Painting on Plastic!

Get ready to be Yupo’d

Let PA Howard Jones introduce you to the art of watercolour painting on synthetic paper

A few years ago I was discussing techniques and materials with an American visitor to an exhibition, when he mentioned something called Yupo paper. Intrigued, I later discovered on the internet that it is a plastic paper specifically manufactured for the printing industry. My next mission was to find a UK supplier.

Thankfully, the SAA came up trumps. This synthetic paper has almost zero absorbency which would immediately eliminate it from most watercolourists’ lists of favourite papers. The reality is that this paper offers the artist a new and exciting challenge with many favorable qualities.

One huge plus is the fact that you can erase! Yes, erase those bits of your painting that you don’t like. They can simply be rubbed away with a damp tissue or cloth - an enormous aid for those who need to overcome the ‘fear factor’.

If you make a mistake you can simply wipe it off and start again. Surprisingly you can apply most of the same techniques to synthetic paper as you can to traditional watercolour paper.

The wet-in-wet technique is very achievable with beautiful results, often creating a variegated appearance where water and pigment are allowed to mingle and it is possible to get extremely transparent glazes too - something we strive for with traditional papers!

Soft transitions are possible through the use of a roller and water sprayer bottle, and stamps and lift-outs are all part of the enjoyment - basic household items can be put to good use.

There are certain things that can be done on Yupo that cannot be done on traditional watercolour paper - I am still discovering new techniques and thoroughly enjoying doing so.

If you are tempted to try this exciting surface be prepared for some eye-opening discoveries - you may well happen upon a new unseen technique/effect of your own (tell us if you do).

Tip: Your finished work must be protected from stray water and kept out of moist areas. I recently spilt some tea over the corner of a finished painting.

I was initially horrified, but with a little water from my fine mist sprayer and some gentle smoothing-out with a roller I made a perfect correction.

I am by no means trying to convert anybody away from traditional watercolour paper but if you are happy to experiment and explore, Yupo has plenty of its own character for the learning and I am a great believer that experimentation expands creativity.

As I say to my students, keep an open mind - one of the enormous luxuries of being an artist is that of being free from constraints and boundaries.

Yupo Tips:

  • Make sure you have everything to hand before starting to paint.
  • Have plenty of paper towels at the ready. Wet or damp hands can create unwanted marks. Be careful when resting your hands on the paper surface.
  • When using a roller, try to work from the wrist. It is not like covering the living room wall.
  • Think texture, see fig (1) for a small selection of tools.
  • Keep finished work away from moisture.
  • When completely dry, store in a cardboard tube or even better, get it framed.

Fig 1 – A selection of some of the tools I use

Basically, I use anything that can produce a mark or a lift-off. Anything that can be pressed onto the surface, wiped, spattered, drawn, rollered, cut-out stencils etc.
(a) rollers (b) foam paddles (c) string on card (homemade) (d) anti-slip matting (e) tissues (f) squeegy (g) cross-stitch mesh (h) home made grid. Some tools like (c) (d) (h) can be used for both lifting-off and applying paint.

Step-by-Step Tutorial... Beddau Farm

1Working on a flat surface I drew the farm and buildings using the Inktense pencil. Then, using my 1” brush I applied a wash mix of Ultramarine and Cobalt Blue to the sky and some areas of the buildings. I left this to sit on the paper for 30 seconds or so before rollering the areas to a smooth wash like appearance. Note: if the drawing is affected in the painting process as it is soluble – I simply re-instate any lines I wish to keep at the end. 

2Next I brushed a weak wash of Cadmium Orange over the farmhouse and garden walls and repeated the rollering process as in stage 1. After waiting a minute or two for this to dry I dropped in the window and window panes and doorway shadows using the No 8 round brush with a strong mix of Ultramarine, Cobalt Blue and Dioxazine Violet.

3With the 1” brush, I pushed a mix of Cobalt Blue and Cadmium Orange into the walls of the farmhouse being careful to go around the windows. The idea here is to create a weathered look to the plaster. For the end wall, I used the roller to get a smoother finish. 

4Next I removed any unwanted dried paint with a damp tissue before re-applying the sky wash colours where needed with the 1” brush. I left it to rest on the surface for about 30 seconds (these times will vary according to room temperature, but not by much) before rollering the area smooth for a perfect correction.

5Finally, using the 1” brush I applied a wash of Ultramarine and Cadmium Orange to the foreground (in front of the garden wall) and then swiped a foam paddle through areas in a horizontal direction whilst it was still wet. The painting was finished by adding textures into the farm doorway, gate and foreground areas.

To do this, I lightly (and very carefully) sprayed clean water from above using a fine mist sprayer (just a little test to start with). Then I carefully rested a clean dry tissue over the affected area and lightly ran a roller over the top of the tissue.
Removing the tissue revealed the grain-like texture. I then spattered Cadmium Red and Cadmium Orange with a toothbrush into the same area.

Materials Surface:

Inktense
pencil:

Winsor & Newton watercolours:

Watercolour Brushes:

Tools:

  • Small decorator’s roller 2” or 4” (from a DIY store)
  • Fine spray bottle
  • Tissues
  • Toothbrush

Tip: Remember that any part of this process can be re-done. If you feel that your first attempt is not up to scratch, simply do it again. So if you want some serious fun without the worry of making mistakes ‘Go Yupo’!

To enjoy more paintings by Howard and to find out about his regular classes, workshops and demonstrations in South Wales visit www.howardjonesart.co.uk, email howard@howardjonesart.co.uk or telephone 02920 865059 


Painting on Plastic!

Get ready to be Yupo’d

Let PA Howard Jones introduce you to the art of watercolour painting on synthetic paper

A few years ago I was discussing techniques and materials with an American visitor to an exhibition, when he mentioned something called Yupo paper. Intrigued, I later discovered on the internet that it is a plastic paper specifically manufactured for the printing industry. My next mission was to find a UK supplier.

Thankfully, the SAA came up trumps. This synthetic paper has almost zero absorbency which would immediately eliminate it from most watercolourists’ lists of favourite papers. The reality is that this paper offers the artist a new and exciting challenge with many favorable qualities.

One huge plus is the fact that you can erase! Yes, erase those bits of your painting that you don’t like. They can simply be rubbed away with a damp tissue or cloth - an enormous aid for those who need to overcome the ‘fear factor’.

If you make a mistake you can simply wipe it off and start again. Surprisingly you can apply most of the same techniques to synthetic paper as you can to traditional watercolour paper.

The wet-in-wet technique is very achievable with beautiful results, often creating a variegated appearance where water and pigment are allowed to mingle and it is possible to get extremely transparent glazes too - something we strive for with traditional papers!

Soft transitions are possible through the use of a roller and water sprayer bottle, and stamps and lift-outs are all part of the enjoyment - basic household items can be put to good use.

There are certain things that can be done on Yupo that cannot be done on traditional watercolour paper - I am still discovering new techniques and thoroughly enjoying doing so.

If you are tempted to try this exciting surface be prepared for some eye-opening discoveries - you may well happen upon a new unseen technique/effect of your own (tell us if you do).

Tip: Your finished work must be protected from stray water and kept out of moist areas. I recently spilt some tea over the corner of a finished painting.

I was initially horrified, but with a little water from my fine mist sprayer and some gentle smoothing-out with a roller I made a perfect correction.

I am by no means trying to convert anybody away from traditional watercolour paper but if you are happy to experiment and explore, Yupo has plenty of its own character for the learning and I am a great believer that experimentation expands creativity.

As I say to my students, keep an open mind - one of the enormous luxuries of being an artist is that of being free from constraints and boundaries.

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