Simplify Your Process

Watercolor has provided me several intriguing challenges over the years. I guess I’ve enjoyed breaking rules that seem to prevail in watercolor world. I wanted to push may dark colors, push my opaques, add other watermedia to my work, and forget stretching paper!

Uncle Jim
Watercolor on Yupo
My Uncle had terribly arthritic hands. I am so pleased with the brush work describing Jim’s hands, so gestural communicating the disfigurement caused by the disease.

COVID 19 arrived and everything stopped. What an unusual experience, for the first time in my life I had no deadlines, no kid care, no elder care, no travel, no workshop preparation, no responsibility but to pay the bills and feed the dogs. Unlimited time to create anything and as much as the muse encouraged!

My downtown studio was not accessible due to quarantines and self isolating, so my smaller home studio would provide my cocooning cave. Space being limited at home, I decided to pull out a pad of YUPO and see where it took me.

Watercolor on Yupo
Simple shapes and confident brush work provide commentary for the viewer.

I’ve never had a lot of desire to use watercolor or watermedia on YUPO. The talented and lovely artist George James did such a masterful job using YUPO, what more could be done? I have some experience with acrylic and oil on YUPO but not watercolor.

Covid has been a time to reflect and experience a forced simplification of life. I transferred these new feelings to painting by simplifying elements of design, scale and subject. My traditional practice involved wet layering of many colors on 140-lb. paper, resulting in beautiful neutral ranges that support more intense colors. The YUPO series would be monochromatic with limited brushes and subject — portraits (at first.)

Self Portrait
Watercolor on Yupo
Adding and subtracting marks of wet in wet and dry brush.

Working on plastic paper was a fun challenge after years of using 140-lb. medium rough paper.

Dark watercolor was prepare a head of time by mixing randomly chosen red, yellow and blue pigments in a container. I mixed a large amount of dark paint as I didn’t want to run out of the specific color before my paintings were complete.

Watercolor on Yupo
So satisfying to have the brush leading the hand. Mark making that feels right without regard for perfection.

Big wash brushes and smaller round sable brushes were primarily used in the development of each face. I did not draw to establish shapes, I used brushes to lay down or lift up paint making shapes and shift values.

Faces and figures always return to my work, I like people as a subject. For subject matter, victims, I mean friends and family, visited with social distancing or FaceTime for reference. When no one was available to sit, I relied on family photos or my own reflection as the subject.

Watercolor on Yupo
Figures and ground collide for expressive results.

Free of any expectations, I began aggressively pushing the paint on the paper to see what was possible. Creating brush marks, lost and found edges, a variety of wet-in-wet marks, and lifting pigments were so freeing and immediate when using watercolor on YUPO.

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  1. i love Yupo and painting on it with watercolor paints is so much fun. i am not a drawer so i am intimidated with realistic paintings. but when i paint on Yupo i love the way the paint moves and blends, especially when you move the paper up and down/ back and forth. i have had many compliments on my Yupo paintings and it gives me confidence to do more on Yupo.

  2. thank you…I`ve been using yupo for the past several years and during this seclusion period…have been dry…after viewing your work was energized. Actually I seem to focus on faces!!


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