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On a total lark, I bought a sheaf of Yupo paper from the DickBlick store in Washington D.C. last spring. The ‘paper’ was unlike anything I’d ever seen.
Placing colors on Yupo is like putting the color in a vacuum - a color’s unfiltered brightness and truest essences emerge when on Yupo.
After working with Yupo for a while, you realize that it definitely isn’t paper in any sense - made of recycled plastic, it rebuffs water like a duck’s feathers. Colors don’t sink into it, they float on top of it, roiling softly, blending like a dream. It’s more like working on glass than paper or canvas. Think Bristol board but not made of trees. Like painting or drawing on Mylar, Yupo is extremely mutable. You can make a mistake in ink, and remove the mistake with a bit of rubbing alcohol.
Given all of this, I could see no reason why oils wouldn’t work on Yupo, where oil is like ink and turpentine works to erase like rubbing alcohol. That said, oil isn’t exactly advertised to work on Yupo - the Yupo pad itself states that the surface is great for watercolor, alcohol inks, and acrylics. No mention of oil paint anywhere.
I gave it a try, and spoiler, it’s amazing.
To get started with oils on Yupo I used Yupo Heavy (purple packaging) instead of the Yupo standard (orange packaging) paper. I tend to paint with heavy layers of thick oil paint and painting on anything less sturdy than card seemed unfair, or like it would end in disaster.
I hadn’t seen Yupo Heavy in stores until lately. (Sidenote our local art store in Hyattsville, Maryland is probably the most intimately-stocked store I’ve ever seen. I feel like this store knows my deepest desires, like it knows artists better than they know themselves. More on them soon)
To get oil to flow smoothly over Yupo, I wouldn’t recommend using anything heavy like linseed oil or stand oil. Winsor and Newton Liquin is the key:
The painting above doesn’t even look like an oil painting, it’s more like a watercolor or acrylic ink at this point. Liquin makes layering easy and provides the mutability needed to make oil on Yupo work.
One part Liquin gives oil on Yupo a glassy, alcohol-ink-like feel, with all of the benefits of blending in oil. While Liquin makes oil paints a bit more like acrylics in that it speeds up drying time, it doesn’t dry so fast that you can’t go back and rework within 2 hours.
Without Liquin, oil paint can kind of get stuck on Yupo. It goes onto the Yupo and your brush just kind of sticks there - controlling it isn’t as easy.
I did not use Liquin in bulk on these paintings:
The first challenge is getting the Yupo paper onto an easel-like surface - since it is a sheet rather than a board, it’s a good idea to put the paper on a board or something like it. I used this wooden canvas backing as a support for the Yupo.
Without a decent amount of Liquin I had to keep brushstrokes shorter, and the model looks more like she was cut like a stone rather than flowing.
(Sidenote: the Android Google Pixel 2 camera is dope AF for taking photos of paintings and artwork. If things look a bit clearer above, this is why.)
I did like painting on smaller pieces of Yupo but for range, larger pieces (around 8 x 12 or so) work much better. It turns out you can get huge rolls of Yupo, similar to rolls of mylar, for larger work.
More oil on Yupo discoveries:
Will oil paint crack or split on Yupo once dry?
No, it bends as easily as the plastic it’s sitting on. Freezing weather would likely cause cracks, but that’s all I could think of. It’s been a few weeks since making my first painting on Yupo and it’s holding up beautifully.
Since plastic has extreme longevity (think of all the pictures of plastic in the ocean and its tendency to never biodegrade) oil paintings on Yupo could last for a long time. I don’t see yellowing as a problem, as long as the paint utilized is pretty good. I’ll get back to you in a couple years.
Does Yupo work for thick, heavy layers of paint?
The answer is YES, it works just fine and can support quite a lot of paint and impasto medium, up to about half a centimeter at highest. I’d recommend the Yupo heavy version for painting with thick paint.
The smaller Yupo surface worked well for experiments and compact painting, so I decided to branch out and try a larger size.
What else works on Yupo?
To be honest, just about anything. Watercolor pencil looks great, acrylic ink pours on and Yupo holds the color brilliantly. Copic markers work and since they are alcohol-based and the paper is smooth, they blend even more fluidly.
First Yupo tries! https://www.beckyjewellart.com/blog/2018/1/6/medium-moment-yupo-paper
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Real Cats: Bitty
The painting above I made from a photo of cat on a rock in a pond - it was such a cool photo, I had to ask - how did the cat get there? And, why would she ever leave the rock? The rock seemed like such a cool place to be, surrounded by water and flower petals.
Real Cats: Marl
I wanted to make a painting of my cousin's cat, Marl, who is a striped cat with beautiful markings. It was fun to paint Marl basking in the sun on a checkered carpet, it was especially fun to paint Marl's little footpads.
^ Here is Marley Cat hanging out at my cousin's place.
Real Cats: Flash
One day in Houston at my grandpa's house, a mostly white kitten appeared and stopped by to eat the kibbles of grandpa's much older cat, Xena. Fairly common in Houston, stray cats tend to come and go - everyone in the family was expecting the wayward white kitten to move on to another house, but the kitten decided to stay. The kitten would appear intermittently and would race about the yard, and so the family named the kitten "Flash." He was fully adopted and now has his shots/tags and is overall here to stay. I made the above drawing of Flash in the garden, and the below drawing of Flash in Clip Studio Paint. Flash is white, but I reimagined him as a cat in the shade.
