibility and attain high SERP rankings. 

Not heeding professional critiques and pertinent feedback.  Someone once observed that, while compliments are easy to listen to and hold,  criticisms are hard to face or accept.  So, no one likes criticism, fair enough, unless for some, reason, we allow it to somehow wound us. 

And if we permit the critic to hurt us, we should ask ourselves, why and how did we let this happen?  Ergo, we should always consider critiques that are not criticisms and ignore criticisms that are not critiques.  The former are informed and constructive, the latter are uniformed and destructive. 

If an art connoisseur, professional critic, gallery director, art curator, or older artist even,  questions or challenges and artists’ style, composition or technique,  it may be worthwhile to at least consider it.  He or she may be correct and either overtly or discreetly, show  a path towards betterment, improvement and amelioration, all goals worth striving for, can we not agree?


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