The Great Frame-Up

Recently I sat down with a notepad, lined all my “good” paintings up, and proceeded to evaluate them. I used a list of common elements of painting borrowed from Phil Schmidt.

  • Originality
  • Emotive quality
  • Composition
  • Execution
  • Presentation

Now, I don’t know precisely how Schmidt uses these concepts in his judging process, other than knowing he creates a scorecard. Do some factors weigh more heavily in his decisions than others? I don’t know.

What I did was to create my own scoring system using these five categories. I described for myself what I would see for each quality on a scale of 0 to 5. For example in the Originality category, a painting that is “Highly original, unique, unusual, novel, different in some way from anything I’ve seen before” would rate a full five points. At the other end of the originality spectrum, a painting that is “Tiresome, nothing original, seen countless times before” would receive no points. 

I went through my paintings one by one, giving each a score. When I was finished, I wasn’t surprised to see that my “Storm Clouds Gathering” was the highest-scoring of them all.

Judge Merit Award

This painting, you’ll recall, won a Judge’s Merit Award last fall. As you can see, it’s beautifully framed. Both the frame and the matting are perfect for the painting, showing the colors off to full advantage. I have a professional framer to thank. I am fairly sure that without her perfect choices, I would not have won this award.

And, for those who are curious, no, I didn’t receive any awards at the County Fair Art Show. The two judges seemed quite stingy about giving out merit awards. Each judge chose only one painting for a merit ribbon. But, it’s all right. My work looked good on display, I got compliments on it, and I made the acquaintance of many local artists I’d never met before. All in all, a good experience for me.

Now, after evaluating and numerically scoring my paintings, I’m not surprised that the works I entered didn’t measure up to whatever standards the judges were using. What surprised me most, though, when I analyzed the results of my grading system, was that the area in which I scored lowest was presentation.

Yes, it does make a big, big difference in how our work is viewed, and I have to admit I hate the entire framing process. Frames are costly. Some artists I know try to purchase them in large quantities, but that seems a bit impractical for me. Other artists browse thrift stores and estate sales in hopes of finding old paintings with nice frames. A good idea, but I don’t really have the patience for it.

When I first began oil painting, my helpful husband decided it would be good to learn how to make frames. Unfortunately, though, he doesn’t really have time enough to devote to frame-making, and he hasn’t been too happy with his first few attempts.

So, for me, the most logical choice is to do exactly what I did with my Storm Clouds Gathering painting: take it to Hobby Lobby, have a professional framer assist me in choosing the right frame, and in selecting the perfect matting. I won’t actually have the work framed at the store. It’s simply too expensive. But I can purchase the frame and have the matting cut, ready for my husband to assemble at home.

Of course, the good thing in all of this is that if framing and overall presentation is my weakest area, it will be an easy fix to raise the scoring for many of my paintings. I’ll need improvement in other areas, too, but one thing I can do right now is to make sure I’m showing off my oil paintings in the best possible way.

I’d like to think that my paintings deserve to be properly displayed. And when paintings are going off to art shows, I will be sure that any judge will give me high marks for presentation. 










  1. You might want to take a look at American Frame’s website
    It’s basically a DIY type of thing, but if you put a little consistency into the size of your work you can order a bunch of mats and frames for a reasonable price. One other tip–if you’re exhibiting many paintings at once it helps to have consistent framing so they look like a coherent group. Too many frame choices and viewers start frame shopping as well as painting shopping, then get tired because they can’t make a decision and end up buying nothing. You may not be at the “many paintings at one time” point yet, but it’s something to keep in mind for the future. Go to shows and galleries and see how individual artists’ collections are displayed. Then work with what you’ve seen and learned.

    Liked by 1 person

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