Plein Air Painters of the Bluegrass






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General Rules


Your biggest single expense as a painter (other than those trips to France) will be frames.


Always, always, always, buy standard sized canvases.  Then you don’t have to have a custom frame built and pay for it!  This means the following sizes:  6x8, 5x7, 8x10, 12x16, 16x20, 20x24, 24x36.  Sometimes you can find ready-made frames for 12x12, 10x12, 14x18, but before you pick up a brush, select a standard size canvas or canvasboard and make sure you can find a frame to fit it at the price you want to pay.  Assume you’re going to make a sale-able painting, why not?!


Based on your thumbnail sketch, you may just think “This scene requires a 13x21 canvas”. But, please, at this early stage, change the width and length proportions to fit a standard canvas, the pro’s do it all the time. Redraw your thumbnail sketch, think again, be creative.

Size Matters


The biggest strategic mistake painters make is to use a frame which it too thin. This says to potential buyers “Gee, that artist doesn’t think much of her/her art, ‘cause they choose that cheap, thin frame”. Or, “how can they ask the price they are asking with that cheap frame” - potential buyers can’t envision how the painting will look in their home with a cheap, thin or inappropriately-styled frame. 


Here’s a handy table for the canvas size and frame width:



Frame Width


2 inches


2 ½ inches


2 ½ - 3 ½ inches


3 inches – 3 ½ inches

11x14, 12x16

3 inches – 4 inches

20x30, 22x28

3 ½ - and up




Keep the frame style (degree of ornamentation) appropriate to your subject and painting style. A true impressionist (dots of color all over, like Van Gogh) can go with a more complex style frame, most of the time. If you’re a Kentucky realist/plein aire landscape painter, chose a simple gold or black frame. If you’re really lucky you’ll find a black frame with a gold lip (where it touches the canvas). This is all the rage today and for good reason:  it highlights the darks in your painting.


Note: Complex, highly ornamented frames can conflict with complex paintings/subject matter, which, after all, is what you are really selling. Don’t draw attention away from the art. 


If you have a really dark painting (nocturne, lots of shadow), don’t use a black frame – it calls out “dead” to the viewer.


Don’t buy too many different styles of frame, if a painting doesn’t sell, you want to be able to reuse the frame on a newer painting. IF you come to have a number of paintings in a show, consistency wins out….in sales.


Sources of Ready-Made Frames


Here are sources for reasonably prices ready-made frames for the beginning, or advanced, painter.  Comments are strictly my opinions.



Art Supply Warehouse:  e.g.  Classique 3” gold frame 8x10 $28 plus shipping


You can also check other mail-order sources like Jerry’s Art Supply, Dick Blick, etc. ASW is representative.




ASW Plein Aire 3” Black 8x10  $15 plus shipping

ASW Plein Aire 3” Gold 8x10 $15 plus shipping



Hobby Lobby Frames 002Hobby%20Lobby%20Frames%20001

Hobby Lobby, Brandon Crossing Road off Nicholasville Rd, Nicholasville.


This is worth checking out periodically. I have no notion how often they restock, it’s a mystery. A lot of seconds you have to watch out for. But their 2 ½ inch frames are reasonable - $18 on sale for 11x14 for example for this off-black one with a gold lip. Best for canvas boards.


Hobby Lobby Frames 004Hobby%20Lobby%20Frames%20003

This one is also 2 ½ inch off-black reverse taper. Good for either canvases or canvas boards.






Hobby Lobby Frames 006Hobby%20Lobby%20Frames%20005

This one is 2 ½ inch true black reverse taper. Good for either canvases or canvas boards.








Michaels, Regency Center, Nicholasville Road, Lexington


Their frames suitable for paintings were ceramic, not wood, to which I find it difficult to attach a canvas or canvasboard. But, check their framing service’ rack of frames returned, made the wrong size, etc, some good bargains here, like $7 for a 16x20 2” wide, which you could have cut down by Lexington Framing Supply to a 12x16, 8x10, etc.



The Great Frame Up, East Reynolds Road at Nicholasville Road


A full-service framing shop. They do not stock ready-mades: however, they do have returns, wrong sizes on sale, etc. as will any frame shop.


Wholesale Frame Company


Good prices on 8x10’s, moderate prices on larger frames, see their collection of “plein aire” frames.

Lyle Teague Moulding Company

410B West Main Street

Hendersonville, TN 37075



Wholesale Only: They do not mail phone orders, you must show up in person, they have extensive variety of ready-mades and will cut to fit/measure if they are not too busy. Best to call in advance and arrive in the morning. No charge cards.


Copyright © 2016 Dan McGrath Fine Art, All rights reserved.



Updated 11/22/16