What is yupo?

My Process

Watercolor is my favorite medium—and since experimenting with YUPO, which is a synthetic non-absorbent surface—I have been able to employ amazing surface patterns, textures, and color.  I was playing  with the way the paint reacts with the synthetic surface and very unique and interesting field patterns began to emerge.

When looking at my initial strokes and patterns of watercolor, I see things and begin an editing process that I hope will grow into a painting that is very personal and interesting.

“Mary’s current series addresses our contemporary life.  These images showcase her strong expressive ability and fluid brush marks.  We’re attracted to these images not just for what she adds, but for what she erases from the surface of the paintings.”

~ Katherine Chang Liu

Below is an interview with the Watercolor Artist Magazine about my work on YUPO:

I guess I just don’t have the patience for realism and I prefer looking at art that leaves lots to the imagination.  I enjoy works that make me think, or guess, or that remind me of some thought or feeling that I have had.  For me, abstraction is exciting.  When painting, I love just the feel of the brush in my hand and the promise of just jumping in and getting lost in the process. I am a former secondary school art teacher and I trust that my knowledge of color, composition, and materials has given me the confidence (on most days) to be free with my work.

I have lived most of my life in the foothills of Colorado and I am surrounded by long views, which may have been some sort of inspiration for these works.  I was playing with the way the paint reacted with the synthetic surface of YUPO … just experimenting.  I started seeing field patterns and thought about how quiet and peaceful it must be to look from above and see the big picture.  That was the inspiration for the initial painting “From Above 1”.   From there the series just took off.

As a child I always loved looking at images in the clouds.  I still see images in everything and I think this is why this painting surface appeals to me.  Because YUPO is synthetic and is not absorbent like traditional watercolor paper, amazing a surface patterns are possible. These patterns suggest all kinds of images.

With these paintings, I don’t sketch or use visual resources.  I begin with a very loose idea and use a fairly limited color palette of probably three colors which includes a warm and a cool.  Tissues, foam paint rollers, cotton balls and swabs, and soft watercolor brushes are my go-to tools. I add and subtract color and let the paint dry between layers.   Because I want saturated color, I use Dick Blick and Dr. PH Martin’s liquid watercolors.   Sometimes I add line with either a metal tipped bottle with watercolor, or I draw directly with markers and/or Crayon DArche watercolor crayons.

I do think about value and color, but mostly I just react to the paint to define my idea. It’s such a playful freeing painting experience.  I always remind myself that if I’m not happy with parts of the painting, I can easily remove paint and take it back to the white of the surface.  That gives me a “no fear’’ feeling.  I love it!

It seems I do reach for some favorite colors, but it isn’t a planned set thing.  The colors I start with do not always dominate the finished piece.  There are usually many paintings beneath the final one.

I think working in a series pushes you creatively and at the same time gives you a place to start.  It challenges you to try lots of things.  There are so many ways to look at one idea and the possibilities are challenging and endless and I think it is easier to approach a blank surface when you have a general idea of what you want to do.

I believe they are personal.  I think they are quiet and peaceful and somewhat spiritual.  I learn so much from each painting.

Working with acrylics, pastel, collage and watercolor are all favorites, but I love the editing aspect of working with watercolor on a synthetic surface.  It is my favorite medium for sure right now.

My greatest challenge has been feeling that I had to create works that most people understand.  I don’t think or worry so much about that anymore.  Having great mentors like Katherine Chang Liu and my very talented artist friends has helped me develop the confidence to allow my paintings to be personal.  I’m sure that maturity and spending lots of time in the studio helps.

I don’t think there has been an Ah-Ha moment, but i do think that discovering YUPO and seeing how perfectly it seems to fit my thinking and painting style has made me even more excited to get into the studio and paint.