Anatomy of A Painting
Carol Corliss

While walking through an art show, artisans shop or gallery, have you ever wondered why paintings or artisan items are priced as they are? Or why anything is priced the way it is for that matter?  What goes into the price? Pricing art is difficult.  Many artists don't sit down and time their work and at 5 call it a day and know they've spent so many hours on it.  They might sit down at 9 and stop at 5, but there's more that happens during that time and the creative mind doesn't work that way. They stop, they start, they get up & do something else to get back to the painting with fresh eyes (very important). They work some more, step back, take some photos to see where they're at.  It's amazing how the camera accentuates little flaws.  So back to the easel.  Sometimes they don't get back to it for days or maybe even a week. Sometimes, if it's a struggle, they might need to set it aside and look at it totally fresh in a few weeks, but hopefully not too much more than that as momentum might be lost.

First I pick the ground (paper) I want to work on. Most artists have a favorite or 2.  Some are just like sandpaper, some are like velvet. Some are backed with foam core or some other type of stiff board, some are not.  To me working on a stiffer board is easier and it doesn't curl, but not all my paper is that way. Most important is that it is archival.  After looking at probably hundreds of photos in the subject I am thinking of, I pick one, but of course, it's not quite right. Or maybe I pick a few and take areas of each that I like and combine them. I decide on size & layout. I draw sketches, play with it on my computer to move components around and around until I get it to a good composition.  Then it gets drawn on paper, but first I have to cut the paper to size, and I cut some acid free foam core to size.  Then I have some sticky transfer paper (movable adhesive that is archival) that goes between both to make it permanent. Finally I can get to work - after I pick out a basic color palette. Now I can finally lay down some color.  If I can remember, I take photos as I go.  Most of the time I get too involved to remember to do that often enough to see a progression.  Hours go by fast and days will go by and probably many weeks on larger paintings. I have no real idea how long I've spent on a painting. Time depends on size, but also difficulty & detail that goes into each one.  Keeping track of time is a creative buzz kill and it's like trying to remember to take photos along the way.  It distracts from the flow & creativity. Each one is different, but you can be sure long hours have gone into every painting.

Finally after weeks, maybe I think it's done and maybe I can call it done.  I sign it and see if that feels right. I take some more photos, review them and OH, something else needs a little tweaking.  I work on it some more, take more photos. Now I think it's done and so it is, but this back & forth might take days.

Now starts the part I'm guessing that most artists don't like.  Trying to price it & frame it.  If an artist is lucky enough (and we all know luck has nothing to do with it), they can probably have someone else frame it. Some artists frame it themselves for pricing purposes or to get it done exactly how they want it.  My hope is to keep my paintings reasonably priced, so I do it myself and I like to be in control of the process.  I'd probably have to add upwards of $300 if I took it elsewhere to be framed.

Finding the right frame is no easy task although black, gold or black with a gold inner liner seems to go well with most paintings. Framing prices have almost doubled in the past 2 years so this is also a factor.  I also need to order museum glass cut to size.  Once I have all the materials, I start the framing process.  Gloves on, I handle the glass.  I don't use mat board anymore, but I do use spacers to keep the art away from the glass.  Once the spacers are cut & fit, the glass can be placed in the frame. Then the painting can be set onto the spacers (assuming the painting already has a backing on it - otherwise I have to tape it to a backing).  I use a brad pusher to hold the painting in place.  I tape around the edges of the frame with double stick tape.  Now I need to cut a dust cover, just slightly larger than the frame.  Peel off the paper on the double stick tape and lay down the dust cover and smooth out.  There is a special tool I can go along the edge of the frame to cut off the excess.  At this point I'm ready to drill holes for the hangers, so I measure 1/3 down from the top of the frame and mark holes for the hangers. I drill holes (4 usually for larger paintings) and screw in the hangers, 1 on each side. I cut a piece of wire to go from 1 hanger to the other with enough extra length to pigtail it around itself.  I tape the ends of the wire.  I used to put bumpers on the paintings, but they always got knocked off going from show to show so now I tape them onto the wire for the customer to put on later.  Now to the computer to print labels. On goes a label about the glass and then the final item, a label with the title of the painting.  If I was really lucky, the title came to me when I saw the photo, but that doesn't always happen.

And just like that, (give or take a few weeks), the painting is ready to be hung in your home. 
Now you have some idea of what goes into a painting and the various steps.  I hope you found this interesting.
Carol