What I Did During the Pandemic: Thinking about Frames

August 11, 2023
This is the way the finished art actually looks. I couldn’t get great lighting by the gallery wall so I wanted you to see the actual colors in the image.

Of course one of the things I did during the Pandemic was to keep sketching and painting.

There didn’t seem much point to stop, since it’s a life-long habit.

But also I got to the point I couldn’t have stopped if I had wanted to because I started getting obsessed with gallery walls. The downsizing was dragging along in ways I couldn’t influence (and boy did I try!). One thing I could do was pack up my art, move my art, frame new pieces…

It seemed like progress even if I was standing still.

For those not into hanging a lot of paintings around their houses “gallery walls” are arrangements of paintings on walls. Arrangements usually that are organized in some way, or just jammed full of paintings. You can see a ton of examples Pinterest if the concept interests you. And why wouldn’t it? Go look right now—”Pinterest Gallery Walls.”

Living surrounded by gallery walls is what it must be like to be in your journal! Fun.

I’ll have more to say about gallery walls at another time.

I just want to say that I started thinking almost obsessively about frames.

And I started looking for frames everywhere. 

Not expensive frames. I had zero budget.

I started looking in Antiques Malls, and I found online auctions (but that is also a story for another day).   

One day I went into a local antiques mall, all masked up because it was sensible to be so, and started looking at frames. I wanted everything to be under $10 if possible. I wanted real wood. I didn’t mind if things were scruffy, I like shabby chic. Besides, I thought to myself, frames that are a little “worn” will look like they have been around a long time. I liked that. I liked aiming for that.

Here’s a portion of this wall gallery. (It’s in the basement so yes there is a portion of low ceiling. I don’t let that stop me.) In the center you can see the female “clown” in the resin frame. That frame is close to 8 x 11 inches interior window. The wall is a medium warm gray.

I’m a short person and immediately it was obvious that all the really great frames were hanging about 11 feet high on the walls. Or they were behind stacks of breakable antiques like vintage Pyrex or those brightly colored plates I can never remember the name of.

I went to the check out and asked if anyone could help me get a frame down. One of the workers asked which booth and said he’d meet me with a ladder.

In no time he was taking down empty and filled frames for my closer inspection—which included a big sniff test through my N95 mask! I hate old musty smelling frames!

I had been to a couple other booths and spotted additional frames. Now I had my own personal frame retriever. We worked together like we’d known each other for decades.

He repositioned his ladder or simply used a long hooked pole to retrieve the frames. Those that made the cut he took to the front while I scouted more out.

We began again.

And here is a close up of the resin frame where you can see all the detail in the “leaves.” Very fun indeed.

Finally I’d reached my budget limit (which happily coincided with the number of paintings I needed to frame).

I made my way to the check out.

There several helpers were amazed by the collection I’d selected to purchase.

“Are you an interior designer?” one asked. “Are you decorating a hotel or restaurant?”

“Nope,” I said, “I just have a lot of paintings to frame. I’m going to get rid of all these prints and just use the frames.”

They seemed a little confused and horrified. None of them were wearing masks so I could easily read their expressions. 

Believe me—all of the frames that contained art didn’t contain art that was interesting or “a find.” The sad reality is that there are a lot of postcards framed as if they were valuable, when all that is valuable, at least to me, is the frame. 

There were a couple frames I really wanted but the seller had overpriced them based on the contents—poorly executed “studies” of oil paintings by the old masters. I would have liked to purchase those and toss out the paintings just to get the frames, but the sellers had higher expectations. 

I’m sorry if I’ve told you this story before. The past 6 months have been a blur and I don’t remember what I’ve told to whom.

The point is, when now when I get out the framing gun and start to frame again Dick always laughs and says, “Are you decorating a hotel or a restaurant?”

And we laugh and laugh.

But also today I wanted to share with the you perfect frame for this sketch. I love it so much. It is a resin frame, and such an unusual shape. I felt it went perfectly with this face. I bought a pair—and still have the other one to fill. It will go on a different wall. I’ll spread the joy around.

In the meantime I thought you would enjoy seeing this one.

Did you start collecting something during the Pandemic? Did you go on a quest? I am convinced the zero budget quests turn out to be the most valuable.

Of course it helps that I paint a lot and I like my paintings, so I have an endless supply of “friends” to put up on my walls. It helps that they make Dick smile too.

    • Paul
    • August 11, 2023

    Love that clown painting and frame👍. Your new home must look like a well curated art gallery by now, how much fun is that!😁. You could be charging admission for guided art tours🤔???

    1. Reply

      Well curated Paul HAHAHAHAHA.
      There is order to it, an order I understand and which Dick claims is not making him crazy. And there is a growing list of things to look for, a big easter egg hunt, to discover how many sketches of Rick or Alun or someone else are scattered across the walls, and where is… well you get the idea.

      For me it really is like living in my journal and that’s been a lifetime coming. The one happy result of the downsizing. That and fewer steps! And learning to play Mexican Train Dominos.

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