Though I have long used a nice French cold-press paper on which to paint watercolors, I have been frustrated by cold-press's quick absorption, its fading of color. I'll load on a cadmium red only to find that it's lost its brilliance by the time it dries. So I've tried smoother, less textured hot-press paper. I've also tried the technique of applying a layer of acrylic gesso (a polymer medium found in any art supply store) to a sheet of paper, letting that dry, and then painting on that. I like the slipperiness of the application, the little surprise elements that appear within the painting itself.
|Because of the rather mysterious effect this technique produced, I named this "Petunias Out of a Parallel Universe"|
But it wasn't until I took a painting workshop one autumn in southeastern France (in the Rhône Alpes region) that I was introduced to a synthetic paper called Yupo® made from polypropylene. So it's not really paper but plastic. It's also waterproof. Which brings up the rather intriguing question: "So you use watercolor to paint on a waterproof paper? How does that work?" I'll answer that by saying that it seems similar to skating on ice. You slip and slide a lot. Far from being absorbed into the paper, the water pools in odd places, the paint skids across the top. And, the colors keep their brilliance! Having much less control over the process, you find yourself with some happy accidents. And, though I've never painted on porcelain, it seems not dissimilar.
As many watercolorists know, once you apply paint to hot- or cold-press paper, you can't lift it off. Which means that though you can go back into the area with a clean damp brush and remove a little paint, you can't take off all that much. It's there to stay. (Or, at the very least, there's always a palimpsest.) Which may be one reason people say that painting in watercolor is more difficult than painting in oils. (Oils allow you to paint over something.) But Yupo allows you to lift the paint off at any time. In fact, you can wash the entire painting down the sink and start over on the same sheet. Lifting a bit of color here and there can be handy when you want to open up an already-painted area--for sky, say, or a highlight. The beauty of it, then, is that you are not committed to keeping what you have set down. You can play with it. (It can take several applications to get the paint to adhere exactly where you want it, but that's part of the fun.)
Here are four examples of my Yupo work--plus the photos I painted them from.
|"Afternoon in the Abbey Gardens" (Villeneuve-lès-Avignon, France)|
|"Blue Bridge" (Dieulefit, France)|
|Poles, wires, and all|
|"Le Pègue" (Le Pègue, France)|