While going through the Todmorden Biennial show with the juror to select the prizes, we
 discussed whether she found any major differences between the work she saw during
 the digital jurying those that she saw on the walls of the gallery.

She commented that there were no surprises, but added that had she seen the actual
works during the jurying process, there were some that she would have declined
 because of the framing.

The framing of the work is an important part of the overall presentation, and often an 
inappropriate frame can diminish the positive impact of the work itself.

Some of the framing “sins” could include:

  • Poor quality or condition of frame;
  • Dirty glass;
  • Poor wiring of the frame, leaving part of the wire exposed during hanging (when hung, the top of the wire should be about 3” below the top of the frame);
  • Mismatch between the style of the frame and the painting, e.g., ornate frame with simple subject, mismatch between frame colour and the overall palette in the painting; Simple, black frames, especially floating frames, set off the painting well and are 
recommended. Otherwise, ensure that the painting complements the picture and does
not clash with it.

Framing is not necessary for paintings done on stretched canvas – especially for large 
works – but edges should be clean and preferably black or white. If the artist decides to 
paint the edges a colour (other than black or white), it should be remembered that the 
edge then forms part of the work itself – and would be juried as such.

Although it was not an issue in the pieces in the Todmorden show, the juror also 
noted that the size, placement and colour of the signature is important. An over-sized
 signature – especially a coloured one – can dominate the canvas and detract from the 
work. As she noted, “The viewer wants to see the work, not the artist’s name.”



A good photograph of your work is often a key in having it accepted into an exhibition, especially a juried exhibition.
Here are a few hints that might help you get a better photograph to accompany your

  1. Don’t use your flash.
  2. If at all possible, photograph your work before framing, or remove work from 
frame. This is especially important for works framed behind glass.
  3. Photograph your work outside on a cloudy-bright day.
  4. Mount the work on an easel as vertical as possible.
  5. The artwork should fill the view finder as much as possible; if your work is
vertically oriented, rotate the work – not the camera.
  6. If you have a tripod for your camera, use it to avoid camera shake.
  7. After setting up the shot, use the preset timer on the camera (which gives a 10 second delay before taking the shot – generally used to allow you to run into the picture)
  8. Take several shots, checking after each one to see the quality.

Once you have your images downloaded on your computer, you can use Photoshop,
 PIcasa, iPhoto or other photo manipulation programs to:

  1. Save the file under a new name using “save as”, thereby keeping the original 
  2. Using the new (duplicate) saved file, crop the image to remove extraneous 
background. Including frame.
  3. Adjust contrast or colour (if you wish)
  4. Adjust image size.
  5. Give the image an appropriate file name.

The final image must be true to the original. Avoid over-enhancing the image. 
If in doubt, call someone who might help you.



You’ve just completed a fantastic piece of artwork for a juried show or exhibition.

Congratulations! But how are you going to pass on the details of the works to the gallery staff and the visitors? There are several different options for labeling your work in this setting, but here is the clearest way to convey those details:

  • The artist’s name
  • The title of the work
  • The medium of the work
  • The size of the work
  • The price of the work (if applicable)
  • Always print neatly as others have to be able to read it

Here is an example:

Emily Carr
Autumn in France
Oil on canvas
73.7 cm × 92.1 cm (29 in × 36¼ in)



The pigment in paint is subject to fading when exposed to sunlight. This is not a good thing for your artwork in the long term. In addition, we live in a world with polluted air. This can cause a build up of grime on the surface of a painting. In the past, art was subject to coal and wood smoke as well as the effects of candle smoke. You can do something about this for your work.

The discussion below applies to oil and acrylic paintings. For watercolours or pastels, the best way to protect them is to frame them using UVA/UVB protective glass.

Varnish provides a protective coating over your paint. In the future, grime will only build up on the varnish and not your paint. The painting can be restored by simply removing the varnish layer using the appropriate solvent. The proper varnish will also protect the pigment against UVA and UVB rays from the sun. The Golden company makes a very effective varnish that has proven archival capabilities. This is their MSA Varnish. Their web site give the information for use of that product. I have found good results using a diluted mixture of equal parts varnish and solvent. I have used their solvent with good results but it can be expensive if you are coating a lot of large paintings. Instead, I use “Recordsol” which can be found in the paint department of stores such as Canadian Tire or Home Depot. The downside of Recordsol is that the fumes can irritate your eyes so use it is a well ventilated area. I have tried generic Varsol but that left a very cloudy mixture which I did not attempt to use. I have also used generic mineral spirits but that left a glutinous mass that I immediately discarded.

I put the varnish on using a regular paint brush. I like to put on two coats with 24 hours of drying time between coats. The surface may feel a little tacky after the second coat but I usually give it 3 or 4 days to completely dry.

You can also use the spray varnish but that could give you uneven coats and the fumes are quite nasty.

All varnishes enhance the colours of a painting with gloss varnish giving the most dramatic effect.

If you are coating a painting done with acrylics, Golden recommends that you apply a layer of Gloss Soft Gel Medium to the painting before applying the varnish. I use a diluted mixture of 2 parts gel and 1 part water with overnight drying.