Tuesday, July 21, 2015

Tips for framing oil and acrylic paintings

A few of my framed paintings at Yarmouth Frame and Gallery

I was talking with my friend Amy a few days ago. She’s just renovated a triple decker in Portland's up-and-coming Munjoy Hill, and the first floor is now available on airbnb (check it out). She's got some pictures she needs to frame. So I thought I'd share my framing resources with Amy, and post them here for you.

First, it's easy to buy quality picture frames online, and very affordable. And buying them online, you can have the frames cut to whatever size you need. I buy mine from Florida Frames, and sometimes Graphik Dimensions ( But there are lots of places to choose from, here are some that Carol Marine recommends: - Franken Frames - Canvas Place - King of Frame - Metro Frame

 current frame favorites

Florida Frames samples

It's pretty straightforward to frame an oil or acrylic painting. All you need is the frame, a few pieces of supporting hardware, and some good tools. Below are the hardware and tools that I like and where to get them. is great resource, both for the hardware and for instructions.

The first task is to secure the painting in the frame. And I’m talking here about a wooden frame and a painting on a panel or canvas. A point driver is used to drive little metal darts called points into the frame, and those hold the painting securely in the rabbet of the frame (the part in the back that’s recessed). When you order a frame, order one with the dimensions of the outside of the painting. You’ll find that ordering an 8”x10” frame, for example, there’ll be a bit of wiggle room for the painting in the frame, you don't have to add that in when you order. Note also that the rabbet will have to be deeper than the thickness of the painting in order to use the point driver method.

point driver, where to order 

 points, where to order 

I generally check the frame to see which side will look best as the top, dust the frame off, and lay it face down on a towel or something non-abrasive before dropping in and securing the painting.  For 8"x10" paintings or smaller, I use one point per side, for larger paintings, I use two per side. An old palette knife is useful for positioning the painting in the frame as it's laying on your workbench.

point driver positioned to drive the point into the frame

The next task is to attach a wire for hanging, for which I use little gadgets called strap hangers. Always double check to make sure you know which is the top of the painting before making any holes in the back (I’ve messed that up a few times!). I make the holes for the strap hangers about 1/3 of the way down the back of the frame from the top edge. And I use an awl to start the hole for the screws that hold on the strap hangers. This is less work than drilling the holes, and I rarely find a frame that’s too hard for this approach. If you want, you can make a couple of hits with a nail set into the hole made by the awl to get a deeper hole.

 strap hangers and screws, where to order

nail set and hammer, available at your local hardware store 

Picture hanging wire is readily available at your hardware store, and Framing4Yourself has a great selection. Choose wire that’s rated for more than the weight of the painting plus frame. I find the non-coated wire to be easiest, but that’s a personal decision. Needle nose pliers and wire cutters are also useful.


needle nose pliers and wire cutters, available at your local hardware store
The pictures below show how to connect the wire to the strap hangers. Note, there is no painting in the frame in these photos. I sometimes make up the frames beforehand, and that works fine too. Another thing I like about this approach is that is very easy to remove the painting from the frame and replace it with another one. And you can do it without taking the wire off.

 strap hanger screwed to back of frame

 wire tied on to strap hanger

excess wire wrapped around the hanging wire (be sure to neatly cut off the end)

an extra knot before wrapping the wire (I do this for larger paintings)

And finally, bumpers go on the bottom corners of the painting to keep it from banging into the wall.


back of framed painting

To finish off the framing, be sure to include information about the painting on the back, e.g. title, painter, location, etc.

Thursday, July 2, 2015

Workshop with Tony Allain

"A Serious Game" - my final painting from the workshop

It's wonderful to be an artist. Experimentation is encouraged, failure can be embraced, and doesn't have to be public. Artists are such a supportive group. That's how I felt on Sunday, leaving the 3 day pastel workshop with Tony Allain, put on by the Connecticut Pastel Society. Tony is a wonderful British artist, who's spent the last 9 years in New Zealand. He's a really fast painter, with a very recognizable style, and is a wonderful teacher. Even for an oil painter like me, it was magic. And when I needed basic pastel advice, there were lots of experienced artists who willingly shared their expertise. Here are some examples of exercises that we did with Tony.

Marker people on pastel paper

 Marker people after pastel was added

Tony's got a great exercise for getting artists comfortable with figures. You use a marker (yes, on the pastel paper!) to build the bulk, add heads, then legs, and then use the pastels to complete the figures. I enjoyed looking at the marker result and trying to figure out which ones were moving forwards, backwards, wearing skirts, etc. The marks told me what to do. Isn't it fun when they do that?

