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ABSTRACT WATERCOLOUR ON YUPO PAPER

Written by Carly Clements
carlyart@worldnet.att.net

Painting on Yupo can be a challenge, a fun experience, or a good reason to pour a glass of wine and chill out!! I think that during my first painting on yupo, I experienced all three, but after a couple of experiments, I found that yupo can be fun and exciting especially when using watercolors and allowing the paint to do all the work.

Yupo is a type of synthetic paper used primarily in the printing industry since it takes inks and holds with a razor sharp edge. It resists tearing and tattering, is a bright white in color, very durable, and highly resistant. For more information, check out www.yupo.com.

This article will show how I used some experimental techniques with plastic wrap, masking fluid (frisket), rock salt, painting negative shapes to create positive forms, and pure luck! to create "Spirit of Stone Mountain". The colors used for this painting are not as important as the process so I won't linger over every paint name. You might choose an entirely different color scheme. The main thing to ask yourself when considering color is, "Do I want to break away from my color comfort zone and try new combinations?" You will notice in this painting I used many of my old favorites when doing florals, but the painting itself is not floral! I didn't allow the colors used to dictate the subject matter....I allowed the images in the process to lead me. You can do the same.
 
Yupo does not buckle when wet! Here you see my sheet of yupo lying on a white piece of foamcore. You can tape the edges if you choose but I like to rotate my paper without moving my support board.

I work with an elevated edge so that the paint will flow as I drop the color onto the yupo. I also lift the support and turn the paper in different directions to help the paint to intermingle. I've covered this wet into wet paint with plastic wrap creating shapes with my fingertips.
 
It's important to leave the plastic in place once you achieve patterns you find pleasing. Lifting it will cause the paint to smudge and the edges won't be as clearly defined. Notice in this closeup how the paint collects into the crevices and under the plastic shapes.

With Yupo, I don't find it necessary to weight the paper for drying, but you might want to cover your work to avoid the plastic from 'blowing' off the painting before it's completely dry! and no peeking before its dry! Leave your work overnight...start a new watercolor...or reorganize the studio! Mine always needs that...lol!
 
Remove the plastic by pulling from the edge across your painting. It will have a sticky feel where the paint has adhered to both surfaces. This is the fun part! Here you see the plastic pulled from the top, half-way. Notice the lines and the forms left by the plastic!
 
After removing the plastic, turn the painting in different direction. You are looking for repeat patterns, shapes, and focal areas. These will give you ideas for subject matter. Immediately I noticed a strong facial element in this painting! Here is the horizontal view....
 
...a close up to show the facial image I want to focus around...sometimes these cropped areas make nice smaller paintings!
 
...a vertical view...this is the one I chose to work with...
 
You may want to save some of your whites or lines in the initial colors. Use masking fluid in these areas. I've decided to use the vertical shapes to develop into a painting. The facial image will become the focal area at this point but the entire painting needs more depth and structure. It's time to begin painting with my brush!
 
I chose to begin with my focal area and work out from there. First I moisten the area where I want to add color, then I drop in a color for blending. By filling my brush with color and using the tip to touch the wet yupo, I don't overwork the layer beneath and the paint flows into the damp area. Allow this color to blend and "set".

It will still be damp but will have lost its sheen. At this point you can add more color by dropping it into the same area. Again allow the paint to do the work. Don't play in the area with your brush! Remember you want an abstract effect! Allow the paint some drying time before you move on to the next color (I use a hair dryer on low held about 10 inches from the surface so I don't blow the paint off the paper). Step back often and view your painting from a distance.
 
You may decide that the outcome you've achieved so far is a painting...if so, jump to Critique Yourself! But if you want to define the subject more, begin with the background shapes and add color around your subject. Keep the paint rather heavy...not so much water.

You will find that yupo doesn't absorb the paint like other paper! Instead the color will sit on top of the paper and the water will dry out. Each time you add new color, each layer of paint is effected. This also makes it nice if you want to wipe out an area!
 
After working in the background, I've decided that more texture would be nice in some of the area. I moisten the paper and add color then drop salt (rock) into the damp paint. It's important to allow this to dry! then remove the salt and check for the desired texture.

Small areas of texture can be very effective in an abstract painting. Here you see the hair dryer used with a low setting. Rock salt is heavier and won't blow away if you dry it slowly.
 
After I've painted for a while over the entire surface, working from the background shapes, I begin to critique my painting! Here are some of the questions I ask.
1. Are any areas too strong? too bright? too dull? or too weak?
2. Do all areas lead me into the focal area?
3. Does the eye have paths to follow?
4. Do I have interesting variety in color? in shapes? in sizes?
5. Did I find the "AH HA"?

When I critique, I mat the image in white to define the edges. This helps to keep the eye focused on the painting. Now I can add any final details...the dots and dashes...not new paragraphs...to the painting.
 
After the critique, I decided to change the sky color. I dampened and dropped in new color and covered with crumpled plastic wrap to achieve the same textures again as the overall painting.
 
The last step! Sign it, mat it, and frame it! Well...there is one more thing....listen for the ooh's and ah's from your friends!


Biography:
"As a self-taught artist, I have no reserves in trying new things. That's why I decided to give watercolors a try a couple of years ago and found that I loved the spontaneous reactions you could achieve with mixing colors on paper and allowing the paint to do all the work! Recently I was introduced to YUPO and found the tactile surface matched my adventurous spirit perfectly."

Carly's love for painting began 28 years ago when a friend invited her to take a summer oil painting workshop. Since that time she has taken as many classes and workshops as possible to supplement her own exploration with different mediums.

Carly's oil and acrylic artwork has been shown in galleries and juried shows in Texas, California, and Georgia. Currently she serves as the WebMistress for the Atlanta Artist Center and spends much of her time painting plein air at local parks and botanical gardens. You can find her paintings for sale on EBay by using CARLYART in your search.