OK, well it may not be actually falling, but it looks like it’s falling. Why? Because many people don’t know about optical center vs. geometric center.
Imagine you just purchased a new piece of art or print that needs a mat, glass, and frame. You have been looking for months for just the right piece. You found it, brought it home, and you know exactly where you would like to display your new conversation piece you love and adore. The next steps of course is to take the piece to be framed.
Once you get to the shop and look through all the dozens of molding and mat choices you’re already a bit overwhelmed and dizzy. In fact it can actually be down right gut wrenching when you try to choose something that will compliment not only the piece you have purchased but also something that is your style. Not to mention your budget.
As you narrow down your choices you are asked for things you might not have even thought about before now such as how wide you would like your mat, and would you like it weighted. What does that even mean? Why would I want it weighted? You simply want the darn thing to fit in the right frame so you can hang it on the wall. Why are these people asking you all these questions, shouldn’t they just know what to do with it? Plus why is this costing so much all of the sudden. You purchased an 11 x 14 which is now measuring out to be more like a 16 20. Is that too big? Is that what it’s supposed to look like?
The whole process of having an artwork framed can be not only an eye opener to the process, but downright frustrating when art was supposed to be something fun and enjoyable. So, to help with the confusing and to lessen the stress I have some helpful insight into why framing through the years has a proposed outcome of larger weighted mats and frames than just something that holds your work securely on the wall.
Just like insects have a different way that they see through compound eyes, and the possible colorless vision that our lovely K9’s we adore so much have special attributes and genetic reasons for the way their sight has developed, we too have a way of viewing the world around us.
When looking at items such as art, we have what is called optical center which is slightly different than if you measured from corner to corner to find where the center of the artwork can be pin pointed. Instead, optical center is slightly above the point where the physical size is measured. One you begin to look for it, you almost can’t un-see it lol, so be forewarned.
What does this mean to you? It means if a piece of art was designed with geometric center, it has been purposely designed and created with optical center where our vision tells us things should be instead of where the constraints of the paper or canvas tells us mathematically is the center. When we step back and look at works designed for geometric center, it’s sense of weight, balance and composition seem off. Often it may make the viewer feel uneasy about the piece and not choose the piece as something they would want to own or view.
Optical center however brings a sigh of relief to a viewers eyes as we feel when looking at something that it is correct. That this piece has to proper balance which doesn’t create that sense of unease. What we then do to that artwork when framing it however may bring the ratio / proportions back out of the design and plop it back into a geometric center feel.
When putting a mat on a piece of artwork our thoughts usually tend to tell us to make it as thin and small as possible. It’s the artwork you really want to view, not the mat, right? The actuality is by putting the frame so close to the artwork, that you’ve displaced the optical center as well as made the artwork feel as if it can’t breathe. Imagine that shoe you tried to squeeze into for a day, or the claustrophobic moment you had in a small elevator with one too many people all piling in behind you. It’s a bit uncomfortable. Just like these situations, your artwork may now feel a bit uncomfortable if the mat is anything under 2 inches.
If you want to add a half inch or more to the bottom of the mat, this is something not to confuse you or raise the prices during the framing process, but to realign the artwork with optical center which puts the focus of the piece back at just above geometric center. It’s not always necessary, but it’s a nice to have to make the piece feel less like the artwork has a sinking or falling feeling when you know you measured it just right, but now that you step back and look at it, is it really where you put it on the wall? If the piece feels like it’s sinking when it’s really in just the right spot, having a weighted mat will most likely fix any vision issues you are having.
OK, that’s it 🙂 helpful tip from Allison and I hope everyone’s framing experience is now as fun as purchasing your original piece.