Posts Tagged ‘Fixatives for paintings’

If you consult GOOGLE with this question, “Should YUPO® paper be preserved with a fixative spray?” you will find different opinions.  Since YUPO® is a glasslike surface, it is not absorbent.  Therefore, watercolor paint can be removed from the surface, WITH WATER.  Once the painting is dry, a firm application of water can disturb the paint.

Last week I met a woman who had recently tried painting on YUPO for the first time.  She was absolutely incensed, because after her YUPO® painting had dried she dabbed at it with a wet finger and the paint lifted on that spot.  I tried to explain that there is no rationale for poking a picture with a wet finger, but she refused to consider my point.  She countered, “What about rain?” 

Again, I tried to reason that no one in their right mind would leave their paintings out in the rain, and anyway the moment a painting is thoroughly dry it gets matted, adhered to a backing board, and protected from the elements in a clear plastic sleeve—the size of the mat—until time to frame the picture.*  This was something completely out of my friend’s realm of experience, so she decided to declare war on YUPO® paper.

Some time ago, I did consult GOOGLE on the question of to fix or not to fix when painting on this slippery synthetic surface.  On various online forums, most watercolor hobbyists claim that they do use a fixative, or if they don’t go that route they simply use the YUPO® medium for experimenting and playing rather than actually creating a painting.  Since the paint may be removed from YUPO® an infinite number of times, you could spend a lifetime painting on one sheet of it—if you were not serious about making and sharing art. 

But I am serious.  And I love my YUPO®.  So I took the comments of casual hobbyists with the proverbial grain of salt, and went to websites featuring the QUEEN OF YUPO®, professional artist Taylor Ikin.  Taylor does not like to use a fixative spray, and will only do so when the painting is going to be handled by an outside framer—to deflect the possibility of carelessness in the process of framing.  When a picture is to be framed by someone else, Taylor Ikin sprays only around the edges of the painting.  Like me, if she doesn’t frame immediately she instead secures her matted painting in that indispensable product, a clear plastic sleeve—where it can safely remain forever, or until transferred to a frame.

According to Taylor, the work done on YUPO® is as safe as any other watercolor painting.  Without a direct and firm application of water, the paint will not run or diffuse, even in humid Florida where she lives.  (Taylor Ikin has YUPO paintings in her bathrooms in Florida!) 

And quite categorically, you would not leave a painting on 140# rag paper out in the rain either—just as you wouldn’t go dabbing at the picture on rag paper with wet hands.  In weighing these thoughts, it dawned on me that pastel art is far more fragile than anything we can do with watercolors—either on a rag or synthetic surface.  Pastel dust will flake off inside the frame.  Pastel artists go to great lengths to blow (sometimes by machine) the surplus dust off their works before framing them. 

No serious pastel artist ever wants to use a fixative on the top layer of chalk (although they sometimes spray between layers so that they can continue building color without creating mud) because spraying the final layer would most definitely dull or darken the colors.  So gallery owners simply have to cope with the potential glitch of pastel dust in their hangings—far more of an issue than the virtually non-existent threat of water getting into a framed watercolor painting on YUPO® paper.

Nonetheless, being a bit overly conscientious, I typed up a little statement to include with every YUPO® painting that I sell or present as a gift—saying that because this archival, environmentally friendly surface is non-porous it will not absorb the paint the way traditional watercolor papers do.  In the blurb, I included these words:  “It may be assumed that you will not be driving a truck over your painting, touching it with wet fingers, or pouring hot chocolate on it.  Therefore the painting will last behind glass for many generations, even centuries.  Matted with a standard size mat and backing, this work of art may be safely kept in its protective envelope until you transfer it to a ready-made frame under glass.”

I hope that disclaimer will ward off even the most inveterate painting-pokers with wet fingers.  

Margaret L. Been, ©2012

*I buy standard size mats and backings with plastic sleeves that fit each size.  These are economical, and I cannot imagine doing art any other way.  People can look at my paintings and safely handle them because of the protective sleeves.  In preparation for a show which I hope to present someday, I am framing paintings that I intend to hang in the show. 

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