Creativity Workshop: Material Metamorphosis

In the October 2012 issue of Watercolor Artist, Carole Berren invites fans of YUPO to embrace the surface’s potential for powerful color, value and textural effects. Read a free excerpt of the article below:

Working on YUPO, a unique non-absorbent painting surface, can be challenging. The rewards, however, are many and unattainable on conventional watercolor paper. On YUPO, colors are more intense, value relationships are easier to achieve, and surface enrichment and textural enhancements are incredibly powerful. But, beyond all of the technical advantages this surface offers adventurous watercolorists, it can also serve as a welcome invitation to creative exploration.

STEP ONE: First things first: Decide on a color/temperature dominance. To apply paint with variegated washes, place juicy color next to juicy color, allowing paints to mingle and react to each other. Splatter, drop in colors, experiment on wet or dry paper. Let the paint dry without trying to manipulate it.

STEP TWO: To apply paint with flat washes, paint an area with one juicy, transparent color. Leaving a small space, cover another area with another color. Use a rubber roller (held very loosely) to roll the brushstrokes at for each swath. Then roll from one color to the next, creating beautiful transitional colors. Try the same with opaque paint. Place tissue over an area, blot and roll to control value.

STEP THREE: Next, subtract by wiping out areas. Experiment with damp, moist or wet brushes. Spray areas with water; lighten them by applying tissue and rolling lightly. Then enhance the surface by experimenting with textures: bubble wrap, non-slip rug pads—anything that will lift color or deposit texture when applied with paint.

STEP FOUR: Dry, glaze and repeat, building many transparent layers of luminous shapes and colors. This is your opportunity to experiment and play.

STEP FIVE: After you’ve built up your layers and have a dry rectangle of colors, walk away. Approach the painting later with a sense of wonderment, curiosity and imagination. Images, thoughts, feelings and ideas will begin to emerge. Embrace them. If you need to draw on your rectangle, do. If you need reference materials, gather them.

Go on your own exploratory adventure with YUPO. Send a JPEG (with a resolution of 72 dpi) of your painting to us at with “Creativity Workshop” in the subject line and tell us about your process. The “Editors’ Choice” will receive a copy of Splash 13: Alternative Approaches (North Light Books, 2012), in which one of Carole Berren’s paintings appears. The deadline for entry is October 8.

To read the full text of this article (and get more expert painting tips from Carole Berren), pick up your copy of Watercolor Artist’s October 2012 issue! To catch up on the Creativity Workshop exercises you’ve missed, visit our online hub and start painting.




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