Karen LeGault ~Fine Art Blog

February 21, 2016

What’s in a Brushstroke?

Filed under: Floral/Botanical,Technical Aspects,Uncategorized — by Karen LeGault @ 09:11
I have observed many students loading a brush and then wiping out their efforts by dipping it in their water jar and eliminating the color they so carefully had picked up.
Painting with watercolor requires an attention to the quality of the relationship between pigment and water. You have to be constantly thinking about what you are trying to place on the paper.
The more water, obviously, the less intense the color will be, and vs a vs, an application of straight pigment with very little water added will yield a more intense color. There is a time for each!
There are many many types of brushstrokes, some are wet, wet and sloppy, some are dry, some very dry, some are big and bold, some are tiny and precise. The size, shape and nature of the brush and how wet or dry the brush is before you touch the paper with it all come together as you imagine what you want to happen when the stroke is placed.
Ultimately it is your imagination that is in charge! It has to request support from you and your brush, together with pigment and water, to create the strokes that lead to revealing your vision.

November 8, 2015

How Long Does it Take to Do a Painting?

Filed under: Uncategorized — by Karen LeGault @ 11:28
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This is a question I get occasionally from people who are visiting my booth at an art festival.
The answer is almost as varied as the paintings.
There are so many factors involved. Of course there is the smart-assed reply that it took however long I am old, … not admitting anything here : ) .

Seriously, skill develops over time with an artist’s maturity and interests, and there is some truth to that answer!

But in real time, it depends on the size , approach and the complexity of the piece.

A painting I completed recently, “On Spanish Creek VI” was painted over a five year period. I would work on it for intense week or two week long bursts of time at the site of the scene, and then work on it over another few weeks or months  in my studio, but not as intensely, each year.

That time of actually painting that painting was preceeded by 12 years of painting other paintings in the same series as well as numerous pen and ink studies, small watercolor studies and studying Asian landscape techniques which I was also teaching to others during the same time period. (If you want to learn something well, then teach it!) I am a believer in becoming familiar with your subjects.

An original painting is being invented for the first time, imagined into being, whether it is based on a real place or an imaginary place. Composition is critical. You cannot simply paint over a watercolor painting if you don’t like where you put something! If the main shapes don’t work together, or the lines are not elegant, it can be lost. With oil or acrylic you can change the painting to something entirely different if you don’t like it. This means that the further you get into a watercolor painting, the higher the stakes in making it work. A wrong turn can negate hours and hours of work!

Having already completed a number of small studies before undertaking a large project helps to solve some of the problems that the eventual larger painting will present. Working those problems out helps to ensure a strong beginning.

A large still life painting starts with having some interesting seasonal offerings – fruit, flowers or vegetables available. If they are from someone’s garden, they seem to offer even more energy. The “energy” of the subjects is important too!

The subjects begin to attract objects and the color palette of the composition of the painting begins to fall into place. None of the subjects or objects can be the same size or shape (unless it is one of several types of the same thing, like several tomatoes that all might be similar in size) There are several other considerations that go into the composing of the piece, but a dedicated period of time is required to work on it before those things go out of season or spoil or the painter (me) looses the momentum of the vision or time and has to put it aside to work on next year.

Again, as with landscapes, a large still life painting is best approached with some small studies to work out some of the technical problems that will present themselves. Once begun it  will take a minimum of 7 to ten days to complete.

Of course there are paintings that can be painted in a few hours. They have usually developed out of a line of interest in the particular subject. Some of the more traditional brush paintings like plum blossoms, bamboo, or simple flower paintings in small sizes can be painted in a couple of hours by the time you put in a background refine the details and mount them. The more realistic they are, though, the longer it takes to refine, detail and balance the work.

There are other hidden time costs besides time in the actual production of a painting. Maybe subject for another time!

October 13, 2015

Your color looks different from what I normally expect watercolor to look like. Do you use a special kind of paint?

Filed under: Uncategorized — by Karen LeGault @ 07:10
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"Tea Party"

“Tea Party”, watercolor by Karen LeGault


This is a question I often hear at art festivals when viewers are looking at my work.
Watercolor is a flexible medium that can be used in many ways. So, no, I don’t use a special kind of paint. It is normal watercolor. My preferred brand is Schminke, but I used others too. I like intense luminous color. To achieve it I layer my color, sometimes with as many as 20 layers, occasionally with a single layer.

In a painting, color is all about what you put next to it. Neighboring colors influence each other, much in the same way that friends influence each other. Who we are next to can change the way we feel and function at a given time.

For example, red and green are complements, or opposites. Together they can stimulate each other and they both appear brighter because of a phenomenon called simultaneous contrast.
You know how when you stare at a solid color and then look at a blank white paper, how you see the opposite color ghosting on the paper? A colors’ opposite gets cast out from it, so that its neighbor gets some of that opposite added to it. If a green shape is next to a red shape they will each give more of their complement to their neighbor, so the red appears redder and the green appears greener.

Working with those relationships is what the balance of a painting is all about.
Too many pure colors next to each other can be loud and annoying. In music a band can allow a particular instrument to take the lead, while the other instruments become background support, but still have their own character. In painting, finding ways to support color so that we can enjoy the subtleties involved gives visual interest. A color can be “shaded” (mixing black or a dark mix with the color) or “tinted” (adding white) or “toned” (adding its complement for tertiary effect.)

Tinting, toning and shading the color while leaving small patches of pure color, makes the color stand out. So, for example, if you want a red to stand out you can support it with a neighboring tone. (A mix of red and green creates an rich brown that can either be redder or greener depending on the mix). In context the red will stand out and have meaning. Red by itself is very flat! Yes, even red needs help from others.

This is part of what makes my use of color unique.

September 23, 2015

What is a Giclee?

Filed under: Uncategorized — by Karen LeGault @ 22:02
What is a Giclee?
I am often approached by fair goers who are baffled by the term “Giclee”.
Before 18 years ago prints were very expensive to obtain. They were often printed via lithography using flat stones and multiple layers of ink that each required separate stones to be prepared with the color separations. A run of many had to be printed at one time, meaning the artist or dealer had to store a lot of prints and that a “run” was quite expensive.

The word Giclee means “to spray”. The paper or canvas is fed under a giant drum. A line of ink nozzles the width of the paper sprays droplets of ink as the paper is turned under the line of nozzles.

I had my first Giclee prints made in the year 2001. I traveled to a state of the art facility in Manhattan Beach to a place called Nash Editions. Think Nash of “Crosbie, Stills and Nash, who was a photographer besides a musician. He started the business to make reproductions of his photographs. They were perfectionists in the budding field. Artists from all over the world went there to have their reproductions made.

After a few years the field evolved and there were excellent and much less expensive prints to be had in local giclee shops.

The cost to me as an artist for a print was as much as what I can now sell my prints for.  Yes, the price has come down substantially.

A Giclee is essentially (best case scenario) a really really good photo of a painting that must be perfectly evenly lit for the true color temperature of the painting. There can’t be any shiny spots from glare or reflections. There can’t be uneven light across the surface. The whole piece needs to be square at the corners, straight at the edges and match as closely as possible to the original art.

The print maker is usually adept at photoshop to make any corrections and must also understand the machines that they use to print with.

I have over thirty colors of paint that I work with to create my paintings.
Matching the color of the original painting using the limitations of the inks is an art in itself.

Giclees make it possible to provide high quality images to people who either can’t afford, or prefer not to collect, original fine art.

I use the service of Tony Molatore/ Berkeley Giclee.

These are his Technical Specifications:
This giclee print was created to high standards of reproduction with materials tested by the Fine Arts Trade Guild to resist fading and discoloration in excess of seventy-five years. Berkeley Giclee prints are produced on an Epson 9900 printer utilizing the eleven color Height Dynamic Range inkset which results in a wide color gamut, excellent color saturation and incredible sharpness.

The conservation grade paper has a weight of 310 grams per square meter and a caliper of 22 mils. Composed of one-hundred percent cotton, the paper is acid and lignin free. It has a ISO Brightness factor of 95.6.
As with all fine art, for maximum longevity, this print should not be displayed in direct sunlight or subject to extremes of temperature or humidity.

August 1, 2015

What is Rice Paper?

Filed under: Uncategorized — by Karen LeGault @ 10:33
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What is Rice Paper?
When you hear the words “rice paper” does your mind conjure up something to wrap around a tasty spring roll?
It took me a while to figure out that when I mention to art festival viewers that “many of my paintings are on rice paper”, that they really were not sure what I was talking about. How could something made of “rice” be archival?

Of course this kind of “rice” paper is not made of rice.

What I can tell you is that high quality “rice paper” is a joy to paint on.

There are different thicknesses of paper, single, double and approximately one and a half weight. Some papers are very absorbent. Some are absorbent and very hard to retain clean edges in a brush stroke. Some are absorbent and much easier to keep that clean edge. The surface of a high quality paper is smooth but not slick like some of the machine made papers. Lesser papers somewhat rough.

Some are sized to make the surface less absorbent and more repellent, the ink and color almost sit on top of the paper when applied. Traditionally these are used for landscapes where color is, typically, not so important, but drawing with the brush on the surface is.
A thin paper is beautiful for single strokes in black ink, but more difficult to build up color on.
A thicker paper can sustain many applications of ink, color and washes.

Here is the description I found on Wikipedia of how it is made:

This “Rice paper”, smooth, thin, crackly, and strong, is named as a wrapper for rice, and is made from bark fibres of the paper mulberry tree. It is used for origami, calligraphy, paper screens and clothing. It is stronger than commercially made wood-pulp paper. Less commonly, the paper is made from rice straw.

Depending on the type of mulberry used, it is named kozo (Broussonetia papyrifera, the paper mulberry), gampi (Wikstroemia diplomorpha), or mitsumata (Edgeworthia chrysantha). The fiber comes from the bark of the paper mulberry, not the inner wood or pith, and traditionally the paper is made by hand.

The branches of the paper mulberry shrubs are harvested in the autumn, so the fibre can be processed and the paper formed during the cold winter months, because the fibre spoils easily in the heat. The branches are cut into sections two to three feet long and steamed in a large kettle, which makes the bark shrink back from the inner wood, allowing it to be pulled off like a banana peel. The bark can then be dried and stored, or used immediately. There are three layers to the bark at this stage: black bark, the outermost layer; green bark, the middle layer; and white bark, the innermost layer. All three can be made into paper, but the finest paper is made of white bark only.

If the bark strips have been dried, they are soaked in water overnight before being processed further. To clean the black and green bark from the white bark, the bark strip is spread on a board and scraped with a flat knife. Any knots or tough spots in the fibre are cut out and discarded at this stage.

The scraped bark strips are then cooked for two or three hours in a mixture of water and soda ash. The fibre is cooked enough when it can easily be pulled apart lengthwise. The strips are then rinsed several times in clean water to rinse off the soda ash. Rinsing also makes the fibre brighter and whiter-fine kozo paper is not bleached, it is naturally pure white.

Each bark strip is then inspected by hand, against a white background or lit from behind by a light-box. Any tiny pieces of black bark and other debris are removed with tweezers, and any knots or tough patches of fibre missed during scraping are cut out of the strips. The ultimate goal is to have completely pure white bark.

The scraped, cooked, and cleaned strips are then laid out on a table and beaten by hand. The beating tool is a wooden bat that looks like a thicker version of a cricket bat. The fibres are beaten for about half an hour, or until all the fibres have been separated and no longer resemble strips of bark.

The prepared fibre can now be made into sheets of paper. A viscous substance called formation aid is added to the vat with the fibre and water. Formation aid is polyethylene oxide, and it helps slow the flow of water, which gives the paper-maker more time to form sheets. Sheets are formed with multiple thin layers of fibre, one on top of another.

April 21, 2015

Remembering John Kaneko

Filed under: Uncategorized — by Karen LeGault @ 08:01
Remembering John Kaneko
IMG_1840 - Version 4
photo from High School Year Book
Good Teachers make a Difference in People’s Lives
A few years ago I wanted to get in touch with a high school Art teacher who was my first Art Teacher back in 1967. A few years later he started teaching at the Community College, American River College, that I attended. I studied with him there as well. The foundation he gave me was a strong building block in basics such as perspective, mixing color, drawing, composition and art history. Even though it was 47 years ago many of the lessons he gave seem as fresh in my mind as the day he gave them.
I still remember the color charts we had to match and mixing colors right on the tables  until I could create any color I could imagine, creating collages that he endlessly had me rearrange. I had to expand my vocabulary to describe historical art images learning about “mannerism”, Symbolism, Surrealism, Impressionism and the “Renaissance”.

He exposed me to Japanese art and architecture, giving me a lifelong appreciation of the seemingly simple forms. He helped me cut wood to learn how to create structural support for paintings.

He gave me encouragement to think about art as something I was good at a time when I was thinking about more practical ideas like commercial art.

He was also a man who lived in my neighborhood with his family, whose house I would stop by with my siblings on Halloween. He moved a few blocks from there to build his new house by hand, in his ‘spare’ time.

I didn’t find him a few years ago, even though I had called the college where he chaired the art department for many years. there were no clues online. No one seemed to be able to give me a way to connect with him.

Last night I decided to pursue my search again only to discover that he had passed away in January of 2014.

The biggest disappointment about that is that I never really got to thank him in person for the tremendous influence he played in my life, or for the generosity of time and his interest in me as a person in a day when girls were not taken seriously in their studies.

He knew about discrimination. As a Japanese American he and his family were interned during World War II. He talked to our school about the experience and I observed that many students were not respectful.

Maybe because of that he was especially conscious  of the value of opportunities, he was very supportive of female students at a time when it wasn’t the norm.

I was fortunate to have the gift of this excellent teacher and over the years have tried to pass on what I learned from him, in spirit as much as content.

January 22, 2015

Engineering in Art ~ The Creative Process in the Evolution of a Painting

Filed under: Artists,Floral/Botanical — by Karen LeGault @ 02:44
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by Karen LeGault

All writing and paintings in this article copyright by Karen LeGault. If you share please give credit to Karen LeGault and post a link to my website – http://www.karenlegault.com.

Engineering in Art 

“One of the things that really struck me when talking with you is that you use a predictable and disciplined approach to your creative work – it’s not a random walk in the dark that I think many non-creative types think creativity is about.  Rather you have the structure built into your process to allow the creative juices to flow and the art to take form through “design” and iteration.  That’s the core of any successful innovation, in my mind anyway.” Kevin McGourty http://www.inpdcenter.com

How my Persimmon Paintings Have Evolved

Recently I was speaking with my friend Kevin McGourty, who helps engineers and manufacturers figure out how to reformat existing tools to create new products. As a visitor to my studio he was particularly interested in the creative process of how paintings evolve.

He said that one of the issues he often faces with engineering types was they wanted their answers in a straightforward manner. One of his challenges was to get engineers to let go of the need for a direct answer and to “play around” with some ideas and options to see where they lead.

One of the many subjects my students have painted as a class project over the years has become a Persimmon Painting. It didn’t start out as a persimmon painting. It started out as a Loquat Painting.

In teaching Chinese Brush Painting we learn by copying the excellent compositions and brushstrokes of paintings of Master Painters who we admire.

One of the many Masters who we have emulated is Chao Shao An, who excels at the Lingnan School style of painting. The Lingnan School is a “Southern” style exemplified by an environment that is warmer, hence softer, intimate and even somewhat tropical. By contrast, to give you an idea, the “Northern” style often shows imposing and cold looking mountains, sharp and angular composition and brushstrokes as opposed to flowing and rounded.

Chao Shao An is widely collected and shown by the Asian Art Museum in SF. His brush strokes are wonderful and the control of dark and light ink very compelling.

Here is a picture of  Loquat Painting by Chao Shao An that I have long enjoyed.


Loquat Painting by Chao Shao An

After a few years of painting (every so often) paintings inspired by this painting as a “jump-off” point, I began to think to myself that since I rarely, if ever, have seen a Loquat Tree that I would turn the painting subject, in a similar composition, into a Persimmon Painting. I do adore Persimmons and I had painted them from life into many of my still lifes.


Persimmon in a Silver Dish, still life on hot press paper circa 1996

View from my bedroom window

Inspiration when I wake up…A view of a persimmon tree from my bedroom window.

 People forget that when you paint on rice (actually a mulberry source) paper, there is no going back and redoing your composition. The strokes need to be in the right place, or you need to be able to follow up on seeming poorly placed strokes to recover the balance and movement that you are aiming for.

So it started to look like these, from imagination using a series of various brushstrokes.



or like these – from life examples I placed on my work table to work fromPersimmons


Sometimes I revisit the original composition and opt for minimal brush strokes.


After that the painting began to look more like these

Persimmon Branch - Version 2


… and I started going back and forth between a direct brushy style and a more built up and layered style.


I enjoy both styles, but as an artist ultimately want to move towards an expression that is uniquely my own.


40″ wide

Currently this is the evolutionary development.

This long horizontal was a radical departure from the earlier compositions. There are many small branches rather than one main branch. Maintaining the interest while “spreading out” the subject matter was a challenge. If poorly planned, the shapes could be repetitious and uninteresting. I want a flow across the paper, the “breath of the dragon” to still be in play.

Partly from life and partly from imagination, I created a sense of overlapping leaves to lead the eye back and forth into the depth of the painting to stay engaged.

Currently I was  inspired by a new client to create a painting based on it that would be taller. This was even more of a challenge,  creating a sense of movement across a frontal space with fairly repetitive forms. I had to keep the forms balanced in the lights and darks and wanted to keep the rich fall colors. One of the challenges is to avoid parallel lines. Basicly this is a composition of lines balanced with oval shapes. The space between the branches is really critical to a dynamic composition. The placement and turnings of the leaves and fruit shapes has to keep the eye in motion and in the picture. It would be a simple matter to let it “die on the vine”, so to speak.

Here is the painting in progress. It is currently being created. Several studies preceded its inception.

Cameron commission persimmon painting in progress

In Progress – Cameron commission persimmon painting

August 19, 2014

Five Elements in Fine Art Painting

Filed under: Feng Shui,Landscapes,Symbolism — by Karen LeGault @ 15:34

If you copy any of this article please give full credit to Karen LeGault and a link to this blog or http://www.karenlegault.com

Five Elements in Painting

by Karen LeGault 

My personal history

Tai Chi practice entered my life in 1981 after a painful life marker. Following a reclusive period, I was eager to open up to new life expanding and affirming experiences and took it on whole heartedly, practicing 2 to 3 hours daily after full days of work. (I was working as a draftsperson then.) It helped me overcome anxiety. It helped me to learn to slow down and clear my head. I began to find the answers to my questions came by observing. It changed the way I approached art making. I got stronger on all levels.


I started teaching Tai Chi in 1989. I taught classes in community centers and dance studios. As I shared what I knew I kept learning from the experiences of students. For several years I also taught under my Sifu (teacher) at the Academy of Chinese Culture and Life Sciences, an acupuncture college in Oakland, where the students were budding acupuncturists and in some cases already licensed doctors from other countries looking for an alternative to be able to practice medicine in the US.

 I met Truong Van Vuong in 1999 while he was studying acupuncture at the school. Already in his early 60’s he was a Vietnamese Feng Shui master who was teaching math.

Van Vuong introduced me to the subtleties of Feng Shui and how the yin and yang and the five elements play out in it.


What are the Five Elements?

In western traditions we have four elements, air, fire, water and earth. Most of us have heard of that. 

Asian traditions, such as medicine, kung-fu, meditation, philosophy, geomancy and art have the five-element theory as a foundation.

The five elements are wood, (sometimes called wind), fire, water, earth and metal.


The interaction of the elements is constantly dynamic, but sometimes stagnation, excesses, deficiencies or other imbalances come into play.


Colors are associated with the elements.

Fire – warm red, orange

Earth – yellow, browns, neutrals

Metal – white, silver, gold

Water – blues, blue greens, black

Wood – greens


Shapes are associated with the elements.

Fire – Diamonds and triangles

Earth – square or squat rectangles that are short in vertical height

Metal – circles

Water – paisleys, curvy lines

Wood – Tall and narrow, tall and willowy


A painting is all about balance of shapes and colors within the perimeter of its exterior dimensions.


