Saturday, May 28, 2011

Oil and cardboard

24X30x1.5", oil and cardboard on gallery-wrapped canvas

One of the classes I'm taking is about textured abstracts. I love the class, and am having a great time. This week the teacher suggested that, before I start the painting, I make a textured foundation using cardboard. I was hesitant, since I'm painting in oils (well, with marble powder), and I've heard that you shouldn't mix them. But I figured I could learn something.

What came out? This! And I really like it!

Later, at home, I researched the combo. I found web sites that said you should always gesso paper first, but they didn't give resources. I found a few artists who do use paper in their base layer under oil. And finally I checked my Artists' Handbook by Ralph Mayer. Ralph says that no oil paintings on unprimed paper have survived the centuries. Since Ralph's book is a standard, I'll buy the data. So, no, it's not a good process for the long haul.

Here's my quandary. Now what do I do? Ralph says it has thirty or thirty-five years. I'll probably never be all that famous so it probably won't get saved by a conservator. But I gotta do one of the following: sell it as is, keep it as is, or remove the cardboard. I can't sell it in good conscience, and I'm not convinced I want it around forever, so...

Sigh. Do we owe our buyers a work that will last thirty years or a hundred years?

Anyway, if I'm going to peel off the cardboard, I should do it while the paint is still workable. I'm thinking I'll replace it with burlap (not identical, but also textured and earthy) and then play with that. If I'm lucky, the added experimenting will add richness.

What to do about the class? I should either take texture material that works with oil, or switch back to acrylics. Hey, I've been using marble powder, and I'm told it works with acrylics, so maybe they'll be workable more like oil. We'll see.


  1. Hi Connie,
    I am thinking that if you want to use cardboard in a mixed media painting you may want to apply acrylic gesso on it before using oil paint. If you go back to acrylics the paint should seal the cardboard . I doubt that marble dust will cause any problem since it is inert.I would suggest contacting either Liquitex or Golden for technical advice. I know that Pat Dews, Ann Baldwin and Nancy Reyner have some excellent books. Even though they are using acrylics you can gather some great ideas that can be adapted. I like this mixed media painting very much. The textures, colors and shapes are all working together. I also like the tension between the darker color on the top left to the rest of the painting & that touch of yellow on the right.

    NJ ART 73

  2. Hi NJ. Thanks for your comments. I do struggle with oil vs. acrylic. There's a gooshiness to oil that I love, and haven't been able to find in acrylics. Maybe the marble dust will help. But, my! the things you can do with acrylics are amazing! I do have some books by the authors you mention, but I'll look further. And maybe I should play with my open acrylics.

    So, last night I pulled the cardboard off this piece and substituted burlap pieces of about the same size. Now we'll if I can pull it all together again.

  3. This is a wonderful and moving mixed media piece. Beautiful work.