Interesting to think about.
Being primarily an illustrator who works with/for other designers - I have learned to let the finishing of my works go. However, I too have wondered about this question, and about the museum gallery "standard white/off white matt" requests.
( I find my personal taste tends to be in line with the museum standard, probably because I am not fond of seeing a dark matt on my own rather light walls - but if your walls are dark??? )
Linda, perhaps the use of a double matt can bridge the problem you refer to ... when the painting has more contrast near the edge than in the center when matted in a white matt. I have used a small amount of white matt with a larger grey matt on top to frame some of my habitat paintings. This works very well with a solidly balanced work, and can be done subltly to fit in with most museum requests.
The opposite - thin line of darker color matt with a larger white or off-white matt on top helps to focus the eye on a spot illustration. This can help strengthen an unbalanced work. It also adds a more decorative look to the art - both of which which may account for the " gallery frown " on such practice???
I guess it is really a personal matter, perhaps best worked out with your particular client?
----- Original Message -----
From: [log in to unmask] href="mailto:[log in to unmask]">Linda Feltner
To: [log in to unmask] href="mailto:[log in to unmask]">[log in to unmask]
Sent: Wednesday, January 21, 2009 12:31 PM
Subject: Re: [SCIART] Matting and Framing

Hi Consie and Barbara and Barry and Lore:
Thanks for your observations.
I forgot to say I'm an old hand at framing, I used work as a framer throughout graduate school. I was taught that matting and framing should compliment any artwork, not compete nor conflict, but "set the stage" to present the piece of art. But that was a long time ago, and times change. I  frame my pictures in my own home to my own personal taste. There are no white mats in my house, but neutrals.

What I'd like to get my head around is the philosophy that a white/cream mat is the best way to observe watercolors. I am coming to believe that most people can look beyond the glaring white thing that is illuminated with spotlights and the eye can move beyond the stark contrast of the white and dark, and can adjust to observe the often extreme subtlety that watercolor is famous for.

Perhaps galleries and museums feel that people can do that universally.

When a bird is painted showing an amount of white paper around the subject, the transition is smooth to the pale mat. But what happens when there is more contrast at the edge (due to the white mat) than in the center? What does the eye do?

Linda M. Feltner Artist, LLC
P.O. Box 325
Hereford, AZ 85615
(520) 803-0538

Barbara Harmon wrote:
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I agree Consie, and I nearly always double mat.  It is usually just the punch it may need while keeping neutral.  
I have also used gold fillets too, when I didn't want an all-gold frame.  One of my favorite combos was a driftwood-y frame with a gold fillet on one of my beachy scenes.  Rustic and upscale at once.


Barbara Harmon

On Jan 21, 2009, at 11:13 AM, Consie Powell wrote:

Linda -

I'm no pro on this, but I do my own matting and framing, as I feel that that often is the final touch that makes my artwork look its best, and I like having control over that.  I tend to be reasonably conservative in my choices, but I have on occasion used colored mats. But what I find I might use more often than a colored mat, if the art needs a little "punch" that a white or pale mat doesn't give it, is to use a double mat. If the inner mat is a bit of color, and the outer, and main mat is your white or neutral, it can be really lovely.


Consie Powell

Linda Feltner wrote:
Hello All:

I am having a discussion with a colleague who I deeply respect, and is knowledgeable about framing and matting. They work with high-end galleries and museums.
So asking this question to the List, is a bit of research for enlightenment.

I understand that Museum standards seem not to include colored mats, but always use white mats (or maybe cream).

I know that botanical illustration has strict requirements for mating and framing. Some exhibits require all the entries to use the same color cream mat and the same wooden frame. That's not my question.

My question is about other kinds of artwork, specifically watercolors.

Should one universally accept that galleries and competitions only prefer white mats, even when one thinks that a dark mat would present the painting better (i.e. the white mat actually detracts from the painting)? And accept the idea that all colored mats are doomed to be "decor"?

Secondly, Does this really effect the acceptance/rejection of a painting to an exhibition? Granted that most exhibitions ask for images of the painting alone, and not the matting.

Your broad experience and opinions would be greatly valued.
Linda M. Feltner Artist, LLC
P.O. Box 325
Hereford, AZ 85615
(520) 803-0538