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).
Large Home Depot-type stores tend to bale their cardboard immediately, unfortunately, although I did score a refrigerator box at Lowes by being there at precisely the right time once.
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:
Easy hanging method: glue scrap on back, insert picture wire down through one corrugation and back up through another, twist wires.
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.