Just Put a Nail in the Wall and I'm Done

Isn't hanging a painting as easy as that? Yeah, right! There are so many ways that you can showcase your work, and each one can make such a difference in how each painting or drawing is perceived.

Unframed. I prefer the art that I have in my apartment unframed, but I'm definitely in the minority. I like the 'fresh off the studio walls' look, and feel like there's no interference to seeing and interpreting the work when there is no frame. But many people feel like a painting can look too stark on a wall without one.

Framed. A frame will definitely give a painting a more finished look. And I know a lot of artists who throw around the phrase, "frame it in gold if you want it sold." And there is a bit of truth to that. A well-chosen frame can elevate the look of a painting. But a word of caution: I've seen too many loud frames–whether in size or color–that diminish a painting and all but swallow it up.

Skylar in Blue by Jeremy Lipking, oil painting, 16 x 12. The frame lends distinction and a historic feel to the work.
Skylar in Blue by Jeremy Lipking, oil painting, 16 x 12. The frame lends
distinction and a historic feel to the work.

Salon-style. If you are in charge of the arrangement of your work, whether during an open-studio session or in a gallery, hanging work salon style means paintings do not just sit side by side, but are stacked above one another on the wall, just as in the famous Parisian salon shows of the nineteenth century. Some call it chaotic, but on the other hand it is an equal-opportunity arrangement because no one work will stand out spatially among the rest.

Paintings hung salon style create an all-over effect--nothing quite sticks out.
Paintings hung salon-style create an all-over
effect–nothing quite sticks out.

The frieze effect. This basically means hanging paintings in a row just above eye level as we usually see most artwork hung. If your work is hung this way, be aware of the size of each piece, because that can have a predominate effect on what painting catches a person's eye first.

Lindsey Carr's work is hung in a traditional manner at Thinkspace Art Gallery in Culver City, CA.
Lindsey Carr's work is hung in a traditional manner
at Thinkspace Art Gallery in Culver City, CA.

For more inspiration on different ways artists work that can really effect how they eventually hang their work, Mark Menendez's Mastering Art–Masters Kit is a great resource. And for essential painting information no matter your skill level, check out Mark's Mastering Art–Drawing Kit and Mastering Art–Color Kit, where you'll discover techniques and ideas that lead to powerful finished works. These are the resources that bring me a step closer to actually putting something I think is worthy up on the wall. I hope it is the same for you. Enjoy!

How do you prefer to show your work? In frames or no? Salon style? In a grid? Leave a comment and let me know.

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Courtney Jordan

About Courtney Jordan

  Courtney is the editor of Artist Daily. For her, art is one of life’s essentials and a career mainstay. She’s pursued academic studies of the Old Masters of Spain and Italy as well as museum curatorial experience, writing and reporting on arts and culture as a magazine staffer, and acquiring and editing architecture and cultural history books. She hopes to recommit herself to more studio time, too, working in mixed media.   

15 thoughts on “Just Put a Nail in the Wall and I'm Done

  1. Thank you for giving me the important vocabulary word for the style that I have loved since I was a little girl and saw it at Hausner’s — a Baltimore restaurant. Hausner’s walls were covered edge-to-edge and floor-to-ceiling with art that was good and great and awful and classic. Even now knowing that the proper name is “salon style,” I will always call this “Hausner style.”

    I am a watercolorist, and must frame my pieces. For my whimsical creatures called “small friends,” I am very fond of classic black metal and double white matting, and for many of my abstracts (called “nanoscapes), I am equally fond of bright-colored wood or metal that resonates with the piece.

  2. I thought this was great food for thought. I never really considered which preference i have. I can see merit in all ways that were discussed. In general, this article was a nice break from the usual topics. I love practical information and advice. It would also be interesting to go a step farther and discuss specific criteria to consider when selecting frames for pieces. Thanks-Josh, Blue Ash, OH

  3. I agree with you for my own studio work. I like that there is no interference from the frame. However, for gallery or home presentation to be seen by a lot of others, I prefer framed since many of them will feel it is unfinished without the frame. One solution I use is a deeper canvas (2-3”) with the sides painted to draw the viewer in. I like that it invites them from the side.
    Sue

  4. I usually frame with the inexpensive and simple metal “Neilsen” type frames. They are neat and easy to assemble and never take over. I’m sure most of the work I sell gets reframed, anyway, so I don’t want to spend a lot on framing myself, just to have it tossed out. –JIm Smith.

  5. Hi, I liked this article but have been looking for a solution for an idea I have. Can anyone help?? I have a heavy rectangular shaped wood and glass table top that is 4 ft long by 2 1/2 ft wide; a salvaged piece from a restaurant. It’s really cool so I wanted to put it up on my wall in my home. Can anyone tell me how I might go about this? The wood in the back of the glass is thin, I dont think it can handle any hardware for mounting. Is there a bracket system I might use? Can anyone offer suggestions? I have no idea how to really get it up on my wall, the only thing that came to mind is putting some type of metal bracket into the walls to support it but I have no idea where to find the hardware or if that’s even possible.

    Thanks for any suggestions!!

  6. I tend to hang frameless except for watercolour. Sometimes I move them around a bit and suddenly people will notice a particular piece for the first time. Perhaps lighting and location make the difference.

  7. I am a watercolorist, and always frame my work. In fact, during the course of working on a painting, I hold a mat up to the painting to see how it’s going to look, and it’s amazing how much better the work looks with that mat around it!

    One of my friends paints in oils, and she does the same thing with a frame, and immediately the painting looks better–more finished, more elegant.

  8. I am a watercolorist, and always frame my work. In fact, during the course of working on a painting, I hold a mat up to the painting to see how it’s going to look, and it’s amazing how much better the work looks with that mat around it!

    One of my friends paints in oils, and she does the same thing with a frame, and immediately the painting looks better–more finished, more elegant.

  9. I like the salon style because people might see something they like and buy it. That’s what i tell them if u see something u like in my studio, let me know.

  10. Along the lines of your paragraph on gold paintings, I’ve noticed that almost every painting in the national and world famous galleries around the world are framed in gold. You will see very few frames of black or brown or white. I like to frame my painting with some type of gold frame, even if it’s like the Lipking painting above, with just a gold accent around the painting.

    I do like the unframed look, but only if using one of the deep canvases. I paint the edges, usually black, and wire them for hanging without a frame.

  11. And make sure that the artwork stands out more than the frame. It should complement, not dominate. Nothing worse that hearing, “what a beautiful frame”…What about the artwork???

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