Canvas, cardboard, art journal, paper, watercolor block, furniture — you name it, we’ll paint on it, right? One of my personal favorite substrates to paint on is an art board or wood panel. The smooth, hard surface is perfect to take all the abuse of a mixed media artist and look polished in the end. Today I’m giving up my secret source for cheap art boards.
Pros and Cons
The benefits of the art board (or wood panel) are numerous. Outside of using them for mounting artwork, they are ideal for traditional painting, drawing, mixed media, and collage. They are rigid enough for impasto, encaustic, and general craft use. You can apply the appropriate ground to make them perfect for watercolors or other mediums, too.
The con is they are expensive. If you go to Blick or Jerry’s Artarama, a value pack consisting of 4-5 (depending on the size of the panel) will set you back $25. Amazon has similar packs for similar prices. And that’s the cheapest I can find even on sale.
That’s why my wood panel dealer is Target’s $1 section (where everything costs $3 or $5?). Target’s dollar spot consistently has wooden signs for sale matching whatever season is upon us. They are almost always $3. AllThingsTarget.com updates her website with the dollar spot items if you want to see what’s current, but they are always there. I have bought a lot of these signs and file them away with my blank canvases. This ‘Peace, Love, Happy Hour’ sign pictured is exactly what I’m talking about. I actually bought 3 of those because they were 10×10 and what a cute pattern in the background for a first layer.
I tend to take some sand paper to the surface before I use these. I don’t spend an hour getting them back to bare wood or anything, but I find sanding the surface a bit takes off the coating they put on it and primes it for whatever abuse I give it. Also, the sanding will take off the barcode and other info Target sometimes prints on the edges of the panels.
Here are some finished panels hanging on my wall. I gessoed and marbled the top left one last week. The top right one I finished last night. I love the little bird. The bottom left one I gave my 3 year old to smear purple paint on. I later painted the LOVE letters and glued them on it. The one on the bottom right I liked just as it was and didn’t alter. It’s a Target original. I often buy more than one of the same design, though, so I might have a twin one to paint on.
As long as you can resist spending another $200 on beautiful things you didn’t know you needed, Target can be a cheap source for wood panels. Happy arting and shopping.
Let me know if you have any cheap art product sources.