Life forms – my framing choices

I promised my newsletter readers (sign up if you haven’t already done so) that I’d blog about my curation and framing choices for the Life Forms exhibition. Here goes.

Framed sketch of woman's torso in blue ballpoint pen

What to choose?

We were invited to submit two or three works. I can easily go through more than half a sketchbook in one life drawing session so luckily, as a relative newcomer to the group, I didn’t yet have too many drawings to choose from. I created a short list of my favourite sketches from the life drawing sessions I have attended. From this, I chose two works to frame for the exhibition. 

As I usually explore a range of drawing media in each session, I wanted to choose drawings in different media. My short list included blue ballpoint, black brush pen, graphite pencil and red-ochre pastel. Ballpoint has been one of my favourite drawing media since I first explored it in my school years. Brush pen is newer to me and a medium I am increasingly enjoying. It gives me a sense of freedom and looseness because it has much less friction on the page than other kinds of pens. Graphite is the medium that challenges me the most. The softer and darker the graphite the better, I find. Again, I think this is because there is less friction than with a harder pencil. The pastels are a joy – a very old set that belonged to a relative and had never been lifted out the box until I acquired them as a family hand-me-down.

To select my final two, I decided to represent two models and two contrasting poses. For Emma, I chose a front view seated pose and for Ruth, I opted for a back view standing pose. What I liked about these final two is that they are somewhat different in style: the seated ballpoint sketch has lots more shading and texture whereas the standing figure is subtly outlined. One of the things I am beginning to explore in the Thursday sessions, is challenging myself to experiment more with mark-making and drawing approaches rather than sticking to my comfortable drawing habits. I tried something new and scribbly at last week’s session and was surprised how much I liked the results. Watch this space!

Framed drawing in pastel of seated woman figure viewed from behind

How to frame?

For the ballpoint sketch, I had originally envisaged a cream mount and grey frame. However, I was also inspired by one of my collectors who has framed some of my paintings with bold, bright colours to try something less timid (thank you, I’m sure you know who you are). Egged on by Andrew, my framer, I decided to try a dark blue mount. We offset this with a warm grey frame. The frame has two levels and I think that helps give it enough presence to balance out the strong, deep blue mount. 

For the earthy monochrome pastel drawing, I selected a textured (shabby chic style) frame. Usually, I would worry that a textured frame might distract from the artwork (especially since most of my paintings are highly textured). But this drawing has a level of simplicity that means it can stand its ground (literally). Andrew recommended that we use a double mount for this, incorporating a hint of russet to complement the red-rust pastel colour and the flecks of warmer hues in the frame but softened with a wider cream mount.

As an artist, choosing frames and mounts can be tricky. You’ve made deliberate choices about your colour palette and adding lots of colour at this final stage can easily change the overall feel of a piece. The aim is to make choices that may bring out some of the colours in a piece without changing the overall mood. 

It’s important when framing to be sure that the mount and frame don’t overwhelm the artwork. This is a reason why I think the mount is very important. It helps introduce a visual pause between the artwork and the frame. A double mount, as seen in my pastel sketch, can create a very subtle echo of colour before the pause.

Life Forms is on at UpCo in Otley until 20 November. I’m honoured to be one of 32 artists taking part in this fabulous life drawing exhibition. 


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