Mount Borders in the Golden Ratio

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Colin Macintyre
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Mount Borders in the Golden Ratio

Post by Colin Macintyre » Fri 10 Sep, 2021 7:30 pm

As picture framers, we all know there are many considerations when deciding how wide mount borders should be. Really it is a personal choice and there is no "right" answer. For many years I have been fascinated by the Golden Ratio. I wondered how the Golden Ratio could be used to calculate mount border widths in relation to the mount aperture, in a way that could be a useful formula for finding what could be considered good proportions.
What seemed to work well is to have the area of the aperture in the Golden Ratio with the area of the window mount (i.e. the glass size). So as something of a lockdown project, and with help from a mathematician and a website wizard, I created a calculator here. I added an option to have the bottom border Bottom Weighted in the ratio of 11:9. I am not claiming this is a unique idea. I would be interested to read any comments.

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Re: Mount Borders in the Golden Ratio

Post by vintage frames » Sat 11 Sep, 2021 10:48 am

This seems to be a really useful calculator.
Is there any way that the image can show the bottom weighting as is calculated?
It's funny that on my lap-top screen, the top border appears larger than the bottom!
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Re: Mount Borders in the Golden Ratio

Post by Not your average framer » Sat 11 Sep, 2021 12:10 pm

I've never tended to calculate these things. For me it's all about instinct and what feels rght. It's what everything looks like when it's all finished and together. Where do you draw the line? Is the frame width a particular ratio of the mount width? Is the mount reveal on a double mount a particular ratio of the overall mount width, or is this a particular ratio of thr frame width? isn't there room for some aspect of artist expression in things like this?

Sorry, but I'm not much inclined towards such scientific calculations, having much to do with art. Why do companies employ design consultants, if everything is about formulas and calculations? What has happened to inspiration and knowing what looks right?

Also what happens when a customer wants a mount cut to fit an existing artwork in to a frame which was originally made for a different artwork? This often happens, but it does not bother me as I have had plenty of practice and rely on doing what looks right. How does the golden ratio help you when it not quite the size of frame, which looks right for mount dimensions according to the golden ratio? Having a well practiced eye can make all the difference, if think.
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Re: Mount Borders in the Golden Ratio

Post by Gesso&Bole » Sat 11 Sep, 2021 4:59 pm

I would say that I’d depends on the image that is going in the frame. For example how much weight there is at the bottom of the image.
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Re: Mount Borders in the Golden Ratio

Post by Not your average framer » Sun 12 Sep, 2021 9:16 am

:yes: I agree! It makes perfect sense to me.
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Re: Mount Borders in the Golden Ratio

Post by Abacus » Sun 12 Sep, 2021 11:28 am

That’s really interesting! I’d love to know the calculation behind the scenes if you’re willing to share it. (I’ve written my own POS system and I’d like to incorporate your calculations as at present the default is just 50mm/60mm and sometimes I wonder if the staff just click on the default rather than giving the mount size any greater thought. )

Thanks

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Re: Mount Borders in the Golden Ratio

Post by Not your average framer » Sun 12 Sep, 2021 1:44 pm

The ratio is 1.609 to !. It is claimed to be a ratio which commonly occurs in nature. There are other ratios which have been adopted by various archetural styles and movements. How such ratios are derived, who knows, but they have all been fashionable in different periods of history, only to be replaced by something else when a new fashion came along. I'm not sure if it is in any way scientifically based on anything meaningful.
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Re: Mount Borders in the Golden Ratio

Post by Not your average framer » Sun 12 Sep, 2021 2:18 pm

As a young design engineer, I was told that if it looks right, it is right! I have found this to general be true over many years since then. I think that trusting your own instincts and insights from your own experience has a lot to recommend it.
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Re: Mount Borders in the Golden Ratio

Post by Colin Macintyre » Sun 12 Sep, 2021 4:59 pm

Thanks for the interesting comments. Abacus, I will send you the formula that was created for me on an Excel spreadsheet. If anyone else that wants a copy just send me a message. I fully take on board the point that good design and proportions are achieved through personal perception and not through a rigid rule. In fact this calculator was just a bit of a fun, lockdown project, for me and I don't suppose I will use it much when having design discussions with my customers. However I believe there is something a bit special about the proportions formed by the Golden Ratio, so I hope this work might be a useful guide for reference.

