Framing art by Jeannine Cook

I have been matting and framing artwork that I have done in recent months in preparation for exhibitions. I learned some while ago how to do my own framing as I was nervous about sending out fragile silverpoint and graphite drawings to be framed elsewhere. I invested in a big mat cutter and learned about the different museum mat boards, 2, 4 and 8-ply, which are totally acid-free and thus archival. The boards I use, made by Rising, come in shades of white and cream, and their merit is that they are double-sided, so you can't make a mistake on cutting in the wrong direction! The 8-ply mat board is what I use for silverpoint drawings and while elegant, it is a bit like cutting concrete if you don't have a really, really sharp blade in the cutter. I always feel as if I have gone to the gym double-time after I have dealt with this framing job!

The choice of mats and frames is a corollary of the actual art work, and this means that there are plenty of ways that people chose to go in complementing their artwork, let alone the choices made by purchasers of art.... In terms of coloured mat boards for works of art on paper, the more conservative route, mostly required if the work is to be considered for juried or group shows, is for creams or white. Personally, I tend to favour neutral whites and lots of breathing space for my art, which also means floating the image and not confining it within a mat. Double mats, sometimes with a flash of another colour or shade, can be effective. I follow a simple rule of thumb: how far the artwork itself needs to be spaced far away from the glazing. If I am dealing with a graphite drawing, for instance, I will devise a deeper mat area, either with doubled mats, an 8-ply mat or mats deepened with hidden layers underneath which create an extra space and depth.

Frames are a vast and complicated chapter. Historically, there are some absolutely wonderful frames which are works of art in themselves and indeed, there are sometimes exhibitions of frames alone, empty and beautiful. I always remember staring with entrancement at frames in an exhibition of early Masters' art from the Budapest Museum of Fine Arts. Their ornate carving and wonderful use of different woods alternated with other frames of the most complex gilded ornamentation. It was a frenzy of creativity that was entirely separate from the fabulous art enclosed within the frames.

When I frame, I am always mindful of various things - firstly that the frame, like the mat board and glazing (UV-protective acrylic in my case), should protect the artwork and not add to the dangers of damage to the art. I am also aware that if I exhibit the work in shows and send it elsewhere, there is always a possibility of damage being done to the frame, even by the most careful of art handlers. I am also mindful that frequently, if people purchase my work, they will want to reframe it to their taste and surroundings. So if I use a neutral, non-acidic, high-end brushed metal frame, the work is relatively safe and robust. The clean, simple look also matches the look that I want for my artwork, both watercolours and drawings, that speaks to light, space and air. From a practical point of view, this framing choice also makes it much more feasibly that I can do the framing myself, at home, with acrylic gazing, and end up with lightweight, simple frames.

So this is the world I have recently been working in... and I am really eager to return to actually trying to make art. That, for me, is the really fun side of being an artist!