Posts Tagged ‘Taylor Ikin’

Another DVD I watch and absorb again and again is Taylor Ikin’s DANCING WITH YUPO.  This Florida-based fine artist’s (1 hour, 58 minute) tutorial has probably done as much, if not more, to free me up and send me painting on my way—as any other resource in my sizeable home library of books and DVDs.

The huge secret (but not REALLY a secret!) is Taylor Ikin’s use of YUPO® paper, which is actually not paper but rather a shiny washable plastic–coupled with her method of always standing and moving around* while working, and using totally-generous, extra-humungous amounts of paint mainly applied with a 2″ or larger square brush.

In her DVD Taylor Ikin depicts a downhill stream tumbling over rocks, with a forest in the background and lots of wild growth along the banks.  Taylor begins by spritzing the sheet of YUPO with her spray bottle of water, and applying thick brush loads of rich undiluted colors for woods, water, foliage, rocks, and botanical stuff along the forest floor and riverbanks.

Taylor slosh/slosh/sloshes with brilliant, juicy straight-from-the-tube watercolors abundantly slathered on her brush which has been dipped in a commodious bucket of water.  (I normally use marinara sauce jars large enough to accommodate my 4″ wash brush, and a gallon ice cream pail for my water supply—the pail for rinsing and letting the pigments settle on the bottom, and one or two of the glass jars for fresh clean water.)

Then with her clean wet brush, Taylor begins to delineate water from land, while creating chunky textural tree shapes in the background.  Next, the forest foliage and groundcover evolve.  With YUPO, this is super easy, as any swipe of a brush or paper towel brings the wet painting surface back to its original white and ready for more action.  (When the paint is dry, a wet brush or wet paper towel will restore the white.  And if unhappy with any stage of the process on YUPO, one may hold the piece under a gushing faucet or float it in a bathtub of water.)

When Taylor feels her initial rendering is satisfactory, she recommends letting the painting dry**, perhaps even overnight.  When dry, the work is ready for tweaking and fine-tuning:  as Taylor puts it, deciding “What will make this a better painting.”  Now is the time-consuming stage of lifting, re-applying the shapes in a different way, making new shapes, removing colors, adding new colors, standing and looking at the work from a distance, holding the painting sideways/upside down/and in a large mirror, etc.  (I sometimes tweak and fine-tune for hours over a period of days, or even a couple of weeks.  My YUPO paintings usually consume more time than those on Arches 140# rag paper, because the YUPOs provide flexibility and so many more options.)

I have read books and watched tutorials by other YUPO artists, and quite frankly I have not warmed up to their work.  Excellently crafted, but simply not what I would want to hang on my walls.  But Taylor Ikin’s work has that magical quality to which I am inexorably drawn. Try GOOGLING her, and maybe you will be drawn as well.

YUPO is the perfect ground for the abstract realism style that I love.  It is perhaps the easiest surface for beginning painters to use because (unless you desire to create detailed, representational art that resembles a photograph) YUPO is encouragingly NO-FAIL  Every blob and drip of paint that blends with other drips and blobs will be beautiful.  A few quick blasts of diverse colors on wet YUPO are often “suitable for framing”.  But when more painstaking hours are invested, the rewards are even more incredibly satisfying.

One can play forever, with just one sheet of YUPO, painting and rinsing off the paint, experimenting with colors and brushstrokes.  Or finger strokes.  I have rediscovered the joy of finger painting, due to the fact that I have long hair and lots of it.  Frequently I spy a wisp of my hair in a work in progress. I dislike hair in a painting almost as much as I hate to find it in my food!  In the process of removing a hair with my pinky, gorgeous swirls will surface on YUPO.

Texture is easily achieved on YUPO—either by the application of modeling paste to make mountains, rocks, and tree trunks, or by dribbling texture medium onto the painted surface.  Salt and cling film (plastic food wrap) build texture as well.

The acrylic inks are vibrant on YUPO paper.  Another favorite technique is the slathering of gouache over water-colored areas.  The gouache may be built up impasto, to fashion floral still lifes or wild landscapes, while looking amazingly like oil paint.  I always spray my finished YUPO paintings with an acrylic fixative; this not only prevents smudging and smearing paint forever, but the fixative makes a lovely shine (although matt fixatives may be used if so desired).  Also, the acrylic spray will prevent the impasto gouache areas from flaking.

