I first came across Yupo paper a number of years ago in a George James video from Creative Catalyst. I always wanted to try it but a combination of not seeing it in art stores and George James’ media being watercolour, it never came to fruition. Then, I found Yupo paper when I was at the art store on the COFA campus with Andrew. I excitedly bought some and then left it for a number of months – as you do!
Finally this week, I saw a video with Jodi Ohl: “Graffiti Grunge Art: Abstract Painting on Yupo“. OK. It was time to experiment!
On my first attempt, I found out that it wasn’t as easy as it looked. Yupo paper is not paper at all. It is polypropylene. The paint isn’t absorbed by the paper; it sits on top of it. Paint can be ‘lifted off’, a technique very familiar to a watercolorist but not as common for someone who works with acrylics. Yet the layering is very familiar and enticing. Not long after finishing my first piece (above), I was already playing on a second one (see below).
Andrew was instantly in love with this new paper as there was not a piece of collage in sight. No little pesky bumps where the paper joins, or the inconsistency of finish (matte / gloss). Much to my amusement these things that I love about collage are the very thing that annoys him! Still, there is something quite beautiful about the slick finish of the yupo. It reminds me of that sheen you get off photographs. To top it off the process is perfect for anyone who wants to defeat their perfectionistic side as it is difficult to control the paint on this surface. It invites happy accidents!
‘I need a giraffe’, I text. The reply comes swiftly. ‘Can’t you just use a spotted deer and stretch it’s neck?’ I consider Andrew’s suggestion briefly. No. I get that it’s only a paper spotted deer but stretching its neck still sounds unethical. I decide to wait until I can photocopy and enlarge myself a giraffe from my well used Dover books.
Thankfully work has a new photocopy where the ‘mirror image’ option is not so hard to find. I used it infrequently on the old machine, so each time I would start my hunt again through the excessive number of incomprehensible icon splattered menus to find it. This is part of my work/life balance. I enlarge my giraffes at work rather than taking myself off to officeworks and standing in queues. Luckily for work I don’t enlarge that many giraffes. I fear lumping a 6 metre, 800kg+ african animal on the photocopy is probably not great for the machine.
The creation of this – unfinished – piece, is also part of my work / life balance. Someone asked me if I had a new year’s resolution and I said no. Upon reflection I realise it is probably to have a little more ‘painting’ time. I have even tried to take my art to Andrew’s place and do some there. I’m not sure if this will be a successful strategy as I tend to be a very messy artist, unlike Andrew who seems to paint in a contained fashion. Personally I don’t understand this. Perhaps it is because he only uses paint and drawing materials (charcoal, pencil etc). He doesn’t tear up papers, transfer images (which results in paper splinters all over the art surface) or work at quite the same ‘everything in my way is collateral’ pace. Then again, only a bad workman blames his tools. I make a mess when I cook; when I work; when I do anything actually. I am just a messy person. I seem to become so absorbed in what I’m doing that I develop a tunnel vision. It’s not until later when I turn my head that I see the trail of destruction I’ve left. Sometimes the ‘turning of my head’ can take days, or weeks.
As for the meaning of this art piece? I have no idea. Its had quite an evolution. This must be the third incarnation of this piece. Instinct said, ‘I want a giraffe.’ Discovering that all giraffes from my stash had already been used, I tried to consider other animals but none would do. A giraffe was my first thought, a giraffe was what it had to be. I know this piece isn’t finished. I’m just waiting on instinct to tell me the next move.
In 2014, I’m returning to painting small. A3 or smaller to be precise. This latest piece has evolved over the past week or so. I have no idea what the device is in the hand in the top right corner… I thought perhaps it was a starter’s pistol but Andrew tells me it is not. Anyone know?
I enjoy coming home after work to a cat cuddle following by a spot of painting. It’s a way to unwind and let my brain potter along in another zone for a while. If only painting resulted in weight loss… then it would be the perfect pastime.
OK, I am ashamed to admit that I have paper bearing glitter in my collage stash.
I know not from whence they came.
I suspect they were part of a mixed pack – they have been in my folders so long that I have quite forgotten.
These are scrapbooking papers. I am not a scrapbooker and have no interest in it. If people look down on mixed media art as not being particularly artistic, then scrapbooking is even further down the chain. Personally I remain delighted that scrapbooking became popular in the last decade because it gave me another source from which to collect papers. That said, the lesson I have learnt is buy a ‘pack’ expecting that it will be about 2/3rds useful, 1/3 toss out. Hmm… ‘toss out’… not usually in my vocabulary when it comes to collage material. So it seems that I have kept these papers (left in each picture) and well… what a surprise… I’ve never used them.
I can’t imagine why I haven’t had call to use a prancing horse with glitter, but there you go.
So in an effort to justify these papers taking up room in my collage collection, I decided to transform them. The best part about an ugly paper is the gusto with which one can throw oneself at changing it as it can surely get no worse.
My main challenge was getting rid of the glitter as it is upraised. In the end I used a variety of media to extinguish it, including:
- gesso over the top which ‘filled in’ the non-embossed areas and gave a new flattened surface
- light molding paste (by Golden). This has to be one of my favourite gel / pastes to use as it is so lightweight that the paper tolerates it and it’s marshmallow finish just sucks in the colours of the glazes you put over the top.
- opaque paints – with this you can still see the upraised pieces but at least the glitter is gone (see below)
The photographs don’t do justice the richness of colour in the reformed papers.
While I doubt that I could ever have found an artful application for purple paper with green glittered dots, the rich wine colour is something I most certainly will use. It has been completed using a number of glazes as well as some handwritten additions in my favourite crayons (Caran d’ache neocolor I’s) which shine through the subsequent layers. The greenish-glitter has now turned to an orange-gold courtesy of the quin crimson & quin nickel azo gold layers. It now has depth and intensity.
Last but not least is quite possibly the ugliest of all the papers I set about transforming this week.
The purple mermaid with green glitter. Oh, it’s just too stylish.
I had a lot of difficult photographing the piece after painting as it kept reflecting light – in particular in the bottom corner where there is some Clear Tar Gel giving it a gloss. A close up of the middle is featured below.
Of all the papers this one got the most gesso. It is also the one that looks most like a ‘piece’ rather than paper that I’m just going to put back into my stash to rip up another day. I suppose in all of this the question is, why bother transforming ugly paper… why not just start with clean paper? I think the close up below answers that well. While it looks nothing like the original, it got to where it is based on the original. The upraised elements are still present (without the sparkle), and the colour choices are in part informed by the purple as I needed something dark and high staining like the quin crimson to cover over the purple and some gesso where I wanted to knock it out altogether. Besides, there is no need to ‘cover up’ clean paper. Eliminating glittered tackiness from my stash is a good excuse to just spread paint around with abandon! I’ve got another 4 days before I go back to work and another 4 pieces of ugly paper. Fun!
I’m sure you’ve heard the old saying that opposites attract. When it comes to art, Andrew and I certainly meet that criteria. He paints in oils while I continue to embrace the lowly acrylic. He hand draws and paints all his colour and imagery, while I will steal from any collage source available. He paints figures which are proportionally and tonally correct, while my figures are anatomically challenged.
This is all because we perhaps seek opposites things from art. Andrew has a drive to paint the perfect image. He has complete ideas in his head which he aims to translate onto the canvas. My only drive is to express what I feel like expressing in that moment. Unfortunately that moment is often fleeting and consequently I have many pieces which have a slightly unfinished feel to them – such as this one. It’s been hanging around for a few weeks. The top of the painting is incredibly raw. I’m not sure there’s any paint up there… just collage material. After several weeks of floating around the art table, I’ve decided that it is finished even if that means it looks unfinished. I cannot recreate an idea that was a moment in time and, in this case, I cannot extend it because I don’t want to destroy that which is core to this piece.
This would drive Andrew batty. In fact in most areas of my life it would annoy me too. I hate doing a task at work and people seeing it half-finished. Even when things are complete, I will sometimes look back at them later and wonder what on earth possessed me to think that it was ‘good enough.’ Such is the way of the perfectionist. Art is one of the few places where I can buck that voice that says it’s not good enough and it’s not right. I think that is in part because Art has no right or wrong. It isn’t like sport where you either win or lose. Or like sewing a dress – it either hangs together and fits, or it doesn’t. Sure, in art, certain things seem more valued than others. (And if I were in a cynical mood I’d say that appears to be either skill, or bullshit, or both). But value is not right or wrong. And provided something can’t be wrong, then perfectionism loses for once and the older I get, the more delight I take in that.
The base of this piece is all newspaper from last Saturday’s Sydney Morning Herald. I bought the paper thinking that I would do something else entirely. As I flipped through it there were a number of articles on bushfires including photos. I picked these out and then started to select any photograph that had a warm ‘glow.’
After creating a background, the piece hung around for a few days before I decided to draw a woman with a fish on her head (based on a blend of two drawings from a Dover Pictorial Archive book of 1930s Spot Illustrations). Unfortunately I’m very rusty. The fish was fine. The woman’s head was not.
And so it was that I fell back to my collage materials to find a head that would fit under the fish… which as it turned out was mine!
I did make some attempt to blend the photo in to the background with paint but my ear and hair remain untouched.
I wouldn’t call it a great piece, but it’s finished just the same. I of course had cat assistance throughout. This time mainly from Saffron who seems to think the art table is her table (photographic evidence below to support this accusation). There’s so much junk on the art table it’s a wonder that she fits at all.
Lately I’ve been stitching more than painting. I’m not convinced that they aren’t the same practice for me but in a different media. I’ve had a few paintings on the go. All very small scale (A3 or smaller) and mostly unclear in their direction. The one above has been floating around on and off as an A3 piece for ages. I had layered Golden Fluid Acrylics in my usual fashion – here using Quinacridone Burnt Orange, Transparent Red Iron Oxide and Phthalo Blue.
The choice of colour combination was extremely scientific. Those particular bottles were almost empty and I wanted to use them up so I could toss the bottles out. (My little unit is very cluttered and while on a practical day I can see that removing 3 small bottles is really not going to do much, at the time it seemed like a good idea).
However it was going nowhere fast.
It’s probably been on the table for the better part of a month. So I did what I often do when an art piece isn’t progressing – I do something drastic! In this case, I got a stanley knife and cut my A3 piece down to A4. From there, after some rummaging in my collage materials, the piece ‘appeared’. I can’t explain how this happens; it just suddenly comes together.
It was almost ‘adjusted’ by Saffron planting her bum on the table. Fortunately, she was about 1 inch from the wet paint. Of course, it’s the only time she has sat on the table in recent history. She rarely leaves the heater. Even when it’s not on she sits next to it in hope! As does her sister… here they are at it again!