Posts Tagged ‘Artist Taylor Ikin’


In recent weeks I’ve been aiming for “big”, as in paintings to fit a 20″ x 24″ outside mat size and frame.  This is a stretch for me, and so far rather difficult to manage.  In fact I have only produced a handful of renderings which I am bothering to mat and frame.  All is not lost when big doesn’t work however;  I crop bits and pieces out of failed work and at least get something out of the deal.

Obviously the biggies will not go through my scanner.  Were someone to want a print of the large art, we’d have to let Office Max do the job, and that’s definitely a good option.  Featured above is one that did fit on the scanner—an 11″ x 14″ outside mat size which I have called “Limberlost” after a great book which I’m certain most readers will know.

Along with size, I’ve been experimenting with heavy weight paper—300 lb.  This supposedly doesn’t buckle when wet, but actually it does to a degree.  There will always be an unsightly bulge somewhere, and unlike the 140 lb. paper the heavier weight doesn’t flatten out nicely when dampened and placed in a paper towel and plastic mat “sandwich” loaded down with books.  So when I use up this order of 300 lb. paper, I’ll return to the 140.  Just had to try it.  I also ventured into new-to-me papers, but I still prefer Arches.  (Pronounced “Arsh”—it’s French.)  Again, I just had to try something different.

One of many things I’ve learned from books and DVDs is that every artist has his or her favorite paints, paper, and brushes.  These are personal choices—each with its own good features.  I like American Journey paints, available from CHEAP JOE’S.  Of the many artists whose work I’ve studied, only one—Taylor Ikin—recommends American Journey.  I also enjoy Da Vinci watercolors and gouache, and at present I know of no one else who uses them.  Winsor & Newton and Daniel Smith are excellent, and extremely popular.

Ahhh—BRUSHES.  Oddly enough I like, even love my paper and paints, but I’m crazy about brushes.  Of the many I’ve accumulated, a good assortment of Daniel Smith Aquarelles (Round and Flat), a couple of Isabey Kolinksy Round Sables, and some of the Jack Richeson Flat 9010 Signature Series rise like cream to the surface.  The 2″ Richeson Wash brush is so beautiful and precious, I’m tempted to line it up on our antique settee, along with my Teddy Bears.  Soon I’ll shop (online) for a Richeson 3″ wash brush (if there is one) to accommodate the large paper.

Even with painting nearly every day, I have never worn out a brush.  I coddle and care for them like they were babies— washing them gently in (my homemade) soap and warm water, and drying them with a soft towel.  Of course the brushes are stored brush end up, in clean jars.

The tools we use are special, regardless of the trade.  I know that every chef has his or her favorite pans, molds, egg whips, or whatever.  And every carpenter has a favorite hammer.  So I’m just a wee but daft about brushes!  I’m fairly certain that additional papers, paints, and brushes will make their way into the stash; we never know all there is to learn.  It’s all about growing and experimenting!

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Serenity Despite 1

I expect I’ll never get over my fascination with this strange, amazing stuff known as Yupo paper.  Not really paper, Yupo is a polypropolene surface which feels like glass.  Paint slides around on it, and never soaks in; thus many artists hate Yupo.  I’ve discovered that there is no neutral ground.  It’s either love or hate.  And I love!

I have two different Yupo artists on DVDs—one whose work I do not at all care for, and another whose work I love.  I won’t mention the name of the one whose art I can’t warm up to.  My dislike for this individual’s work is purely personal, biased by the fact that the artist achieves a kind of studied perfection and (what I consider to be too much) control which defies the magic of the watercolor-on-Yupo process.  I believe that photo realism is better displayed in actual photography—or by art on traditional supports such as watercolor paper for watercolors, pastel paper for pastels, and canvas for oils or acrylics.  Yupo is, quite simply, SOMETHING ELSE.  It’s like a cat—best when accepted on its own terms.

The Yupo artist whose work I love is a Florida woman, Taylor Ikin.  Her DVD, DANCING WITH YUPO, has inspired me ever since it arrived in my mailbox three years ago.  Were it a video cassette instead of a DVD, I’m sure it would be literally worn out by now. 