Thank you, Taylor Ikin, for your continual inspiration from DANCING WITH YUPO!  I have always loved to dance!  🙂  Here is a fresh off-the-messy-palette YUPO piece by moi.  It is titled “Irides”.  I can’t stop painting irides.  Although I’m certainly not to be compared with Monet (YIKES!) that master and I do have something in common:  repetition of a beloved subject.  Monet did haystacks and water lilies among other topics.  I do irides, along with woods, mountains, etc.  What a good life!


Margaret L Been — February 25th, 2017

*Standing and moving around are the way to go, for me, as I have chronic orthopedic pain for which constant movement is the best medicine.  The pain ramps up greatly at night when I am lying in bed.  Rather than lie there and hurt (that would be STUPID!) I get up and move around our home—yes and sometimes dance, to the waltzes of Erik Satie as well as WITH YUPO.  🙂

**I am not a fan of drying paintings with a hair dryer, and rarely do this.  But once I tried it on a YUPO piece.  Not good!  Too much heat, too close to the painting ground and voilà—shriveled-up art.

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In six years of painting, I’ve been blessed with the best of teachers—the first one in actual classes, and the rest via books and DVDs. 

I was borderline terrified to sign up for an art class.  But I knew of a teacher in our Northern Wisconsin area, Diana Randolph*, so I pushed my limits and enrolled in her drawing workshop.  All my life I’d told myself I couldn’t draw worth a hoot, but I reasoned that—even if I was a total disaster—the drive through the beautiful woods would make it worthwhile.

Diana Randolph is a fine artist in pastels.  Her style of teaching was (is) so amazingly friendly and helpful, that I left the class realizing I probably could learn to draw (albeit primitively).  At home I embarked on a disciplined program of drawing the things I loved:  trees, flowers, fruits, vegetables, rocks, sea shells, tea pots, etc. 

Next, I attended Diana’s class on pastels.  I fell in love with that rich, silky medium—and eventually purchased high quality hard and soft pastels.  But alas!  My asthma would not permit use of the sticks.  I’ve discovered that even outdoors I cough over my pastels.

Oil paints were out of the question, for a reason similar to that of pastels—only with oils the culprit would be fumes rather than dust.  What was left?  Watercolors!  I began sloshing watercolor paints around on paper, was immediately smitten, and have never looked back.

For me, learning has always been exciting.  I have been learning one thing or another all of my life.  But learning to paint has proved to be the most exciting, the most satisfying adventure of all.  I’ve acquired many books and DVDs on watercolor painting—some that I never read or viewed more than once or twice because they were drop dead boring, and others which are so wonderful that I re-read or re-view them again and again.  Here is a list of my favorite watercolor teachers via books and DVDs:

Charles Reid—He was my first teacher in the watercolor world.  I found one of his books in a library, purchased a copy for myself, and am forever grateful to Charles Reid for his relaxed style which appears spontaneous but actually is very carefully executed.  Now I have more of his books, plus two DVDs where I can watch the artist in process.  From him, I learned that the shadows cast by a subject are as essential to a painting as the subject itself.  Although many watercolorists have been inspired by Charles Reid, I think I could recognize one of his paintings most anywhere.  He’s a master at lost edges, subtle backgrounds, and an appearance which my husband and I call “blotchy”—but thoroughly beautiful.

Karlyn Holman—Karlyn is another Northern Wisconsin fine artist.  She can handle all kinds of materials, but her watercolors are signature.  She’s an expert at drawing everything under the sun—from people, to landscapes, to architectural details—and in her own words, “If you can draw it, you can paint it”.  From Karlyn’s books and DVDs I learned, among other things, the use of triads (combinations of the primaries:  red, yellow, and blue) charged on wet paper to create an underpainting. 

Barbara Nechis:  From Barbara, I’m slowly learning to control wet shapes on wet paper—although I’ll never achieve her level of excellence!  Thanks to Barbara’s books and DVD, I gained the courage to begin transparent layering.  From viewing her DVD (and from other artist’s books) I’ve learned a lot about which colors are transparent and which are opaque.

Cheng-Khee Chee:  A professor at the U. of Minnesota in Duluth, this Chinese-American fine artist is skilled in a variety of methods—all demonstrated in several of his DVDs.  From him I’ve learned to use Japanese masa paper which, when damped and painted upon, fractures its sizing to render a batik effect—ethereal and lovely.  Chee paints everything, from nature scenes to glimpses of life on urban streets.  But he is best known for his sensitive paintings of koi.  These fish are to Cheng-Khee Chee what water lilies were to Monet.

