So, this is how the whole thing starts: Someone walks into the store, and says they don’t want to spend a lot of money; then they say they want to keep it “simple”; Then, they walk over to the wall, and pick the smallest black frame they can find for their 4’ x 4’ picture.
Ladies and Gentlemen: Welcome to the biggest mistake ever! Because a frame is an extension of your piece – just as a mat is – and putting a simple black around a picture is a border.
It was some interior designer’s invention. And they thought it was cool, and sold it to Pottery Barn. Then, the box shops, thinking it was cool, made it into a trend – it was easy to sell. And now, you may buy your black line in multiple shapes and sizes, from wood to plastic!
So, you say, “But I’d like to create a gallery for Junior’s pictures”. You race out, and buy a bunch of black frames at Target or Kmart, and you fill them with pictures. The mats usually contrast the frames, so they are either stark white or cream.
Stand back from your wall arrangement, and cross your eyes, just a little bit; what do you see? You are looking at a great big grid on the wall: a big, black grid. Now, uncross your eyes…you are creeping all of us out…
Unless your picture has a strong black presence, Black frames are lines around pictures. Now, you may say your room is black and white, and the frames match the room. Well, that’s sweet, but as your framer, you used black frames as an extension to your room, not your artwork. You may say that your photos and artwork are black and white, and that’s why you choose the black frames. I would again say to you that you are very sweet, but when you contrast your art and photos with a stark mat, all it does is call attention to the severity of the black frames, and your wall looks like a grid. Then, I would feel self-conscious because I had been staring at your eyes, wondering what was wrong with you. Unless you have something like a diploma (and I would use a diploma frame – black to play up the type, with a gold lip to accentuate the gold foil seal) I say Black is just ICKY! Stop the madness!
Here are some suggestions for alternatives for your black lines. I think the one problem with black is people see it at the box shops, and associate it with “saving money to live better or die”. BUT, here’s the thing: the industry has changed so much, that most if not all independent framers have green products on their walls, or recycled, or poly frames that are even less money! I know! Now, please, uncross your eyes!
Play down the fact it is framed; match the frame to the mat. If we put a white frame on our stark white mat…why, we’ve created an edge. So, here we have all these pictures in what appears to be just mats (A comfortable place for our eye to rest, remember?) and these lovely photos of Junior. Isn’t it amazing? People will be in awe.
Use Silver or Gold. No, not period frames or huge fru-fru. BUT, if you keep these lines simple, they will help illuminate your artwork. A soft silver or platinum will illuminate your image, and not appear so harsh as black – a nice accent to your artwork, because now we are putting emphasis on light and dark in contrast, not light and dark in color. I know what you are thinking: is there more?..Who does your hair? (That in a moment)
Natural frames add warmth, but not bulk. Natural wood tones, like a maple or poplar, add warmth to a piece and a little texture. They do not read as heavy as black, but still make a statement. If it is a design element for the room you are going for, this is a great bridge between design, color, and contrast for the wall/gallery composition.
So, we hope that we explained that just because it’s black, doesn’t mean your artwork is being framed correctly. Correct framing is a proportionate mat for our eye to rest. We should see the picture that is framed in a frame that compliments, and does not distract.