Taylor Ikin’s paintings can best be described by a simple word:  FREE!  Although her subject matter is always discernable (at least in what I’ve seen of her work), it conveys the essential freedom of the best abstract expressionism.  Taylor’s working method on Yupo is unique; even just beginning to get the hang of it has taken me a long time.  But one of many endearing charactistics of Yupo is that one can paint on it, and then wash part or all of the rendering off in order to start again.  There need never be a total failure if one has the patience to make numerous trips to the sink.

Here is Taylor Ikin’s method—unlike any I’ve ever witnessed anywhere else.  She begins with an idea (in the DVD she has photos of a waterfall in a beautiful Oregon forest), spritzes a bit of water on the Yupo, and digs into fresh-from-the-tube-paints—swiftly slathering great quantities in colors befitting the subject.  She slathers and smears the paint around with bold strokes (no dinky puttering here) and lets the paints overlap and blend.  Then, before beginning to define much, she lets the initial slathering dry (naturally, not with a blow dryer; heat might mess up the paper’s surface). 

When the Yupo is dry, or nearly so, Taylor begins to lift paint with a clean, damp brush.  She moves colors around, adds colors, etc.—gradually carving out her subject, while taking care to wipe off her brush before swipes.  Through a process of editing, drying, and editing many times the painting evolves.  Having begun with intuition, Taylor completes the work with careful consideration as to “What will make this a better painting?”.

I try this method again and again.  In the case of flowers it works for me, but I have yet to manage anything else.  My Yupo paper results are normally determined by paint on the support rather than my inclination.  I throw the paint, wait to see what happens, and invariably a subject emerges to surprise me.  But I’m constantly working on Taylor Ikin’s method.  At least I can come up with flowers that delight my heart!

When people come to my home for an art day, I like to introduce Taylor Ikin’s Yupo method.  The responses are radically polarized.  Free spirits LOVE Yupo paper, although admittedly they get as frustrated as I did at first exposure, and the control folks HATE it.  A familiar slogan certainly applies to art:  “Different strokes for different folks.”  🙂

Margaret L. Been, ©2013

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I have two artist friends who do not dislike YUPO paper, they hate it!  Now I was taught from little on, that one only uses the word “hate” for things that are truly horrible and hateful—like race prejudice or war.  But with YUPO, it seems there is no middle road.  It’s either “hate” or “love”.  I Love YUPO paper, with a capital “L“.

Still controversial in high end circles, the use of this synthetic painting ground has infused the art world with fresh energy and boundless potential.  YUPO paper is not really paper at all; it is a chemically created polypropolene* surface:  archival, tree-free, pollution free, bio-degradable, recyclable, and everything else one could want—environmentally speaking.

It doesn’t take a rocket scientist to figure out just why the anti-YUPO people hate the product so vehemently:  it is nearly impossible to control.  If you begin your painting with a firm idea fixed in mind, great flexibility is needed to make the experience a happy one for you.  As the accomplished YUPO artist Taylor Ikin affirms, you simply have to let the paint tell you where it wants to go! 

(Many artists eschew watercolors altogether for their carefree, unpredictable qualities.  Traditional painting with watercolors is frequently considered to be “harder” than painting with oils.)

From the beginning of my adventures with YUPO, I discovered that a “still life” rendering on this ground is seldom “still”!  Waterfalls and turbulent skies abound, as paint slithers hither and thither on YUPO’s glass-like surface.  For those of us who don’t give a hoot for control, that’s the joy of it!

Although my YUPO paintings may look random and unplanned, I can assure you that time and consideration have gone into the completion of them.  Here is how I work on the paper which is not really paper: 

For starters, I spritz the YUPO with my WINDEX® bottle (filled with pure water, not the cleaning solution).  Into the blotches of water, I charge a few colors—normally primaries:  Alizarin Crimson, Cadmium Yellow, and French Ultramarine Blue.  (Sometimes I substitute Permanent Magenta and Dioxazine Purple for the Alizarin and Ultramarine—and Lemon Yellow for the Cadmium.)

