Painting on Cardboard

2022-05-29 17:00

Hi hi!

For the first 142 days of this year, I've painted something every day. For the most part, these paintings have been done digitally using a program called Procreate. This initiative was part of my new year's intentions outlined in this post. I originally set out to do one digital painting every day. Today I'm sharing what I want to change about this goal: I want to just paint every day. This seems like a small change (and it is), but I want to write about it because this small change will affect the rest of my year and has made me reflect on the past several months and what I've learned. But before that - a few words on adjusting goals.

Sometimes I feel a bit sheepish when I re-adjust the goals that I set at the beginning of a year; my optimism and hope for a new year always start strong and I often have a concrete idea of what I want to be working toward. With that said, things always change as the year progresses. I've learned it is unrealistic to expect the shape of a goal to remain unchanging, especially one such as this - where I'm asking myself to do X every day.

Back to the main topic - what have I learned after trying to do a single painting every day, and some thoughts on what the rest of the year (providing no further tweaks happen) will look like.

A painting every day

What I liked

Doing a painting every day was fun, and I still like the idea of it as a goal. I was able to sit down everyday with a blank slate and decide what I wanted to try and paint - would I do a still life, a scene from a book I had just read, or something I dreamt? Would I do something abstract instead of searching for something to try and capture as realistically as I could?

On top of that, doing a painting every day meant I could cover a lot of different topics and learn about what felt fun and what was tedious (and everything in-between).

Something else I liked about painting every day is that I have a daily chronicle of what was happening in my life portrayed by several paintings. Not every painting was directly related to what I was doing in that time, but many captured where I was or what I had done that day or week. I might recreate a still from a movie I had enjoyed for example, or do a still life when I was visiting and staying over with family.

At the start of the year, I decided that I wanted to orient myself on quantity over quality. I wanted to, in a non-self-deprecatory way, get the bad paintings out (and I still am!). Doing something every day meant I had no time to agonize over a week-long painting trying to perfect it (which is endlessly possible in a digital medium).

What I found challenging

All of the above was great, but over time I started to run into the feeling that I was missing out on a few things. I didn't have enough time to really explore what a painting could be. Whether I was rushing into painting without doing an underdrawing, or I was ignoring details when I had to start my day and finish up - rushing to do a painting every day was leaving a lot on the table.

Further, after a few months, I was stretched thin for ideas for a daily painting. It took time and energy (away from painting) in order to come up with an idea every day.

I think experienced painters might have said as much to me at the outset. That's fair - but I was mostly concerned about building discipline and getting into the habit of painting every day - not making good paintings.

Painting every day

I decided a week or two ago that I was happy to switch over to spending more than a day on a single painting, while still painting every day. This decision happened to be percolating in my mind alongside a shift from doing digital painting to analog (something I'll reflect on in another post - I decided that I didn't want to just do digital painting for the whole year).

I had hit somewhat of a wall painting every day, and I realized that I was missing out on honing a few skills by not taking my time with a single painting:

Painting larger

My partner has continued to encourage me to paint larger - something I've said no thanks to several times. I realized one of the reasons I was saying no to this was because doing a single painting in a day on a larger canvas was not likely going to happen and painting on a canvas seemed intimidating (more on this later).

If I paint every day this will happen (spoiler: I've already started :) ).

Building patience

Painting every day, on a larger piece means building patience. I enjoyed doing something everyday and calling it done because I didn't have to dwell on what I wanted to change - it had to get done! In that sense, I was not challenging my patience. With spending more time on a single painting I've started to get a glimpse of the patience required to capture an idea. This is something I'm looking forward to working on (and really, not rushing/patience has been a longtime pursuit).

Adding more detail

I've realized that I'm often leaving out finer details in a painting - and that it can be one of the most fun parts of doing a painting.

Stepping back

It is a skill to be able to step back and take breaks - no matter what you are focused on. With painting it's particularly important, I am still learning, to step back and get some perspective. It can be hard to do that when I am in a flow state, but if I'm painting every morning for a week I have no choice but to return to where I left off and see how things look the next day. This might sound very obvious and elementary, but it is exciting for me to see the benefits of this.

Painting on cardboard

So what's up with the title of this post and what does it have to do with painting every day?

Well, having recently moved into a new apartment we have a lot of leftover boxes lying around. So now, I've got a pile of big, free canvases to work on. I'm excited about this for several reasons.

First, painting on canvases is intimidating! While canvases can be bought at economical prices, they aren't free. Next, what am I going to do with a bunch of large learner-paintings on canvas? I am content in my learning phase and I have no interest in hanging paintings or selling them - I am just enjoying being in the moment of painting. I don't want to buy a bunch of canvases, practice painting larger, and then just store them or throw them out.

Cardboard fits the bill. I have plenty of cardboard, I'm not wasting anything, and I'm not attached to the painting. The last part if particularly important. Like cracking a fresh journal or sketchbook, an empty canvas is intimidating. My expectations for paintings on cardboard are nil! It's all going in the garbage anyway!

What about when the day comes that I realize I like what I've painted - having probably put in 10-20 hours (or more) on it? Am I going to hang cardboard? Frame it? Who knows! Maybe. If I get to that point I'll be more excited once I've reached a place where I'm so satisfied with a painting that I'd be reluctant to throw it out. - and that might be an indicator that it's time to switch over to canvas.

The hero image of this post is the first painting I spent several days on. Painting on cardboard is tricky - if you use too much water it will warp. This has encouraged me to get back into using acrylic, which, thankfully, is also more economical than using my gouache or casein.

I've even bought some cheap gesso to try and prime some cardboard, which has been an interesting experiment so far - I haven't painted on the two I primed yet, but I'll probably write a post about that when I get a chance.

That's all for now. I'm excited to start taking my time with painting and to see where that leads me next.

See ya next time!