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Mounting Options

Stephen Enggass

CGF, Certified Grumble Framer
Hey All,
I have a water color (about 11”x10”) and my initial thought is to float it on a mat. Reason being as like most water colors there is a small wave to the paper - which I think lends itself to being floated - plus if you look the artist smudged his paints outside of his implied border. (right hand side) See attached. Thoughts? The smudge is what I’m curious as to how you would handle the presentation.

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Joe B

SGF, Supreme Grumble Framer
I guess I have to ask what you consider floating and your technique for floating, I've seen and have heard of all types and ways of floating, some are conservation and some are who knows what. 2nd I will mention that watercolors generally have waves and is acceptable. I've seen waves in very valuable watercolors displayed in museums and I like the waves because it show authenticity. The smudges are there and is part of the artist's art. You can cover the smudges with a mat or if you properly float the smudges will be a visual part of the framed art. Neither way is wrong, float or mat, it's all a preference of the customer or you if you are the owner.

Personally, that piece of art I would mat, just my personal opinion.


PFG, Picture Framing God
This when you ask questions, unless this is for yourself.

Personally, I would not float it either. It doesn’t add anything to the presentation.
If this was for me, I would copy the signature and any information and put it on the back. I would then mat over. Reversed bevel or solid mat. No white showing.
I agree with Ylva on this.:thumbsup:
I wouldn't want to see the paint smear and other issues in the border of the piece.
The signature could be copied and put on the back or even put in a separate window at the bottom of the mat.
For me , it's more about the image and framing the image to present it in the best way, not even about the signature.

I could be wrong, but there almost seems to be some sort of signature at the bottom right...
Screen Shot 2019-12-04 at 9.42.36 PM.png


SPFG, Supreme Picture Framing God
Whenever you’re matting just over the image, remember that artists may not have drawn straight lines. Measure all over the subject, even corner to corner, because the image may be crooked, and your mat may not cover all the image properly.


SPFG, Supreme Picture Framing God
Come to think of it, I find the smudge distracting too. The title and sig as well.
Matting over both would present the painting much better and the sig/title/smudge would still
be on the work so no real besmirchment would have been perpetrated. 🙂

** I like the word 'besmirchment'. I vow to use it more often in conversation. 😁
I think there are three opinions that are in play; the customer's, the artist's, and the framer's. The customer usually has opinions about how they want their art to look on their walls. While the artist may not be available to ask, you can sometimes infer their intentions based on choices they've made in the creation of their art, and then there's your expert opinion.

I don't know if there's a customer in this situation so I'll ignore that.

The artist masked their edges so that could imply that it was their intention to display the image in full, including the edges. The smudge looks like a mistake that the artist may not want to show. The signature, being in the margin rather than within the image, implies to me that the artist wants some white border to show. The signature comes close but is not directly on the edge of the paper. The artist left a little bit of room to allow for an overmat that covers the outer edge of the paper. I don't know that the artist would have put pin holes in the corners of the paper had they intended them to show. I would say that the artist intended an overmat with some white margin all the way around the image but may be fine with covering the white due to their smudge.

As professionals who see a lot of stuff framed all of the time, we have our own personal aesthetic preferences. The benefit of floating this piece would be that you'd avoid the annoying visual you get with a wavy paper against the straight beveled line of the window mat. You can also lessen this effect with a slight mat lift. One bad thing about a float with this particular piece is that it may end up looking more like a sketch torn from a sketchbook rather than a finished piece of art. If you choose to overmat instead of float, you probably have your own opinions of what looks better in regards to the margin. Your options are to come in just over the edge of the paper, exposing the signature but covering the pinholes, to show a small amount of the white margin around the image but cover the signature, or to show no white margin and have the mat come in just over the edges of the image.

The art's value might affect my personal choice. Even with a UV filtering glazing, light damage can occur (it just takes longer). Watercolor pigments are pretty light fugitive and if you come in over the edge of the image, the exposed image may fade a little over the course of the next 20-50 years but the area covered by the mat will not. If future owners of this piece wish to change the framing, you will have limited their options. Similarly, if you show just a small amount of the white margin and cover the signature with the mat, the exposed margin may be affected by light while the covered section of the margin would not and future owners would not be able to expose the signature without seeing the line of the previous mat. So...if this is a piece of significant personal or monetary value that future generations may also value, this may affect what I chose to cover with the mat.

If I was framing this for myself and no other opinions were important, I'd probably want to show every square inch of the painting so I'd overmat the paper, covering the signature but leaving a very minimal margin (depending on how straight that border is). If I was framing it for a gallery or for any other type of public display, I'd overmat the paper, exposing the signature and some of the white margin all the way around.


CGF II, Certified Grumble Framer Level 2
I think what a lot of us are missing is that the writing in the margin is not a signature. It is the title and date. In my opinion, it is significantly less important to show that than the actual signature. I think neilframer may be right that the signature is on the bottom right of the actual image. With that said, I would suggest matting either just over the image or showing a small border as Corbin Dallas suggested. If the client wants the title information available, that can be accomplished by a brass plate or by putting it on the back of the framing package.



SPFG, Supreme Picture Framing God
The way the artist has signed it is not 'wrong' exactly. It does tend to give the impression of it being a
print though. Maybe they could write better with a pencil than a brush. Gorgeous handwriting. But it's
the painting you want to see. 🙂
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