More Yupo experiments – you need a level playing field


My neighbour drove me to his office yesterday so that I could size up the vast amount of wall space for a possible location for some of my art work. It will help me get organized – reduce a few bits and pieces from my over-stuffed basement storage.

The day was simply yucky – rain, rain and more rain. All the colours were muted and grey with the exception of a bit of autumnal yellow produced by the brave leaf-souls that are still hanging on for dear life to the tall cottonwoods along the Mary Hill bypass.

I love it when someone else drives. I get out my camera and take pictures even though the car is moving, even though rain drops keep falling on the windshield. Because I take photos more for informational purposes, it doesn’t matter to me if the photos are perfect. If the windshield wiper gets in the way – well, I can always paint it out in my drawing, if I use that photo for reference.

So once I got back home, I chose one of these photos of the highway cut with the yellow trees against a rainy day grey and did a watercolor on Arches, same methods as described before – a light wash to place major shapes; when that’s dry, then some detail; and when that’s dry, more detail and some adjustments to tonal value and correcting colour.

That painting went like this (stages 1, 2 and 3) :

fall-colours-in-rain-state-1-small fall-colours-in-rain-state-2-smallfall-colours-in-rain-small

Concurrently, I was working on the Yupo paper with the same colours. This time, I found it entirely unmanageable. The same consistency of paint on Arches soaks in, but on Yupo it stays on the surface. It’s like a marble on a floor that isn’t quite level. The paint just slides off the surface. By the time I’d finished putting down a layer, it had all migrated to the bottom and the lovely fresh leaf yellow had melted into the dark grey I’d used for darker shapes in the foreground. I shook my head! It looked like a tawdry girl whose heavy mascara had melted down her face as she bawled about a lost love. It just wouldn’t do.

So I tamped up the liquid goo with a Kleenex. Now, that produced an interesting result! The texture on the paper was quite interesting, but I’d essentially lost all the colour on the paper.


An hour or so later, the paper seemed perfectly dry. I’d given it a Kleenex to wipe away the mascara, after all.  I reapplied basic shapes in yellow and then the grey. I left the painting to dry but immediately, I could see the shapes losing form, losing edges.

I gave up on my thoughts of making another landscape with this page, but I thought I might just go forward with whatever came out of it, just to get the hang of the paper; so I let it dry again. The shapes were quite amorphous; but digging into the creative soup in my brain, I managed to visualize a couple of yellow shapes that seemed to be floating in the bit. With a few lines using a fairly dry brush, I clarified where I could see these big balloon bodies and gave each one of them a head at the bottom of the body shape. There is no significance to them. They don’t represent anything. It’s just like I’ve named a cloud and said it looked like a squirrel or a boat or a mushroom.

After this whole wet mess had dried again, I decided that the yellow body shapes did not show up against the lighter yellow background, so I thought perhaps if I painted the background red, the yellow would come forward and be more obvious, more readable.

This is an experimental piece so I can do anything I want with it. In goes the red. I let that dry. With Yupo, it really does have to dry if you expect to put anything on top of anything else, and you can expect that even a slight moisture will pick up any colour you had underneath the new layer – it just lifts off.

Now when I look at it, the red predominates. It’s taken over. The figures seem to be red and the yellow has become background. It reminds me of those optical illusion figures where if you look at it one way, you see candlesticks, and when you are told it is two faces looking at each other, the candle disappears and you can only see the faces.

Here is my masterpiece. Not what I expected. I don’t know what to think of it, so I’ll put it away for a while. I understand from the experiences I’ve had with it so far that I should be able to wash the whole thing off entirely and start again, just like on a chalkboard with an eraser. I haven’t tried that yet (I’m only on piece of paper number two) so if I don’t like this painting a week from now, I might just wash it off and start again.


Go figure!


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4 Responses to “More Yupo experiments – you need a level playing field”

  1. forestrat Says:

    I scrolled back and forth between the photo of the trees and the painting so that I could compare them. They are the same in many ways and yet very different in many ways. I suppose the reflection of the artist runs along the edge between the same and the different.


  2. lookingforbeauty Says:

    The curious thing about painting, I discovered after many years, is that you get what you get. It takes a talented drafts-person to get exactly what they see and what others see – a photo realistic type of work.
    When I”m painting, I’m trying to capture the essence of the trees or the essence of the mood of the landscape I’ve chosen to deal with. The photograph is only a reference.
    Once I’ve got a general placement of objects in, then anything can happen. Then I use my ability to see the underlying structure of a tree, for example which holds leaves in a specific way, branches off from the trunk in a specific manner, and has an overall tree shape characteristic of its kind – elm versus fir versus birch versus maple, etc. Armed with the understanding of the tree, one can then create a plausible tree of that specific sort.
    I’ve learned to trust this. Landscapes are the easiest way to learn to paint. It’s so easy to “cheat” on the original vision in front of you – move a tree a half inch this way, lower a branch to where it’s compositionally convenient, change the colour to work with the other colours you are using. By the time you have finished, if you never show the reference photo, most people find the end product believable.
    Portraits are much harder. The artist might feel quite successful in having portrayed the subject of the painting. The sitter, on the other hand, may have very different feelings about him or herself and find it hard to accept the artist’s “interpretation”.
    Sometimes it’s not even a question of the artist’s interpretation. It’s simply, with the skills that the artist has (or doesn’t have) that’s what they were able to do – and neither artist nor sitter are content with the final result. Other viewers, however, are quite happy to tell you that the eyes are not level, or they are cross-eyed, that the nose is too long or the mouth is not right, or the hair color is wrong or too flat or too puffy. They can hardly do that with a landscape (unless they see the photo).

    Thanks for the comment. It’s a very astute description of what happens when we paint – we run along the edge between the same and the different. Nice way of putting it.


  3. forestrat Says:

    Speaking of photo-realistic work, I’ve always liked Robert Bateman’s nature paintings. You have to look close to be sure they aren’t photos.


  4. lookingforbeauty Says:

    Yes, Robert Bateman does marvelous photo-realistic work. Not many are gifted with his precise-draftsman like skill. One of the things that assists him in his work is that he works very very large canvases, so that by the time his prints are created and reduced to popular size for homes, the detail looks even more incredible because it looks that much finer and microscopic.

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