Take a look around your home. You’ll find that almost every wall or shelf contains a picture of some kind. Whether it be family, friends, little league sports pictures or any of a million other items, you can rest assured they have invaded your abode.
We tend to look at the picture or artwork contained within a frame, but how often do we pay attention to the frame itself? A photograph of our parents fifty years ago may induce thoughts of that special bond and melancholy. But what about the fine mahogany frame, hand-rubbed with tongue oil and finished with a metal edge?
There’s also your child’s first-grade picture. You remember the first time you held him. The day you put him on the bus and the sadness you felt as he left the protection of your arms… then the frame decorated with the letters of the alphabet catches your attention. This isn’t just any frame, but one you painstakingly put together yourself. It also conjures fond memories of your first gift of time to a loved one.
Perhaps, you’re a collector of fine art. The canvas may contain the priceless brush strokes of Monet or Reiner, masterpieces no doubt, but any more so than the frame that surrounds them? If we break the process down, we find the artist first choosing a subject; then painstakingly selecting, mixing, and matching colors before the first drop of paint touches canvas; then and only then, can the hand of the master begin his work.
Also an artisan in his own right, the frame maker carefully selects the wood to be used. It must be made from the correct species of tree, paying close attention to moisture content, color and grain. Once the chosen pieces have been cut to the proper width, he carefully shaves the rabbit into the back of each to accept the canvas. Then he begins the meticulous relief carvings on the front of the frame. Once this is complete, the corners will be fitted with compound miters. The frame can be stained, clear finished, or decorated with gold leaf.
I’ll have to admit, I’m a little biased when it comes to this procedure. Even though I’m an author now, in a past life I was a carpenter and cabinet-maker.
The majority of woodworkers today will admit they would rather have a root-canal rather than build a picture frame. I share this sentiment; however, when you think about it, without the frame, the picture would have nowhere to be. Can you imagine walking into a house and seeing pictures taped to walls, propped up on bookshelves, or leaning against random items to keep them from falling over?
The picture frame shares a bit of the same life as a good plot in a novel. Just as the ornate frame surrounding the Mona Lisa re-enforces her delicate media, a strong plot throughout your novel will keep the reader interested just as if they were gazing at Leonardo Da Vinci’s greatest creation.