Gary Scott Beatty
Gary Scott Beatty

Hang 'Em High! Framing your Original Comic Art

by Gary Scott Beatty

Gary Scott Beatty runs Aazurn Publishing, is publisher of “Indie Comics Magazine” and recently wrote the comic book retailer story “Number One.” The first alternative comic he produced (They were called “underground” then) was on his high school’s ditto machine, after hours, without permission. His Xeric Grant Winner “Jazz: Cool Birth,” a jazz club murder mystery, was inspired by ‘50s album cover design. He also colors and letters for the industry. Find out more at Gary Scott

I was sitting in my living room yesterday reading when my eye wandered past the kids' clutter and to the walls. I suddently realized I had a little museum forming in the "formal" area of my house (You know, the room with the let's-keep-this-nice furniture).

I also realized, with a bit of surprise, how naturally these comic book oriented artwork pieces looked in the more traditional setting.

I bought the first real painting in my collection two years ago at Wizard World in Chicago from Charles Vess. It is an illustration from Neil Gaiman's "Stardust," a beautiful morning tree, with just a hint of pixie dancing in the branches.

The second painting is Thomas Gianim's '96 illustration for the "Wall of Stone" from the Magic card game. Unlike many of the paintings from Magic, there are no grotesque monsters chopping off each other's heads. "Wall of Stone" is a tranquil, beautifully rendered mountain and woods scene. My wife found an antique frame somewhere and it's matted to include the "common" card below. The prize of this trio is my recently acquired "Spirit World" collage, my first Kirby (How many comic lovers have uttered those words with stirring heart and a choke in the throat, "My first Kirby."?) It is an odd, war and peace oriented collage, with World War II images, knight and British colonial-era soldiers. It is so carefully pieced together it's hard to see where the magazine pictures were cut out (what a craftsman, even with Exacto blade). The King worked over it with inks to blend pieces together. If you remember his collages that printed so terribly in '60s Fantastic Four, you have no idea how cool this is!

The point is (Wait, was there a point?) comic illustrations look great on walls, hung up to look at and admire. And the right ones even fit a formal setting. With the modern art world moving further away from pieces appropriate to home collecting, here is a world of professionally produced artwork ready made for your home, at a fraction of the cost of so-called serious art.

In part two, below, I'll pull together some advice on how to frame and preserve your treasured artwork and some of the pitfalls I've run into over the years.

Above, two nicely matted Stan Sakai drawings on my wall.

Above I talked about how well my comic related paintings worked in the traditional setting of my living room and promised to talk a little this month about framing.

Remember, this article offers no guarantees. The best advice I can give is to watch your collectables to catch early any storage problems that may come up. Luckily, this is convenient with artwork hanging on your walls. Don't become too used to seeing them there -- check them out several times a year for moisture problems, fading and any change in appearance. More on that below. x Make sure your framer is reputable and understands the one-of-a-kind nature of your project. Comic art, drawn by a nationally known illustrator, is every bit as important, collectable and valuable as an investment as gallery art (of course you know that - make sure your FRAMER knows). The writing, markings and notations around the outside of the piece are important, historical documentation and are not to be trimmed. If you want the mat to cover the border notes, fine. Just be absolutely sure your framer knows not to trim the edges. He might be used to making artwork fit frames -- in this case, it's the other way around.

• I attach notes to the back of the frame about where and when I bought the piece, especially if it is signed by an artist. My current framer makes a little pocket in the back for notes, which is easier than taping them and will stay on longer. Your grandkids might want to know these details some day (or great-great-great grandkids. Ever watch Antiques Road Show on PBS?)

• Spring for the mat, that piece of cardboard with the hole cut in it between the art and the glass. Use quality, ACID-FREE, buffered core mat board, also referred to as rag mat board.

Originally I had several pieces framed for the basement TV room. I didn't think there would be a problem skipping the mats. Later I noticed a moisture problem between the glass and the art. Luckily it first appeared on some posters I had done, since, being thinner, they wrinkled faster and the "change" was more noticeable than on the thick illustration board of the original pieces. I ended up removing all the glass from the frames, fearing the moisture would stick the glass to the artwork. We now run a dehumidifier and I'll have to reframe everything, since any teenager with a splashing soda could easily cause hundreds of dollars damage (no protective glass). Don't cheap out - the mat helps keep the glass away from the artwork.

