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Wrendesign is an artist-owned company showcasing about 400 original paintings and also offering a section on illustrated children's stories online which can be downloaded free for single use. This blog is maintained by one of the resident artists. To see our website please click on link above.

Monday, March 12, 2012


Well - that depends!   Why are you buying the painting? 

If it is strictly because you love it then pay what you can afford to indulge your love.  

If it is for "decor" then think of it as a couch or a chair and shop around for a bargain in the color scheme you're after.   In that case it's in the same category as a sofa pillow.

If it is to set the mood of a room, or function as a centerpiece of a room, or draw the eye as a focal point - then you should be a little more careful and be willing to pay a lot for just the right piece.

If it is for "investment" you should know what you are doing - read a previous article on art as an investment.    Your "investment" may go into a safe deposit vault rather than over your couch.

Now that we have that out of the way - let's discuss why paintings cost what they do.   Really good paintings are somewhat scarce.   That does not necessarily mean they are expensive.   Some very good artists are not very good business people - and especially when they are starting out their paintings may be cheap.   But if they do have talent, they will eventually sell their paintings for an amount that earns them a reasonable living (otherwise they will quit!).

The first "cost" of a painting is the materials.    Admittedly this is a small percentage of the cost of good art, but canvas and paints are expensive.     And remember that the artist probably had to paint a lot of unsold canvases before they became experienced and successful.    So don't expect to buy anything any good for $20.00.

The second "cost" of a painting is the labor.   Admittedly this is not always relevant - a good artist may do one wonderful painting in an hour and another of their wonderful paintings may take them 6 months.     Time spent is not equivalent to value.   But, overall, the artist must make a living.    If you judge that a particular artist on average can turn out 12 good saleable paintings a year then each painting is at least worth one month's salary.

The third, and most important, "cost" of a painting is in the creativity.   There is no formula for this.   When the art speaks, it has its own value.    This may far exceed any materials or labor involved.   If you are buying real art this is the ultimate and only criteria of value.    And it can only be judged by the audience - which is you.    (Okay, it can be judged by the market - but then we are back into the investment angle). 

So - first know why you are buying the art in the first place.   Second consider the fair value of the painting just as a product (the labor and materials).   Third, and most important, judge it by the "art" actually there - the creativity.    That is what it is ultimately worth  - with good art you are buying creativity.   

Monday, February 13, 2012


Okay, so you have bought an oil painting, perhaps at an art fair, and it is not framed and the staples show on the side of the canvas.    Most (but not all) oil paintings are done on stretched canvas.    Some artists use more expensive stretched canvas stapled on the back, and then paint the edges that show, so a frame is not necessarily required.    Some don't, believing that their paintings really need a frame to show to best advantage.   It is a matter of taste, opinion, and your pocketbook.

If you need to cover the sides, but don't have any money after you have just spent it all on the artwork, you can always get some thin lath at Home Depot, nail it to the edges and hang it (hopefully temporarily) that way.

The next least expensive option (assuming you are not a carpenter) is to buy a ready made frame at a discount store or an art supply store such as Michael's.    Wait for a sale.   They happen frequently.   This only works if your painting is a standard size.

If you can't find a ready-made frame, and you can't build a frame yourself, you will have to go to a custom frame shop.   These are also found in stores that sell Art Supplies, as well as stand-alone custom frame shops.

The simplest frame is plain wood or metal.   You will select something (called a molding) from which the frame will be made.    The depth of the molding is important.    It should cover, or nearly cover, the full depth of the canvas.   Otherwise you will see the canvas sticking out the back of the frame when viewed from the side.

Very often, you will also want a liner.    This is a fabric covered  piece than goes between the painting and the outer frame.   It is often cream or white linen.    But there are lots of options, many colors, fabrics such as velvet or burlap or leather.     If a liner is in your budget it can really enhance a painting.    A soft floral painting with a pale velvet liner in a complimentary color and a gold baroque frame can be very striking.    A strong bright abstract might benefit from a wide liner of bright white or some color in the painting and a strong gold, brass or silver colored narrow metal frame with a good depth.    The point is, you can really bring the painting to life as a focal point in your room with a good choice of framing.     You should also consider where you plan to place the painting.   What works well in one room might be overwhelming in another.    That is one reason (besides cost) that artists don't often frame their canvases - the best frame may depend on where the painting is going to live.  And some paintings really don't need frames - ones that are too overpowering can distract.