Next, I lift the sheet (I always paint on a flat surface—although I have an easel).  I flip, jiggle, and wiggle the YUPO back and forth,  causing the paint to run in rivulets and fan out in feathers.  As we all know, most any color can result from blending primaries—and any form can evolve from flipping, jiggling, and wiggling one’s paint.  With all of that, I’ve never seen the same outcome twice!

Then I return the YUPO to my table, to dry.  When the surface has dried, a subject or theme typically emerges in the form of a definitive shape or shapes:  rocks, flowers, rushing water, perhaps a cliff or a cavern, and frequently creatures—mythical or identifiable birds or animals, or something faintly homo sapiens (often leaning toward the humanoid).  Hence, my penchant for fantasy awakens.  I’m up and away—and frequently way out!

In the above piece, “Pirates’ Lair”, the initially emerging shapes were those gemlike forms in the approximate center and upper center—separated by vertical lines caused by rivulets of paint.  The other form fashioned by wet paint sliding around on the slick surface was that attractive yellow oval, complete with some of the stairs, toward the lower right of the picture.  With those features already in place, I could proceed with a theme created by the mingling of YUPO and watercolors:  a pirates’ lair of precious gems, with an escape—that ready-made oval of light with its built-in staircase.

I considered how I could amplify the existing features of the piece, adding enhancing shapes and eliminating anything extraneous.  With a clean, damp brush I phased out distracting elements—filling the resulting spaces with alizarin crimson, ultramarine blue, and dioxazine purple (colors of gems I love—rubies, garnets, sapphires, and amethysts).  While the paint was still wet, I sprinkled those areas with 1) salt on the crimson parts on the left and 2) lavender-tinted cosmetic pigment powder on much of the purple paint.  (The pigment powder was lifted from my soap-making supplies; I use high grade cosmetic pigments to color my soap.  Not every artist has access to a saponifier’s stash, but happily I do have! 🙂 )

Finally, additional interest was needed in the top third of the painting, a bit to the left of center.  So I included another window in the lair—one more view to the way out, replete with its diminutive stairway.  Also, I inserted more stairs into the lower right oval of light.

All of this took about three hours to complete—three hours of actual work, not counting the drying time.  Thus you can see that a considerable amount of analysis, cogitation, and consideration are necessary “givens” between brush strokes, when using the capricious and fiercely independent medium of watercolor on that capricious and fiercely independent surface known as wonderful YUPO!

Margaret L. Been, ©2012

*According to the Wisegeek website, “Polypropylene is a plastic polymer used in everything from carpets to car parts”.  And we know that includes art!

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I have learned a trick.  I never go to bed at night without something visual on my painting table.  Either it will be a work in its early stage or nearing conclusion, or simply a few random blobs of color such as you see above.  But I will not tolerate a void.  Having something on that table makes me eager to pop out of bed in the morning.  And even an embryo painting can provide enjoyment for those nights when I’m unable to sleep.

With colors down on paper, I have a start.  Watercolor-on-YUPO®-paper-artist Taylor Ikin calls this start the “wallpaper”.  Later one can “hang the painting”.  Colors are easily changed, developed, or eliminated as ideas occur and a plan evolves.  Before going to bed one night this week, I dropped spurts of color on the paper pictured above, thinking I’d advance to a calm lake reflecting a shoreline and colorful sky.  But that simply did not happen.  The water changed its mind, and the next day my lake turned into a river—a turbulent one, at that. 

Now turbulence has two options.  It can be the ominous threat of a violent storm, or the rambunctious joy of a river rushing (but not destructively flooding) in spring.  You can easily detect which option appealed to me.  Since I thought I could “hear” the rushing river, I named the completed piece, “Cacophony in Springtime”.

The picture appears kitty-wampus because I stood over it with my camera as the painting was drying, and I was kitty-wampus

Anything but a void! 

Margaret L. Been, ©2011

NOTE:  For more about my nocturnal art adventures, see http://richesinglory.wordpress.com/

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