When I first wondered about painting on cardboard myself, I of course googled it…and now Google is sending some of you to *this* entry for info on ‘painting on cardboard.’ So here’s what I’ve learned from my experience with cardboard so far:
Artists have been painting on cardboard for over 100 years (e.g. this Picasso, 1900).
Cardboard’s main advantages in my opinion:
— It is non-precious. I find I paint more freely on corrugated cardboard than any other substrate. Even before I make the first brushstroke I feel like “this is an experiment.”
— It’s free! It’s abundant!
— I can work on an oversize piece of cardboard, and “crop” my painting with a knife after the fact.
— It’s already manufactured. I’m repurposing something that would otherwise be recycled or discarded. Zero carbon footprint.
— It’s immediate. Cut, paint.
— I like the way it takes paint. (I use heavy body, artist’s grade acrylics.)
— It’s fun to see what graphics may already be printed on it (see this painting for example) that I can leave visible.
— It’s lightweight.
— If it gets beat up a little on the edges or corners, who cares?!?
The best cardboard for painting is double thick; two corrugated layers sandwiched together. To find the best stuff, think of large/fragile/expensive items, and go to stores that sell them — electronics, bicycles, appliances. I’ve found that local bike shops are happy to save me their bicycle cartons.
Take a box cutter along to cut down the cartons for easier transport (as a courtesy I also haul away the leftover scraps and recycle them myself, so I don’t leave a mess for the shop owner).
Keep your cardboard stash dry, don’t store in a shed or humid environment. Avoid cheap pulpy cardboard (such as cartons for tools from Harbor Freight ).
For relatively temporary works (years, not decades) just paint right on the cardboard. It will be absorbent, which can be annoying or useful depending on your medium and intentions. Bare areas will be subject to fading, especially if displayed where sunlight strikes it.
To make it much less absorbent but still retain its cardboardy look, apply thinned down acrylic medium before painting on it; do both sides equally to minimize warping.
For more permanence, prime both sides with house primer, gesso, or acrylic medium. Give both sides an equal number of coats to minimize warping.
For grunge appeal, you can purposely tear off the top layer here and there to expose underlying corrugations, and/or leave some of the arrows, ‘this side up’ labeling, hand hold holes, big copper staples, UPC codes, and other original artifacts intact or partially painted over.
Tip for hanging cardboard paintings:
Cut scrap of cardboard and glue onto back of painting as anchor for a hanging wire or string. It’s surprisingly strong, and is in keeping with the cardboard theme. You can also make hang tags, title placards, portfolios to transport your cardboard masterpieces in, and so on, all from cardboard. Once you have large sheets of it laying around, all kinds of uses start popping up.
You can “reverse engineer” how to make a cardboard box by looking at an already-made one, draw a layout on a big panel, cut/score it, paint it, then fold/glue/staple it into a sturdy decorated box that will last for years with reasonable care.
I painted the self portrait (below) on cardboard, as well as the following paintings:
That’s it for now…I’ll add more if I think of something else.
Following is my original entry under the heading “Painting on Cardboard” :
Self Portrait February 24 2011, freehand from a b/w photo I took yesterday
Acrylic on corrugated cardboard, slightly smaller than life size (area shown is 13 x 15, panel is 19 x 27)
Using just two colors of paint: Burnt Sienna and Unbleached Titanium White
We had a “snow day” today, many Portlanders stayed home from work. This painting is what I did with my snow day. No my hair doesn’t have snow on it, that’s just the color it has decided to be now that it’s grown up.
I enjoyed the process.
The product, however, is way more conservative than I’d like…it’s a baby step along the path of moving stylistically to where I’d rather be.
This is the most recent practice project in my current fling with attempting likenesses. I think the painting probably looks better than the subject, but since it’s a self portrait I’m not keen on posting the reference photo just to prove the subject looks worse than the painting.
20″h x 15″w x 7″d
Fired ceramic, rubbed pigment and wax patina, wall mount.
I’ve been working on publicity for our Valentines season double weekend show in our new Venetian Red Gallery space, so haven’t had much time to sculpt recently, but I did accomplish something, something I’ve been stressing over for months — figuring out how to patina my new series. I experimented on a couple of small test heads, then got up my nerve and patinaed the above pictured “Orangutan.”
Feb 22 addendum: Now I’m painting. Yes, painting…painting faces, on cardboard. Um hm, I did say cardboard. As in corrugated. Because I just wanted something to quickly experiment on, and there was a nice box at hand. And now I kind of like the mid-tone ground, the absorbency, the repurposing. Not sure if I’ll post photos (which would only serve to document my current state of digression from whatever trajectory I was on before).
After watching myself from afar…well, not that far…for many decades, I’ve noticed some patterns within my disorganization. My current position in the creative cycle I call “scrabbling.” Like what you would do if you were stuck in a mud bog…try to scrabble your way forward. Or what you would do to the side walls of a pit you’re stuck in: try to scrabble your way out. Scrabbling is unsettling because there’s no way of knowing if all the frenetic energy expended will ever move me in any beneficial direction, or just exhaust me. But I also have an underlying current of enigmatic expectation, that anything can happen. My critic grumbles nothing probably will, but my 17-year-old core-self says Some Big Thing Just Might.
I experience the full gamut of emotions simultaneously during scrabbling, resulting in an over-cooked internal stew that tastes kind of gray, but nevertheless provides abundant energy to keep on scrabbling. And I do feel highly motivated to keep on scrabbling, no matter what, no matter if there’s no known why (yet). The afar part of me is entertained watching myself scrabble. I’m curious to see where it will take me this time — where it will lead me artistically.
Untitled, ceramic sculpture by Steve Eichenberger
A little smaller than life size. Sculpted solid, hollowed out, pieces cut out and glazed separately, then black grouted back together. It doesn’t translate in the photo, but the mid-toned portions have exquisite patterns of shiny black nubbins smaller than the head of a pin; visually and tactilely mesmerizing. The lightest section looks and feels like ivory — not white — but it’s virtually impossible to photograph pieces with extreme lights and darks without over- or under-exposing one or the other.
I think this piece has something to do with the ever-present background/subconscious weighing of issues that have no clear answers.