Photo by Deeana Creates on

Since I closed my publishing business and wrote my last (for now) book, I have taken up acrylic painting. Art supplies are expensive, especially if you want to paint on cradled panels. A cradled panel is a piece of plywood or hardboard with a frame on the back of it. You can hang it directly on the wall when it’s finished, no other framing needed. It has some advantages over canvas, such as sturdiness and the smooth painting surface. I like them.

The difficulty is the price, so I decided to pick up used panels at thrift stores, refinish them, and save lots of money. Yesterday was senior day at Goodwill and Savers, so I went out foraging for panels. Now these panels have been all the rage at Home Goods and Hobby Lobby for years, bearing slogans and admonitions like “Live Laugh Love” and “Follow Your Joy” and stuff like that. Now that consumers are pretty sick of being told how to live by Home Goods, such signs are falling out of fashion. Thus, they are showing up at thrift shops, and I can buy them for cheap, especially on Senior Day.

Thrift stores also have a lot of Home Goods canvases with printed pictures on them. The canvas is usually plastic or plastic-covered cloth, and I haven’t had a lot of luck gessoing over that canvas. Instead, I have taken to removing the canvas and the staples (the hardest task), and gluing a piece of 1/8 inch utility board to the frame of the canvas, making my own cradled panel. Home Depot was kind enough to cut the boards to the dimensions I needed. Mind you, my homemade panels aren’t museum quality, but I am only a beginner, not a pro. I plan to hang my pictures in my own house or give them to friends.

Anyway, the point of this blog is to determine whether re-purposing thrift store panels is cost effective. Here is a comparison of what I spent at Goodwill, Assistance League, and Savers with what I would have spent had I ordered the same (or similar) panels from Jerry’s Artarama, an online art supply source. The smallest panel measured 10 x 12 inches, and the largest 24 x 30. I bought a total of 13 panels and canvas prints, and I spent $43.96 before tax, using my senior discount and buying mostly items with the colored tag that was discounted that day. I bought utility board at Home Depot for about $11 for a 4 x 8 foot sheet, so some of the frames will need a couple of dollars added for the board I will glue on. The gesso I will prime them with also costs. Not to mention my labor, which I throw in for free since I am retired and the refinishing is part of my hobby, too. Throw in the utility board and the gesso, let’s round it up to $60.

Using Jerry’s sale prices before tax and shipping, I would have paid $312 for 13 panels. Compare the big panel, especially: I spent maybe $7 for the 24 x 30. Jerry wants $45 for one. I have always liked the idea of thrifting to save the environment and the budget, but now I am sold on the idea of making my own art surfaces with re-purposed stuff.

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