Taylor Ikin—I’m thankful that DVDs don’t “wear out”—at least mine haven’t yet—because Taylor Ikin’s DANCING WITH YUPO disc would be in shreds by now.  Her teaching is so exuberant, while laced with ongoing commentary and humor, that I feel she is my friend.  She introduced me to Yupo paper, and I return to her demonstration constantly to learn yet one more nuance of color values and technique—and simply to enjoy watching her manuever her paints on this challenging glasslike support. 

Also, Taylor introduced me to my favorite brand of paints:  American Journey.  They come in 37ml tubes, and are more affordable than most other artist quality watercolors.  (I would urge any beginner to invest in artist rather than student grade materials.  We need to be encouraged from early on— and fine quality paints, brushes, and paper do make a difference!)

Shirley Trevena—This fine artist is a watercolourist, the “our” signifying British—or at least British influence.  She is English, I mean really English—with all the quiet elegance, plus subjects which I love:  flowers, household objects, china fruit bowls, jugs, and textiles.  Shirley departs from traditional English watercolor art by direct painting rather than the layering of washes, and by juxtaposing her still life objects with a refreshing disregard for perspective and angle of view.  A vase may be standing straight up in one of Shirley’s paintings, while the fruit bowl may be tipped forward (with the fruit tumbling out) to display the pattern of the bowl. 

Like the others mentioned above, Shirley teaches art without fear—and the priority of being one’s own self, finding one’s personal look, etc.  She also promotes “Destroying a Painting”.  This means to attack the finished painting with water, abrasive tools, whatever you can get your hands on to make it (in her own words) “even messier”.  (British humor, which in Shirley’s case results in poignantly beautiful art.  Several times I’ve tried to “destroy” a painting, and it looked destroyed!)

Clare Harrigan—Scottish artist Clare Harrigan is a free spirited colourist who specializes in shape making, while creating abstract but somewhat recognizable subjects with vibrant colour contrasts and unique design.  Clare combines oil pastels, watercolor crayons, and acrylics with watercolours to achieve a variety of moods and effects.

Jeanne Dobie—I have saved Jean Dobie for the last, because I’m currently engrossed in—and finally getting a handle on—her color theory as demonstrated in her book, MAKING COLOR SING.  I have had the book for three years, and its contents are finally sinking in.  Jeanne promotes what she calls “mouse color”:  the use of greys and browns to create a gradual transition from dark to mid-tone, to light.  The transition can be expecially breathtaking when shades of the brighter, more intense colors are drawn into the neutral area so that the eye experiences a slow awakening from dark to light. 

The above example is my first conscious attempt at Jeanne Dobie’s color concept.  I used purple and yellow to make the greyed browns in this painting, and finally charged a bit of the red and yellow from the bright area into the mouse color to assure a transition for the eye.  So much fun, I may never stop!  🙂  

The trees on the above picture are a “DUH”, formed by placing strips of masking tape on the paper before painting.  After the background was formed, I removed the masking tape and added color (or colour) with my water soluble ink pencils and crayons.  Also, I re-dampened the surrounding backgrounds so that some paint would bleed into the trees.

Who knows which teachers I’ll discover next?  Meanwhile, there are loads of inspiration right here on my bookshelves and DVD screen!

Margaret L. Been, ©2012

*Note:  Diana Randolph is a beautiful poet as well as artist.  She’s just had a book published, Beacons of the Earth and Sky, combining her poems and prints of her gorgeous pastel art.  This book is a treasure.  Diana’s poetry is as “painterly” as her pastels, abounding in imagery.  When read silently all of the senses are evoked.  When read aloud, a soothing musical quality prevails.

In the contemporary poetry scene, Diana’s work is exceptional because it is profoundly upbeat.  Although she recognizes the severe and heart rending issues in today’s world, Diana’s poems exude that life-affirming spirit known to those of us who are close to the heartbeat of nature—in tune with the changing seasons of the year, as well as the seasons of life.  Also, I consider Diana Randolph to be a kindred soul because of the love for her family, reflected in her poetry. 

Beacons of the Earth and Sky is available via www.redberybooks.com/ .  If you love poetry, art, and the natural world, you will definitely treasure this book!

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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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