Fashionably framed

"Drying sails" 10X8, by Carol L. Douglas. This is my former standard frame style.

“Drying sails” 10X8, by Carol L. Douglas. This is my former standard frame style.

In my home state of New York, people wear black clothes. They believe that black flatters, is timeless, doesn’t show dirt (and there’s a lot of it) and goes with anything.

I hate black clothes, personally. I think black makes me look like an old Italian lady who should be sporting a gold tooth and a bun. This is a flight back to summer mornings in my grandmother’s garden. Her friends would gather like ancient crows and chatter in a language I didn’t understand. I imagine they were all about 50 then, but they were in perpetual mourning, with long dresses that nearly touched the laces of their orthopedic shoes.

Somehow, however, I bought the “black is stylish” logic about frames, and I’ve been putting my paintings in dark frames for years. They were consistent with all the other black, grey and ombre tones of New York, and, yes, they sold.

Framing in my former workshop.

Framing in my former workshop.

My very wise friend E. works in a gallery here in Maine. She has suggested several times that I lighten up and try gold. With the perversity of a child, I’ve resisted. And then I read this:

In the past 2-3 years I’ve heard many artists say that they’ve been told that ‘clients want dark frames’ and so they’ve invested money in new frames and reframed works that had been in gold. Those same artists have recently noted that they’ve had a serious recent decline in sales and have now come to the conclusion that maybe the economy isn’t the only factor. I can say from personal experience that I don’t believe I’ve EVER sold a painting in a silver frame, and that I’ve only sold 2 in dark frames within the last year. I’m debating if I need to invest in new frames for the upcoming outdoor show season (or refinish the dark ones in gold leaf). (Sharon E. Allen)

My pal Gail is more experienced at gold leaf than I am. She suggested different materials from what I have previously used. They should be here next weekend, and I’m going to methodically leaf my current frame collection, which are pretty nice frames despite being the wrong color.

Every artist needs a place to build stuff.

Every artist needs a place to build stuff.

Meanwhile, I’m off to deliver a painting in a slim, black frame to—yes—New York. To do that, I needed to a place to work on framing.

All painters need some kind of workshop in addition to their studios. They need to frame, to sand, to paint, and to cut lengths of wood. While my studio is pretty well organized, my shop in the new garage has been terrifically neglected since our move. It was buried under all our still-packed boxes. This past weekend, we unearthed a corner of it.

The first corner of the new workshop unearthed and almost organized.

The first corner of the new workshop unearthed and almost organized.

Miracle of miracles, I even found my clamps—but not, alas, my bathroom scale, which is what we were supposed to be looking for. I’d call that a good day’s work, wouldn’t you?

Carol Douglas

About Carol Douglas

Carol L. Douglas is a painter who lives, works and teaches in Rockport, ME. Her annual workshop will again be held on the Schoodic Peninsula in beautiful Acadia National Park, from August 6-11, 2017. Visit for more information.