SEGMENT III: Choosing the Best Size and How to Successfully Hang Your Art

Transcript: Welcome to Art Talk. My name is Kerry Filiberto. I’m the Gallery Director at Cortile Gallery.

In this segment, I was going to discuss lighting but I recently had so many questions with regards to spatial relationships, meaning what size of painting should I get for my space, and how is the best way to hang my artwork, so today I am going to explore both of these topics.

There are some principles to keep in mind when making a decision around the needed size of artwork for a wall. First, it is best to visualize the overall space where you will be hanging your artwork as a shape. For example, if you are hanging a piece of artwork over a sofa you might visualize a rectangular shape.  Once you have identified this shape, measure the width and height of the area you intend to hang your art. If you have other items or other features on your walls, for example a chair rail or furniture beneath where you will hang the artwork, you need to consider these when you’re measuring your space allowing approximately six to eight inches between the bottom of the artwork and the furniture beneath. The art should not be so high that it feels disjointed from the furnishings and not so low that the artwork feels compromised. A second guide to follow when you’re choosing your artwork is spatial relationship–the size of the artwork and the room and its contents.  For success in selecting the best size of artowork follow the two-thirds rule. For example, if you have a 9-foot sofa you would want to choose artwork to fill approximately 6 feet of space to retain a spatial relationship between the size of the sofa and the size of the artwork to preserve visual balance in the space. Using too small of artwork would feel unbalanced.  Once you have your artwork selected use the following steps for hanging your work successfully.

There are several ways to hang artwork once you have selected the correct size of art. In the gallery we use a hanging system which can be used for both commercial and residential applications. It allows us to put artwork on the walls without putting nails in the walls. The suspended cables slide across the railing making repositioning the art easier. The art hangs on hooks that slide up and down the cables. These systems are an investment but one that is worth it if you move your artwork frequently or if you are attempting to avoid placing nails into the walls. In most case, a traditional picture hook is used and is the method which we will be using today.

In hanging art you will first need some essential tools. You’ll need a tape measure, a level, painters tape (optional) a pencil, your hammer, and also your hook. There are three measurements you will need (a) the mid point of the hanging space, (b) the height to the center point of the painting and (c) the distance between the artwork hanging device and top of the artwork. If you use these measurements each time you will have a successful outcome in hanging your artwork consistently.

First, measure the overall width of the space of where you are hanging your artwork to find the center point. I’ve already measured this space and know that my center point of where I want to hang my painting is 52 inches. I have already put a piece of tape on my wall that marks this measurement. You can also use a pencil and simply put a small line there. The next measurement that you will need is to measure from the ground up to place a mark at the level that we call the average viewing height. The average viewing height is usually between 57 to 60 inches. Placing the center of the painting at this height from the floor ensures that you view the artwork at the proper level. Having a range for the height, gives you some leeway to adjust the work upward or downward dependent upon your height or adjust to the horizon point in the artwork if need be.

In this case I have a painting where the perspective is located in the lower quadrant, below the center of the painting. I want to bring my viewing height up a little bit higher for my viewing. So instead of putting my line at 57, I’ve placed my mark at 59 inches. If you’re not using the tape you can always use just a pencil and you want to make several different marks at that same height, 59 inches, then using the level and pencil make a light line. You will need this line to calculate your next position of marks. The second measurement needed is the overall height of your painting or artwork. In this case I’m working with a painting that is 38 inches. You want to take one half of this measurement which in my case is 19 inches. Beginning from the top of my 59 inch mark, I want to add 19 inches and put a mark or piece of tape. This now gives me where I want the height of my painting to be in my space. The last measurement that you need to calculate is where the hook needs to be placed. You want to pull the wire that the painting is going to be hanging as taut as you can towards the top of the painting then measure the distance from the wire to the top of the painting. In this case, it measures three and a half inches so I know that I want the bottom of my hook to be at three and a half inches down from my last mark. Take your pencil, come down from the highest mark you made and place a mark at three and a half inches. Again you want to make sure that you’re coming right along that center line so that your painting is centered in the space. The last part of this is to actually put your hook into the wall, and if you don’t have a stud in the wall to hook into that’s fine because this particular type of hook is made to go into dry wall as well. It’s very stable. Remember to line up the bottom of the hook, that little cradle, and tap the hook into the wall. Its important to remember to put the bottom of the hook at the mark and not the nail. Once your hook is in place, you are ready to hang your art.

So now that we have our artwork hung, I can measure my painting again just to confirm that I have my painting in that perfect viewing level, 59 inches. Again you can adjust this up or down as needed based on your own comfort level, but if you use this for all of your artwork consistently throughout your home, you’ll find that there is a visual cohesiveness to your art collection.

Keep in mind that these same principles that apply to a single piece also apply to a grouping of work. If you’re grouping a collection of artwork work, the spacing between the pieces are dependent on the size of the space which they will hang. If you have a larger wall your spaces between the pieces that you’re grouping should be no more than four to six inches. If you’re working on a smaller wall, bring the spacing to two to four inches. If you’re looking at the pieces on my left here you can see that I’ve actually separated these pieces by six inches. It gives each one breathing room but yet makes them as one cohesive unit. When you are grouping work you want to think of the overall grouping as one size and use the measuring method above to figure out where your midpoint is and work off that point for your calculations. You might find it helpful to lay all the pieces in the grouping on a flat surface and work out spacing before working out measurements on the wall.

I hope this segment of our Art Talk has assisted you in choosing the best piece of artwork for your space and also in how to hang them successfully. Join me again for our next segment.