Subjects themselves can also have elements associated with them.

That subject can also be influenced by its colors and shapes that will give more weight to its related element.


For instance, a flower can be considered to be of the “wood” element, but if it’s a red or orange flower it will lend a “fire” element to it.


A view of a river can be very blue reflecting the clouds in the sky. The sky is of the “metal” element. The same view could be of seeing the bottom of a shallow stream through the surface of the water. Perhaps it is sandy and the sun piercing it makes it an orangish color. This would add a “fire” element to the water.


Fire – plastics, heat, lightening, sun, fire itself

Earth – dirt, rocks, sand, Water – glass, water, liquid, blue, black

Metal – anything made of metals, (silver can also represent water)

Water – glass, water, liquid (non-oil based), reflections, clouds,     fog, anything wet

Wood – plants, trees, grasses, flowers 


The space that a painting is imbued with also can be associated with the elements, but for now I am just going to stick with colors, subjects, and shapes.


A major element in a painting can harmonize and balance rooms. The décor of your home, the wall colors, wall papers, trim color, styles of furniture and fabrics all have their own characteristics. A painting can make up for deficiencies or excesses in the rooms themselves. We will discuss that in another article. 


Here is an example of

how the five elements can be interpreted.


The painting is “On Spanish Creek V” by Karen LeGault 

FIRE – the sun in the water casting it in orange and the orangish colors of the tree trunks
EARTH- the rocks and bank of the river
METAL, the whiteness of the rocks and the white flowers of the grasses, and the sense of atmosphere that can draw you in.
WATER- the water flowing through the scene
WOOD- the trees, grasses and other plants

November 7, 2013

Working with Pen and Ink

Filed under: Floral/Botanical,Uncategorized — by Karen LeGault @ 19:01
Tags: , , ,


by Karen LeGault

In my high school art classes everyone had a chance to work with pen and ink. In those days we used the crow quill pens that you would dip into a jar of ink to draw with. Inevitably there were always blobs from the nib that drop here and there, or smudges from a hand as the quill moved across the paper dragging a splotch from a blob.

A few years later a friend encouraged me to work with a rapidograph pen, a technical pen with a vulnerable filament of a needle that had a chance of bending if you took it apart to clean it. The beauty of using the pen lies in its perfect lines and permanent ink, non-soluble ink.

Fortunately rapidograph pens evolved and the vulnerable needles are now encased in a cartridge barrel that protects it from the user. The cartridges can be replaced when they wear out.

The drawback of these technical pens is that the ink that is formulated to be used in these pens may dry between uses, causing the needle to stick in the cartridge, requiring a thorough soaking with water and a dissolving agent to free up its movement and release of ink. There has been more than a few times when I soaked a pen cartridge for a few days in a solution of ammonia and water to get it to loosen up.

In Today’s Art Stores there are numerous disposable technical pens, drawing pens that do not have the problem of drying ink. Line work looks pretty good, though nothing really beats the clean line of ink released from a metal nib in a barrel such as a Rapidograph.

When I first started drawing plants in pen and ink, I drew them using the cross hatch style that grew out of the printing industries need to receive image images that separated the ink on their plates enough so that ink wouldn’t look blotchy and build up on the printing plates too thickly after repeated printings. Using cross hatching you can indicate the shading and subtle changes of plane that plants have a lot of. Think of the drawing of Durer for example.

As I grew dissatisfied with the mechanical look of cross hatching and began to aim for a more free and fluid look I began to draw without the cross hatching and to use instead scribbles and dots to help see the shifts in plane.

I spent several years drawing almost exclusively with a pen when I had time, refining my ability to record “place in space”, passing many hours at the UC Berkeley Botanical Garden “interviewing” single plants and filling my notebooks with our meetings.

Drawing with the limitations of a pen, which has a singular sort of line, eventually segued into applying everything I had learned into the multi-dimensionality of the bamboo brush used in Oriental Brush Painting.


I found that a pen and ink “study” would increase my understanding of the forms within a subject rapidly so that executing the same with a brush was more successful.

Above is an example circa 1986 of a pen and ink drawing that I added watercolor to.

©Karen LeGault


May 1, 2012

How to Avoid the Bad and Pick the Perfect Frame for your Amazing Art

Filed under: Framing Art — by Karen LeGault @ 18:22

This is an example of a dark matte black frame with a  dark green mat. The green mat is lighter in value than the black frame and picks up the dark and medium greens in the print. The orange in the persimmons really glows with this combination. Limited edition print by Karen LeGault.

Choosing Frames for Your Precious Art

You have a beautiful piece of art, a watercolor on paper. You had fun finding it and enjoyed your connection with the artist.  But now you want to hang it on the wall. “I will just go down to the local frame store and buy myself a nice frame”, you say to yourself.

You get to the frame store and discover none of the frames fits your piece of art perfectly. You get creative and decide to let the frame be bigger on the  top and bottom than on the two sides. You decide there will be a much bigger space on the bottom than on the top.

“Oh, but which color wood do I want, this black one or this walnut color one?”

“Hmmm, this black one is too strong for the painting, which doesn’t have any black value in it. The frame would look good in my house, but I really like that stark look, too bad it doesn’t look good with my painting.”

“What about this walnut color wood frame with the plain square profile. (Profile refers to the shape of the frame in cross section.)

Oh yes, this is good, It picks up some of the red browns and tints in the red zone in the painting.”

You take it to the counter. After talking to the clerk for a minute you realize that the mat that comes with the frame needs to be cut to the shape of the painting. As far as the size of the window goes, the framing technician should be able to cut a window for  you if the mat is satisfactory.

The other problem with the mat in the frame package is that it may not be acid free.

“Not acid free?” you say.  Well, it could cause some discoloration of the mat that bleeds into the painting, over time, but fugitive, none the less,” the clerk explains.

“Ok, so I prefer a different color mat anyway” you concede. “That white mat is a little to much contrast for the painting. What will look good with the painting?”

“The wood in the frame is fairly mid-range dark and the painting has a lot of light and airy places in it and not any saturated blacks. I think this neutral tint would help to transition nicely between the frame and the picture.” Oh, yes,” you agree, I can see that looks quite nice.

You turn the painting over to examine the back of the frame. You notice that there is no wire across the back, but there is a bracket at the top and side to use to hang it.  Which bracket you use will depend on what the orientation of the painting is, landscape or portrait. One little problem, -hanging the painting from a top cross piece means that the frame joints are being challenged with the weight of the frame on a daily basis as it hangs. It is more likely to come apart sooner than later.

“There is one more problem. Plain glass is used in the frame package.”

“That’s a problem?” you express with surprise.  “Glass is green,” is the reply. “It changes the color of the whole painting. Your reds will not be so red. The colors will be filtered through the green glass.”

“This is sure getting complicated” is the thought that is raring up in your mind.

Suddenly you decide in the moment.  “I think I will have it professionally framed.”

Six Things to Know About Framing

I know you want to make that painting look even better with a great frame.

  1.  The style of the frame – It should make the painting look great and it should blend in with the style of your furnishing. With literally thousands of profiles to choose from, it should also fall in your budget range.
  2.  The material the frame is made of. Hardwood, softwood, metal, fiberboard and polystyrene are some of the choices.
  3.  The color of the finish and whether it compliments the painting.
  4.  The size of the profile. A 1” wide profile is generally not good for an 20 x 30” frame, unless special reinforcing is added. A 1 1/2” wide frame or wider is a better choice. The frame needs to support the weight of the glass, mat and artwork.
  5.  The mat – The color of the mat should support the overall look of the painting in the frame. Mats with texture can  complement the painting and set the tone for the style of the work or complement room furnishings.
  6. It is best to try out different combinations of frame and mat next to the artwork before making a decision.

Example of a pleasing frame arrangement

The Yellow Sunflower painting by Karen LeGault has some very strong blacks in it. The white of the paper is not a true white. The client wanted a glossy white frame to match the trim in her house. I transitioned the white frame with a warm yellow range silk mat. It is a neutral yellow, not bright. The silk mat gives a sense of texture and understated elegance.

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