Friday, December 5, 2014

POST #67: MY LOVE OF CARDBOARD (and other impermanent materials in a throw-away world)

"Factory Dreaming"
black gesso on wrapping paper  48"x34"
I’ve talked about the advantages of using cardboard for art work in previous blogs; cardboard and brown wrapping paper are great surfaces for artwork. There’s nothing like a cheap, easily disposed of material to encourage experimentation. An expensive piece of primed canvas is intimidating and costly; (you don’t want to waste it). My artist friends turn up their noses; “it’s not archivally stable,” they warn me. At the risk of repeating myself, neither am I.

I am acquainted with someone who owns a cardboard warehouse, or, I should say, “ a warehouse filled with cardboard.” It’s called Commerce Packaging and it’s located in a huge shed in an industrial section of South Norwalk. The building is filled from floor to ceiling with cardboard; all sizes, thicknesses, varieties. I am the proverbial kid in the candy store when I go there. I try to get someone with a pick-up truck to take me since the sheets are around 4’x7’ and won’t fit in the standard station wagon. Most recently, I discovered something called “triple ply;” an amazing material: cheap, sturdy, doesn’t collapse, yet is light enough for someone like me to manage. It’s not good for cutting-out figures since I would need a saw, not an Exact-o knife, but I have come up with a perfect use that I’d like to share with you.

Canvases mounted on cardboard panels, 6'x4' each
As anyone who works on canvas knows, you need to stretch it, a fairly expensive process that requires brute strength and neatness, neither of which I possess. My alternative is to roll the canvases up after I have finished painting on them. I have a couple dozen rolled up canvases in my attic; they don’t take up much room but I have no idea what’s on them. Out of sight-out of mind. Now, with my triple ply cardboard, I can tack finished work up (plain push pins, no hammer needed) and tuck the panel in a corner, easy to pull out and show visitors. Cheap, convenient and stackable and only 1/3rd inch thick.

If I want to do cut-outs, there’s no material like cardboard. Foam core works but it doesn’t have that tan “middle ground” color that I like. Another good surface is brown wrapping paper; again, sturdy, inexpensive and subtly colored. It invites experimentation as failures can get crumpled up and without regrets, tossed into the garbage. About a year ago, I did a pretty successful series of charcoal drawings with white chalk highlights on wrapping paper. The problem is that when the paper creases, unlike canvas, it cannot be ironed out. Both cardboard and wrapping paper work especially well with children; inexpensive, disposable and much less inhibiting than a clean sheet of white paper. Do you really care if it’s “archivally stable”?

"Thrift Shop Half-Price Sale"
 Installation: gesso on wrapping paper with metal hangars
A year or so ago, in a rash moment, I ordered a huge, four-foot high, fifty-pound roll of brown wrapping paper from a commercial packaging catalog. There’s no way I will ever live long enough to use it up, so if you’d like to try some, come on over and I’ll cut you a few yards. You’ll be amazed at what you can do with it. Also, I’ll show you my movable, cardboard storage panels and how they work. I love them

1 comment:

  1. Are you a serious artist who wants to sell her work?
    Anyone interested in "buying" it will shudder by what you put in your blog. Cardboard, wrapping paper, etc. are NOT acceptable supports for art work and what type of paint do you use? Is it in the same league and just as ephemeral? If you or a gallery are SELLING your work, you have a responsibility to the buyer who is paying you for it and has reason to believe that it will last! Of course, if you're just interested in experimentation & making marks, etc. you can use pretty much ANYTHING!