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Re: Mount Borders in the Golden Ratio

Post by Gesso&Bole » Sun 12 Sep, 2021 5:29 pm

I think it’s also a useful concept to introduce to new framers during training, even if it is a rule that can be broken.
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Re: Mount Borders in the Golden Ratio

Post by prospero » Mon 13 Sep, 2021 9:19 am

I think that if you have to rely on a mathematical formula to 'tell' what looks pleasing then maybe you should be in another job. :(

Sorry if that sounds harsh but it had to be said. :P
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Re: Mount Borders in the Golden Ratio

Post by Colin Macintyre » Mon 13 Sep, 2021 10:44 am

Well Prospero, my answer to that is, among the artists who are believed to have used the Golden Ratio proportions as a technique to help construct their work are: Leonardo Da Vinci, Michaelangelo, Sandro Botticelli, Albrecht Dürer and Salvador Dali. Should they have been in another job? :lol:

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Re: Mount Borders in the Golden Ratio

Post by Not your average framer » Mon 13 Sep, 2021 12:57 pm

Does their work derive from the golden ratio, or has the golden ratio resulted from later examination of their work? I am not convinced that they were capable of measurings acurately to that level of accuracy at that time. Were they able to make measurements to three decimal places that long ago? I suspect not. I think it more likely that they just did it by eye and the measurements to derive the ratio were made at a later time. I suspect that they were doing what they thought looked right. Why should not we be doing what we think looks right so well and why are we so unwilling to trust our instincts and revert to mathematics instead.

If this needs to be so scientically and mathematically worked out, can anyone tell me why, or present any evidence to support such claims. Sorry, but I'm an ex-engineer and would like to know where this theory comes from and what it is based on. Where's the proof please?
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Re: Mount Borders in the Golden Ratio

Post by Not your average framer » Mon 13 Sep, 2021 1:53 pm

Has this got anything to do with Fibonacci nuber sequences, or other types of lucas numbers? Such nubers are not based to uniform ratios repeated within these number sequences so perhaps not!
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Re: Mount Borders in the Golden Ratio

Post by Colin Macintyre » Mon 13 Sep, 2021 2:22 pm

From Wikipedia:
"The mathematics of the golden ratio and of the Fibonacci sequence are intimately interconnected."

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Re: Mount Borders in the Golden Ratio

Post by David » Mon 13 Sep, 2021 3:07 pm

Well I was trying not to respond but here goes.

When Leonardo et al used the Golden Ratio it was for overall size and positioning of components within a composition, not for dictating mount and frame surrounds. I do use the Golden Ratio along with other ‘rules’, the rule of thirds for example, they have proven over time to be harmonious and pleasing to the eye, particularly in art, architecture and design in general. I use these rules a lot, as a guide, when laying multiple items in a frame, military collections especially, not only the overall dimensions but the positioning of groups or items within the frame. When adding decoration to a mount or the proportions of multi layer mounts and frames I often use the rule of thirds, geometric and arithmetic progressions.

To determine the proportions of a boarder you need more factors than the window aperture.

First the artwork/object being framed, is it; monochrome, coloured – one or more, a sketch, watercolour, oil, acrylic, poster, how much colour, quantify each colour by area and intensity. How do you factor these in?

Given the artwork the next biggest factors are the mount and frame. What is the colour of the mount? How is this included in the equation? Neutral mounts, white and ivory, you can be quite generous with before they start dominating or distracting. I will quite often start with a neutral mount and one of my rules is that as you introduce stronger colours you reduce the size of the mount to maintain the balance of the composition. For example for a landscape watercolour I could use a 90mm ivory mount, this might be down to 65mm for a dark green mount. What if you are using a double or triple mount with different colours?

And I haven’t started on the size and colour of the frame which can mean a further adjusting of the mount size to maintain the overall balance of the framing so that it doesn’t overpower or detract from the artwork.

I’ll also add in personal preferences, fashion and taste!

The only way to find the dimension of a mount is by eye – what looks right, pleasing and harmonious with the artwork. I am constantly varying the width with changes of colour and tone and again when deciding on a frame, sometimes this may be 5 or 10mm sometimes 1 or 2mm, with multiple mounts I can be playing with 0.5 mm. Sometimes I spend too much time trying to decide between a difference of a few mm, it’s fine tuning to the mm and can be the difference between a design working well or being slightly off.

Formulas, set ratios and percentages do not work. At best they can be a rough guide in a very limited number of cases, even if you know when that is.

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Re: Mount Borders in the Golden Ratio

Post by Colin Macintyre » Mon 13 Sep, 2021 3:16 pm

David, Thanks for taking the time to respond. Very good.

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Re: Mount Borders in the Golden Ratio

Post by Not your average framer » Mon 13 Sep, 2021 6:37 pm

Well done David,

That makes much more sense. I'm not much pursuaded about blndly following rules, when art surely is about so much more! It is about expression, tallent and individually, plus so much which is not usually rigidly defined by rules. Genius rarely comes from following rules, which is why we always recognise genius as something other than normal.
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Re: Mount Borders in the Golden Ratio

Post by prospero » Tue 14 Sep, 2021 10:03 am

Colin Macintyre wrote:
Mon 13 Sep, 2021 10:44 am
Well Prospero, my answer to that is, among the artists who are believed to have used the Golden Ratio proportions as a technique to help construct their work are: Leonardo Da Vinci, Michaelangelo, Sandro Botticelli, Albrecht Dürer and Salvador Dali. Should they have been in another job? :lol:
They weren't picture framers. :lol:
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