The third thing you can use is a lip.   This is a very narrow piece of wood, usually gold or silver, sometimes wood, that goes between the liner and the canvas.   Depending on the picture it can be very effective.    It can also look like overkill.

On ready-made frames you will often find a lip, a liner, and an outer frame -- though on the less expensive ones these may appear to all be one piece.    They are usually gold-white-gold or brown-white-brown combinations.

A good custom frame shop can help you pick something out for your painting.   But be aware that custom framing is expensive, as is most custom work.    The custom framer will also install the painting into the frame (called fitting).   This involves securing the frame to the canvas (without damaging it), covering the back with paper of some sort as a dust cover, and installing a wire or other hardware to hang it.   They should also give you a good hook.   Note - if you want a metal frame that is not a standard size you will have to use a custom framer unless you have special tools and can find uncut metal picture frame molding.    A custom framer can also re-stretch a canvas onto a narrower stretcher bar if desired to fit a less deep frame, or to remove any looseness.   Note - some "warbling" can be removed by spraying the back of the canvas with water - lightly please!

If you choose to do the fitting yourself, you will need to fasten the frame to the canvas (be careful not to damage the canvas or split the frame).    For wood frames you can use small finishing nails.    Metal frames use brackets which usually come with the frame.   You do not really need to paper-back, but it is a nice touch.   You can buy wire and various types of hangers at hardware stores.   Be SURE to use big enough hardware to hold the weight!

Last note today -- If you buy ready-made metal frames you usually have to buy two packages - one for the height and one for the width.     Be sure the one you buy is deep enough to cover your canvas.

Sunday, January 15, 2012


Interior Design With Paintings

Many designers use a painting as a focal point in a room.   It draws the eye in, adds drama, and can set the color scheme and the mood.    Perhaps your client has a favorite artwork they are in love with.   In this case, work with it!    If they are not collectors, and are not sure what they like, you can still use artwork to great effect without infringing on what can be their very personal taste.    In this case, be very sure you have their approval of your selection before you do a lot of designing around it.

Try a large, custom-lighted painting at the far side of an entry hall - it welcomes the guest and draws them it. 

In a living area, a bold central painting can set the tone for the whole room.    This is especially relevant in rooms that are designed for entertaining.

A dining room painting can be quieter, but can definitely set a mood.    Take into account the subdued lighting which will generally be used, perhaps even candlelight on special occasions. 

Master Bedrooms can also benefit from a large quiet painting.   Galleries are also effective here.

Guest bedrooms are often decorated for "fun" - a bright or whimsical abstract might set the tone, you want the guest to remember their visit, and artwork can do the trick.   Take the client's personality into account - they may want their guests to remember a beautiful portrait or a calming forest scene.   If their are several guest bedrooms try making them different and memorable - they might even be "named" after their main painting.

It is easier to decide on the artwork first, and then adjust your color palette to compliment.    You may know you want a blue or a gold accented room, but exactly which shade of blue or gold can be dictated by the artwork selected.    Usually the painter has used colors that are very complementary.   And it is one way to present your color scheme to the client.

And be sure to consider the lighting.    Most paintings benefit from some sort of custom lighting (please not picture lights hanging on top of the frame!).   Use concealed spots with dimmers, or very strategically placed lamps.    If you are considering anything framed under glass, test out the reflections before you place it!

Where to find paintings?   It is somewhat impractical to drag large paintings around to show clients, or to drag clients to where the paintings are.    It is also very time-consuming and geographically limiting to traipse through galleries.   Try the Internet (try us at wrendesign.com - see link above) - there are lots and lots of sites online.    Some are by individual artists, some are run by galleries to establish a wider clientele, some are dedicated art websites that showcase hundreds of artists.     They will all have pictures which you can show your client.    Most will not send a painting on approval unless you have an ongoing relationship and an account with them, but most will also accept returns within a reasonable amount of time, and will refund in full except for shipping charges.    Keep in mind, that crating and shipping large paintings is expensive, and paintings can be damaged with rough handling - so try to be fairly confident of your selection and your client's approval before bringing one in.    However, if you make this a part of your design business it can be very profitable for you and delightful for the client.