Another exercise that I loved, was to paint a difficult subject upside down, so that you could paint the shapes without knowing what they represented. Tony suggested a portrait would give us the best for this exercise, so I went for it. I've done a few portraits before, but this was much easier! I'll never tell whose picture I chose...

My final painting is at the top, worked up from photos and sketches on our recent trip to France.

This was a great workshop. If you ever get the chance to take one with Tony, jump on it!

Friday, May 29, 2015

Boules Players

Boules players in Cassis

I'm enjoying my visit to Provence as always. But with my new crutches, I can't do as much on foot sight seeing as I'd like, and so I'm drawing, from cafe tables, benches, and where ever else I can find to sit. Watching the boules players is great fun, and since they make many of their moves over and over, they make ideal subjects for quick drawings. I did about two dozen yesterday, my favorite being the guy in the upper right, who, by the way, is an excellent player.

Friday, May 22, 2015

Off to Provence

I'm on the plane, about to take off for Ireland, then Provence! I hope to post from there.

The first day I painted at the above location, the sailboat coasted in when I was nearly done. So here's version 2 almost finished, and I'm deciding whether to make the sky blue with a few reflections of it in the water. Any thoughts?

Friday, May 1, 2015

Blue Boat Study

Blue Boat Study
6"x8" oil on Raymar panel

You know how much I love this blue lobster boat. It's not in the water yet, so I pulled out a study I started some time ago, and just added the reflection of the cabin and fixed up the mooring ball. I decided to leave the background as it was. It is, after all, a study.

I'm taking this painting and four others to Yarmouth Frame and Gallery tomorrow, for their next show, "Winter Cowers as Spring Empowers". The opening reception will be from 4-7PM on Saturday, May 9th. I'd love to see you there!

Saturday, April 25, 2015

Mother's Day is coming!

Mother's Day will be here soon. If you're looking for something beyond the usual flowers (not that those aren't nice!), I've gathered 25 paintings for a special 33% off sale. Click here to take a look. I'll gift wrap and ship them to you for free.

I love note cards! And I've ordered enough to be able to offer them in packs of 9 (3 of each card), two different styles. They're on good glossy stock and blank, so useful for any occasion. Click here to take a look. Free shipping on these too.

Wednesday, April 1, 2015

Dinghy in Blue

"Dinghy in Blue"
6"x6" oil on Raymar panel
(the blue is a bit lighter than shown here)
To purchase, click here.

 Under painting in cad yellow and burnt sienna,
which was followed by a thin layer of quinacridone red,
once the yellow layer was dry

As the sun goes down, everything goes golden. It's my favorite time of day.

Saturday, March 21, 2015

"Dinghies" - Day 3 of Leslie Saeta's workshop

12"x12" oil on gessobord

This one took quite a bit of time, including a few hours after the workshop; partly due to the detail in the boats, and the size. There is a lot of paint mixing for a 12"x12".

A few things I've learned about palette knife painting:
- Lots and lots of paint is required! Buy the big tubes.
- Paint on the palette must be spread out so that you only pick up a bit on the edge of the knife. This means that you need a really big palette. That's going to be tough for plein air unless traveling by car, with a small table to augment the palette area.
- It's important to remember to clean the knife after every stroke. You get messy edges and mottled color if you don't. So lots of paint gets thrown out.
- It's great to only have a few knives to clean up, which is easy to do with wet wipes. A plus for traveling.

Bottom line, it's really fun, and certainly different. I recommend giving it a try. And you won't have more fun than in a class with Leslie.

Thursday, March 19, 2015

"Gift Box" - Day 2 of Leslie Saeta's Workshop

"Gift Box"
oil on Gessobord

Day 2 of Leslie Saeta's palette knife painting workshop was a great learning experience. We are all getting a better feel for the knife in our hand, and learning to hold it up to the painting and I'm lagging behind. Afterwards, Leslie made dinner for all 14 of us, which was a very special treat!

Monday, March 16, 2015

Palette Knife Painting Workshop with Leslie Saeta - Day 1

Palette Knife Pears
6"x6" oil on board
Not for Sale

In process - trying to figure out how to wield a knife

I spent today in the first day of Leslie Saeta's palette knife painting class in Atlanta. It was a great success! Fourteen students, lots of color mixing, and fun learning to paint another way. Leslie is a wonderful teacher. She's patient, organized, and makes sure that everyone "get's it". Kathy Cousart assisted Leslie, and it was great to get to know her better.