• Use UV (ultraviolet) filtered glass or UV plexiglass to block out harmful light rays. Imagine your artwork going through what the Wayne's World poster at your local mom and pop video store did, when they left it in the window for eight years. Ouch! Major fading. One of my concerns today is that more artists are using crappy materials, like felt tip markers, to ink their work. Give me a drawing inked with India ink any day - illustrators have been using it for, what, a hundred years now? and it doesn't fade easily. Remember, just because you have UV glass does NOT mean you can hang your artwork in direct sunlight.

• My friends at Art-Toons (Northfield, Ohio) who are dealers of animation art cels, recommend a metal frame over wood. They claim metal will not warp, split, fracture or harbor mold, mildew or parasites. I can see their point, but nothing short of disaster will force me to take the Wall of Stone painting (Magic) out of its antique frame my wife found at an antique store. It just looks too cool.

• Experiment with color combinations at your framers and don't be rushed into a hasty decision. Put the mat samples up against the artwork one by one and step back. I didn't think I'd like the dark grey mat that ended up on my Kirby collage (and the framer didn't like it either), but we held it up against the artwork and BAM! the colors in the collage just leaped off the page. The framing and mat are there to complement the artwork, so make sure they do. Consider consistency, also -- if you are going to have several pieces hanging in the same room, they look best with similar mat and frame colors.

Comments on our can be referred to Gary at gary -at- comicartistsdirect -dot- com. All artwork copyright © by its respective artists and publishers.

To find out about how to appear in INDIE COMICS MAGAZINE, Visit Indie Comics and click on Submissions!

Click here to return to index page.


How do They Do It? is a feature on Comic Artists Direct that explores the nuts and bolts of the creative process. Check out the below articles!

James Lyle demonstrates his working methods from start to finish on an illustrated logo project.

Gary draws, inks, colors and lays out a cover illustration for On the Shore magazine here.

James Lyle talks about brainstorming for ideas here.

Check out Gary's article here for ways to keep your writing ideas fresh and different.

Gary's step by step article on lettering for comics is here.


Submitting Art to Comic Book Companies by Scott Rosema. What do the pros look for when judging the acceptability of your artwork? Tips from Scott.

Small Press Stories. Comic Artists Direct asked accomplished small press creators to tell us about producing, printing, publishing and distributing small press comics in today's changing market. The results are contributions from Peter Kuper, Jaime, Steve Lafler and Steve "Noppie" Noppenberger and more, here!

Promotion for Your Book by Gary Scott Beatty. It doesn't matter how killer your comic, fans have to know you exist. This primer by Gary offers some ideas.

Questions and Answers. Chances are your question is answered here.

Navigating Comic Book Conventions by Gary Scott Beatty. It's easy to wander around in a daze at big conventions. A little preplanning can make your visit even better.

Breaking Into Comics by Gary Scott Beatty. There's more than one way to be a success in the comic book industry. These stories from pros are inspirational.

Coloring Comic Books Before Computers by Gary Scott Beatty. The processes printers went through to color comics before computers will amaze and impress you.

Comic Book Lettering -- How do They Do It? by Gary Scott Beatty. Putting those comic book letters in those little word balloons may be more complicated than you think.

Been There, Done That -- Avoiding Cliches in Comic Book Writing by Gary Scott Beatty. How does a writer break away from the everyday?

Setting Up a High School Comic Book Class by Gary Scott Beatty. Wouldn't it be cool to take a high school comic book production class? A Minnesotta teacher is setting one up and asked for Gary's advice. So, as long as he asked -- Gary's article is here.

Hang 'Em High! Framing your Original Comic Art.

The Word "Got" and literacy in comics.

Halloween: Comics, Not Candy. Turn kids on to comics!

All content copyright © & trademarked TM Gary Scott Beatty or their respective owners. | Privacy