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#30×30 Day 23 : The Great YUPO Experiment

June 23, 2021

Two Kimono – Watercolor on Yupo, 20×26″

I’ve just recently made two pieces for an upcoming show, Beyond the Edge, which is a proposed exhibition by the Canadian Society of Painters in Watercolor with a focus on experimental works in water media. (Including a variety of mixed-media approaches that are not normally allowed in the annual competition). I haven’t heard yet if I’m accepted. We’ll see! < EDIT < Turns out, yes! I did get one of these pieces in. Thanks CSPWC!

These are both watercolors, on 20×26″ sheets of the polypropylene surface, YUPO.

At this stage of the marathon, my short attention span is taxed to the limit! It’s normal for me, when I’ve been working steadily, to need a new subject or a new material to jumpstart my creativity.

I had these sheets on the shelf for a while now, and thought – no time like the present! Lets dive in.

Yupo, if you have not tried it yet, is nothing like paper.

It’s a sheet of plastic, which is actually a little bit water repellant, a bit like the surface of a waxed car or a rain poncho.

Water will bead up into droplets, and slide off in rivers. If you work with a tilt, water will sluice off the page making these distinctive kind of floods.

The principles of Wet-on-Dry painting still work – you still can draw with silhouette shapes and use wet/dry edges to make lines, but even the smallest shape will always show a hard edge – an outline – as pigment flows to the edge of the puddle, and accumulates there. It’s like the soap ring in the bath tub, where the particles collect at the water line.

I don’t mind hard-edged shapes, but for now, it is a little odd that I can’t soften a shape by pulling edges. Perhaps I will get the hang of it? Or possibly it will be hard edges all the time on this surface!

Much like a smooth (hot press) paper or a cellulose paper with a lot of sizing, on YUPO the color will flow with gravity. It is so frictionless, the amount of movement can take you by surprise. Everything is turned up to eleven. Everything flows faster, and further. The only limit is the edge of the sheet.

At times there will be odd occurrences – such as this bubble – which might be caused by skin oils on the surface? But – of course I don’t mind these things. It’s part of the nature of the material.

One thing you will not get – as far as I can tell right now – is blooms. I think that a bloom or a backwash will not happen here, with no paper fibers to wick up the paint like little straws. Again – more experimentation is required to say for sure.

Paper Lanterns – Watercolor on Yupo, 20×26″

I chose this theme of brightly colored traditionally Japanese clothing, as it seems to fit what I can do with the material right now.

These costumes are covered in bright patterns, which are often so complex as to appear random at a distance. As well, the white face makeup of traditional Japanese performers makes for a useful stylization for a first attempt. I can simply avoid trying to paint a small face – until I get more of a handle on things.

So – these are a few of my experiments with painting as freely, or directly as possible with YUPO!

Over the next few days I’ll be seeing how much further I can take this artificial surface.


6 Comments leave one →
  1. Ellie permalink
    June 23, 2021 12:49 PM

    Thanks so much for the educational remarks about Yupo. I tried it years ago and found it frustrating, but now perhaps I’ll try it again. If you are not accepted into the show, then I cannot imagine who else will be. Thanks again.

  2. June 23, 2021 12:58 PM

    Yupo is one of my favorite surfaces, Marc! Good luck with your entries!

  3. Judy Sopher permalink
    June 23, 2021 1:47 PM

    Wonderful works. Two Kimono is my favorite. The flow of paint on this paper creates great movement. I have used it as a mixing area on such palettes as those I made out of Altoid boxes Stuck it on with Blu Tack. But never used it to paint on. will give it a try.

  4. Alison permalink
    June 23, 2021 2:57 PM

    They are both beautiful and work with the Yupo instead of trying to fight it.

  5. June 23, 2021 3:06 PM

    That looks so interesting Marc, I really the intensity. I know a few artists that use Yupo with pencils for interesting effect too.

  6. June 23, 2021 3:18 PM

    Your paper lanterns piece is so pretty, I love the brilliant colors. This is my first exposure to Yupo and am googling for more info on this artistic expression.

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