I started out this series of colorful cats in oil with a sort of "Wayne Thiebaud Cakes, but with Cats" kind of take. The thick oil paint makes the bright colors stand out quite a bit. I'd love to do more in this sereis with non-pale backgrounds, maybe more with leaves/foliage or household surroundings. Overall these were just fun to make.
Painting this cat's feet was fun. ^ At this level of thickness in paint, the paint takes on a sculptural quality, and I'm not even painting so much as sculpting or building dimensional form. I often start out paintings like this with a small undersketch in orange (so that it is easy to see) and then I fill out the full-bodied paint forms from there. It's interesting how no matter what kind of paintings you make, it all starts with the foundation of drawing.
Cats but with watercolor or acrylic ink.
For Inktober 2017 I made the cat above, what's interesting is people see a lot of different shapes in this cat. It's a bit like a cloud in this way.
Several cats also make an appearance in Tilted Sun, a sci-fi fantasy comic that you can check out on TiltedSun.com.
This month I began working in a new format - miniature paintings!
These mini paintings take about as much concentration or more as a larger painting, say an 8 x 10. Decisions just have to be better and more precise.
I'm still working through painting my memories, many of which involve video games from the 1990s - up next is a painting of an Arcology from Sim City 2000. Here is the underpainting and the original Arcology:
On the other side of the studio I have been finally working on something that has been in my to-do pile for months - lettering my comic, Tilted Sun.
I'm accomplishing the lettering project in Clip Studio Paint (Formerly known as Manga Studio). Although learning Clip Studio Paint took a few painful failures for me and several Googlings of how to get text to work the way I wanted, it's been worth it. (I might try illustrator for this too, soon?)
All in all lettering has made the comic more real. I've set up about 60 pages of the comic so far without any words, just scribbles of notes of the words that I wanted to use. Ironically this has worked to make the images more expressive - the images were working almost like a silent film until now.
The first part of the comic also took different turns than I expected - I had most of it written out but then decided to discard a lot of the first, second, x drafts, in favor of what felt better, or indulging "what the comic really wanted to say".
It continues to take me a long time to work on this comic because writing and doing art for and lettering a full color comic takes many hours of thought at different levels. Oil painting feels like a break compared to it. It works for me to spend time on both, especially since paintings emerge into the world as physical objects, and the comic just lives in screens (for now). So, painting is the day-by-day mini reward that helps me keep going through the comic.
All in all October was a solid month and November is off to a great start! Thanks for stopping by on the blog, and catch you soon!
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When Edvard Munch painted The Scream, also translated well as ‘The Cry’ or ‘The Shriek’ he was chasing either a vesuvian nightmare, or possibly painting the sickness and death he saw all around him. That is the base interpretation, at least.
The Scream was a rare moment where Munch took his subject out of an enclosed space and threw it into the wind.
Munch's other glimpses into human suffering often occur in interiors, in cramped spaces or dark areas. The lithograph ‘Madonna,’ while not overtly about imprisonment or suffering, was framed with a chain of sperm and a baby-like cartoon curled into the corners of the frame. Some conjecture that the fetal character is Munch himself, a furled creature overwhelmed by the sexiness of the young woman. Life is hard if you are a Munchian subject!
For Munch’s work with figures and human beings, it was all about entrapment,
and limited space.
Except in The Scream, where everything is occurring in the open air.
Being so open and ambiguous, The Scream is unlike any Munch landscape and unlike any Munch figure. It truly makes no sense. Munch could paint believable faces; he had a good sense of how the bones of a face plane out into colors. He knew how shadows and light fell across a jawline. He knew that eyes were globes lodged in sockets. Given what he knew in other paintings, the face in The Scream is ridiculously unstructured. It isn’t even a skull. It’s ... something else. Some scholars follow the vesuvian theory - positing that the figure is either meant to look like a Pompeii mummy, or that Munch subliminally painted it so. Others say the figure is like the sperm doll in the Madonna lithograph. At universities worldwide, arguments with youtube-comment levels of ire take place over whether the figure is pre or post-life.
While this argument matters to a degree, what matters more is the ineffable quality of the face. It is so indeterminate, it could be anyone. It could be you, me, or someone we passed at the supermarket this morning. This indefinition is why so many derivatives of The Scream are made. We can all imagine ourselves, Lisa Simpson, Batman, or our least favorite politician as the screaming person. It's a painting that can be mapped onto anyone.
The pile of derivative works of The Scream wouldn't have happened if the screaming person had looked like the girl in Puberte or the woman in Madonna. Nobody could easily swap in for either.
But this assessment, that anyone can be the screamer, is also flawed. The most logical, point-blank understanding of the painting is that we, the viewer, are the horror. We are not the screaming person, we are the thing that is being screamed at.
And absolutely, what makes The Scream most relevant and terrifying is not the person screaming, but the disinterested, ambiguous figures stationed several meters behind. Who knows what the distant figures feel, if they feel anything at all. The scary thing about The Scream isn’t the screaming person, it is that nobody hears. Nobody is rushing to assist. The inability to scry the intentions of the pedestrians casts an eerie feeling onto the painting, with shades of an isolated modernity that Munch understood and many still do: the louder you scream, the less they care.
In other renditions, sketches, and predecessors of what we call The Scream, all of the figures are the same. A single pensive person, or a screaming person occupies the foreground, while disinterested parties stand further on.
The Scream became a resonant image in our centuries, as it captures every person who suffers alone, who nobody cares about. Someone screams, they are not alone in a forest, but still the scream does not make a sound.