I received an email from an artist challenging a point I make in my book. In it, I encourage artists working in two dimensions to sell their work framed whenever possible. Marion wrote to complain that it is far too expensive for her to consider.
I wrote back to ask her whether or not she framed her work for her exhibitions. She replied that she had not yet had an exhibition, and I suspected that would be her response. I was sure Marion was a novice artist because questions about framing are often asked of me—and most often by emerging artists. Framing can seem very financially challenging when it is part of the “start up” cost of establishing a visual art business.
The first rule of thumb to keep framing costs at a minimum is to work as much as possible in standard sizes. I suggested to Marion that she choose an appropriate frame size working up from the image size (or sizes) she uses. By adding mat dimensions to the image size, you arrive at the dimensions you need for your substrate and frame. For Marion who likes to work within dimensions of 11” by 14”, I suggested she use paper 16” by 20” and a mat two inches wide on three sides and three inches wide on the bottom. This gives her a 11” by 16” working area using standard sized materials, minimizing costs and maximizing profit.The cost efficiency of using standard sizes throughout your career plus the marketing and conservation advantages of framing your work (simple dark thin-profile frames and of-white mats) are two important concepts artists should consider. (These lessons were how I first learned about Opus when I was running a gallery.) Besides, if you ever had to serve a customer wanting to frame a work that they have bought, you’d know much many art consumers value having their framing decisions made for them.