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Experimenting with YUPO - a Different Kind of Paper

Cheryl Hoople illustrates different approaches to experimenting with smooth, slick, non-absorbant, synthetic YUPO paper and watercolors.

"Mountain High" by Cheryl Hoople

"Mountain High" - watercolor on YUPO paper
by Cheryl Hoople

An article in a popular artist's magazine introduced me to Yupo - a slick, smooth, nonabsorbent paper that dramatically changed the way I paint. At first, I merely chased the paint around and watched it sit on the top of the paper, but now I am constantly surprised and pleased with my results. Using Yupo paper, I can capture the nuances, patterns and shapes that previously escaped me. What makes Yupo unique is its lifting quality. For example, I can literally go back when a painting is done and redo it again and again. I can build up layers of paint, much like an oil painter, and then take them off to reveal the translucent white of the paper, much like a watercolorist. Working with Yupo brings a new passion for limitless possibilities when you play to its strengths. To help you get started, I will answer a few frequently asked questions and then share some simple techniques that work for me.

Q: What exactly is Yupo?
Yupo is a continuous polymer surface that takes the form of paper. This synthetic paper (in other words, plastic) was produced for designers and printers who use it for signage, lamina-tion, and other commercial projects such as menus, maps, magazines and brochures. Watercolorists subsequently discovered Yupo and simultaneously uncovered a new use for it in the painting process. Although Yupo is not made from natural fibers, it is extremely flexible and resilient, tough, difficult to tear, and waterproof. Yupo paper also has a neutral pH, and is fully recyclable.

Q: Can I enter Yupo paintings in competitions and exhibitions?
Most major watercolor shows that accept all forms of watermedia and the use of opaque paint accept Yupo. The best advice is to carefully read the prospectus and all the rules before entering.

Q: Any tips on how to work on Yupo?
Experiment first; have fun. Painting on Yupo is not easy, but perseverance and practice, practice, practice pay off.

1. Begin painting on light-weight Yupo paper. Although Yupo comes in various weights and styles, the effects you produce vary little. Save heavier weights for large projects, layered media or collages that require more support.

2. Start with familiar tools, brushes and the palette of paint you have. Transparent and granulating paints blend wonderfully and layer beautifully. Work flat, using a board that you can easily lift. Lightly tape or clamp your paper to this support so that it does not slide, or fall on the floor, unexpectedly.

3. Use a lot of thick paint at first. Try sprinkling or spraying a little water on the paint and then tilt and turn your paper to mix and mingle color. Do not expect your paint to stay put; it flows until it dries, or meets a barrier. If you don´t like what you get, or your colors turn to mud, you can simply rinse the paper under a faucet or use a damp tissue to remove the paint. Dry the paper and begin again.

4. Watch your paint. If unwanted puddles occur, or extra paint collects at the bottom of your paper, cautiously blot it with a crumpled tissue. Remove fingerprints by gently rubbing the imprinted paper with a clean, moist tissue or brush.

Q: Any more suggestions?
Remember that water activates and disturbs the paint, making it easy to recover whites or remove layers of paint, even paint put down months ago. Allow Yupo to dry completely. If the paint is still tacky, spray it with a matte-clear nishing spray to seal and protect it. This step is optional; only use a sealant when your work is complete, as rework and touch-ups become difficult to do after sealing.

"Sea Change" by Cheryl Hoople

"Sea Change" watercolor on YUPO
by Cheryl Hoople

Six Ways to Work on YUPO demonstrated in Sea Change

1-Flat Wash
Apply paint straight from the tube, or dilute color with water to a creamy consistency. Use a foam roller to smooth the color.
TIP: Blotting the paint with a flat tissue creates a lighter, softer effect.

2-Multicolored Wash
Choose various colors; vary lights and darks, textures, and properties. For example, burnt sienna granulates easily and can affect other colors. Moder-ately dilute paint into and let gravity pull colors down and into each other.
TIP: Use a hair dryer to stop all action and speed up dry-ing time. Constantly move the dryer to avoid hotspots and blisters.

3-Blended Or Graded Wash
Apply two or more colors side-by-side, without overlaps. Use a foam roller to smooth, blend, and grade the colors together.

Layer flat washes carefully and lightly over dry paper. Apply the paint in parallel strokes; do not overlap the strokes and, when possible, avoid touching the paper.
TIP: Use an inexpensive or used airbrush to spray on the paint.

Draw a slightly damp brush across a thoroughly dry area of paint in one direction. Then cross over the dampened paint in the opposite direction. You can roll it with a roller, or blot it with a tissue.
TIP: Water activates and disturbs the paint, making it easy to recover whites.

Moisten a tissue to lift out color. It is simple to do. Use your imagination, experiment and have fun! Try spattering color, using templates, and tilting the paper to achieve different effects. How about using salt, plastic wrap, and old credit cards or screens and napkins with various embossed or raised designs?

Materials List: